"Santiago" means "St. James", and the city is supposedly the final resting place of Jesus's Apostle St. James the Great, the brother of John. His remains are said to be under the altar in the crypt of the cathedral. One etymology for "Compostela" (or "Campostela") is "field of stars", so he is sometimes called "St. James of the Field of Stars".
Santiago is also only a few miles inland from the most westward coast of mainland Europe facing the Atlantic, so prior to Christopher Columbus's voyage of 1492, it was considered the edge of the known world, the Finis Terrae[?] in Latin, Finisterre[?] in Spanish and Fisterra[?] in Galician (See also French Finistére[?] and Land's End). Also, as the lowest-lying land on that stretch of coast, it took on added significance. Legends supposed of Celt origin made it the place were the souls of the dead gathered to follow the Sun accross the sea. Those unworthy of going to the Land of the Dead[?] hallowed Galicia as the Santa Compaña
Since the 11th century, Santiago has been the ideal ending spot for a Pilgrimage. People from Western Europe would walk St. James's Way[?] for months to arrive finally at the great church in the main square to pay homage, and many pilgrims have laid their hands on the pillar just inside the doorway to rest their weary bones. So many, in fact, that a groove has been worn in the stone.
At the front of the baroque cathedral, a golden mollusc shell[?] adorns the altar. A steady stream of pilgrims still queue there to kiss the shell, as another sign of homage.
The cathedral fronts on the main Plaza of the old and preserved city. Across the square is the Galician parliament building and, on the right from the cathedral steps is a hotel. The Obradoiro façade of the cathedral, the best known, is depicted on the Spanish euro coins of 1 cent, 2 cents, and 5 cents (€0.01, €0.02, and €0.05).
Santiago also has a fine university which can be seen best from an alcove in the large municipal park in the centre of the city. The University ensures youth night life. Within the old town there are many narrow winding streets full of historic buildings. The new town all around it has less character though some of the older parts of the new town have some big apartments in them.