CASAS Y NÓVOA, Fernando de
(b. 1691, Santiago de Compostela, d. 1749, Santiago de Compostela)

External view

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela

Providing the very traditional church of St James in Santiago de Compostela with a new and more dignified appearance was an ambitious building which started in 1649, but was only completed in stages. It culminated only in the 1740s in the construction of the new façade. Ferdinando de Casas y Nóvoa was entrusted with this task.

The architect first worked on the construction of the still missing north tower which he matched with the south power built by Peña de Toro (c. 1608-1676). The construction of the new façade did not start until 1738. The design required extraordinarily careful planning since it had to accommodate a variety of more or less incompatible requirements: it had to mask and protect the Romanesque Portico de la Gloria behind and so allow as much light as possible to reach it; it also had to respond to the urban structure of the city of pilgrimage and, in particular integrate with a Baroque flight of steps, the construction of which had already been started.

Ferdinando de Casas y Nóvoa resolved this aesthetic and technical problems in a remarkable way, retaining the dignity of a Romanesque building while providing it with a context within the Baroque city. The synthesis of old and new idioms seen here anticipates to some extent the architectural eclecticism of later centuries.

The picture shows the west façade of the cathedral, the Fachada del Obradoiro, so-called because in its filigree lightness it was seen as comparable to goldsmith's work.