The cathedral of Compostela has a long musical tradition. In the 2nd century the Codex Calixtinus compiled pieces written for one, two and even three voices and devoted to the liturgy of the Apostle Saint James. The first references to the existence of a music chapel appear in the Renaissance. We know that in the 16th century, in addition to the choir of canons, which sang canto llano, there were professional singers and children who performed polyphony. Soon the instrumentalists or minstrels were admitted to play wind and string instruments in a chapel that traditionally included two organ players. This group of musicians was directed by a chapel master. In the 17th century several composers occupied that post until the arrival of José de Vaquedano, one of the most important musicians of the Spanish Baroque, part of whose works are kept in Santiago and who lived in the city until his death in 1711.

In the 18th century prestigious composers were at the head of the chapel, as is seen in the posts occupied by some after their stay in Santiago. Antonio Yangüas, for example, was appointed professor of music in Salamanca, and both Diego Muelas and Pedro Rodrigo achieved their magisterium from the convent of La Encarnación in Madrid. The works by these masters in general fall within the Baroque style, but some features suggest a future evolution towards a classist style. The great composer Melchor López is within the classic style. He succeeded the Italian Buono Chiodi in 1783 and remained in the post until his death in 1822. After the 19th century, the cathedral received the valuable musical contribution of Santiago Tafall, although he was only chapel master from 1895 to 1898. In the 20th century the magisterium of Manuel Soler, Nemesio García Carril and Xavier Méndez deserve a special mention.

Currently, vocal polyphonic music continues to be accepted by the II Vatican Council (SC 116). In general, the function of the choirs or scholae cantorum is highly valued by the Church (SC 29), especially in cathedrals: The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches (SC 114).

For this reason, the cathedral of Compostela wishes to preserve and share the sacred-musical treasure inherited, keeping the tradition alive and encouraging the use of new music in a balanced repertoire, where historical and present-day pieces coexist in perfect harmony. This desire becomes a reality through the activity of the Music Chapel (choir of adults and instrumentalists) and through the Choir Ángeles de Compostela (children's choir), which help to solemnise the cathedral's liturgy.


Since 1988 the Music Chapel has sung under the direction of Miro Moreira and has been largely remodelled to developed into a mixed choir. Its main purpose is to sing in the worshipping acts of the cathedral and encourage the participation of the faithful in the celebrations. From a carefully chosen repertoire there stands out the transcription, interpretation and recording of famous chapel masters from Santiago. It also promotes the creation and release of new music for the cathedral's liturgy.

scHOLA CANTORUM Ángeles de Compostela

The Choir Ángeles de Compostela, founded by Mariano Pérez Gutiérrez shortly after his appointment as chapel master in 1964, provided many children from Santiago with their first contact with music. Devoted above all to solemnise the cathedral's liturgy, the choir soon embarked on a brilliant career, participating successfully for example in the prestigious contest in Loreto (Italy). At that sanctuary it sang a mass that was broadcasted by Eurovision throughout Europe in April 1968. Currently, the choir consists of 20 boys and girls and it is directed since it was relaunched in 2008 by José Luis Vázquez. In addition to regularly singing the cathedral's liturgy, the choir also participates in important events, such as the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Santiago in 2010 (together with the Royal Philharmonic of Galicia) and in several events organised by the City Council of Santiago, the Council for Galician Culture and the regional government of the Xunta de Galicia, etc.

In addition to polyphony, in the cathedral of Santiago the two other genres of vocal music mentioned in the II Vatican Council are also performed, that is, Gregorian chant and popular religious chant.

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services (SC 116). On occasions the cathedral singers interpret certain pieces: antiphonies in specific processions and other chants throughout the mass, including several sections of the ordinarium. On the solemn eves of the Apostle Saint James (24 July) Gregorian fragments are sung (antiphony, psalmody, Salve Regina, etc.).

Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics (SC 118). Singing, therefore, must be a means to promote the active participation of the people in the liturgy (SC 30, 113, 114, 121).

Fulfilling the Church prescriptions, it is the popular religious chant which predominates in the cathedral's liturgy, surpassing the other genres in number of pieces programmed, in such a way that the pilgrims and other worshippers can express their faith through a sung prayer. 

The sound of the organ, from the instrument specifically denominated by the II Vatican Council pipe organ, which it considers should be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendour to the Church's ceremonies, must lift up man's mind to God and to higher things (SC 120).

The Compostela cathedral chapter grants great importance to the cathedral's organ and it is played on a daily basis during the pilgrim's mass (12:00 noon), during the evening mass (7:30 pm) and, in general, during all the solemnities, festivities and special celebrations that are held in the temple. Its use responds to the need to both accompany the singing of worshippers and choir as well as to play the solo pieces.

The present-day organ was manufactured by the firm Mascioni (Cuvio-Varese, Italy) in 1977. It is the only instrument by this firm installed in Spain. The inauguration concert (17 March 1978) was performed by the German organ player Erich Arndt, who at the time was the organ player at Saint Peter's, in Rome.

The organ consists of a double structure on each side of the central nave. The Baroque cases that contain it were carved by Antonio Alfonsín and Miguel de Romay at the beginning of the 18th century. Although the instrument includes some tubes from previous organs (both on the facade as in the interior) it must be considered a new work, for the majority of the piping and all the other elements are by Mascioni. The windchests are sliding and the traction is electro-mechanical. The distribution of the sets corresponding to the three keyboards and pedalboard in the case is the following: great organ (II) and recitative-expressive (III) on the Gospel side and positive (I) and pedalboard on the Epistolary side. The console includes a number of accessories available for the organ player: plaques, buttons, reversible piston pedals and tilted pedals. These elements are for locking or cancelling adjustable combinations, activating and deactivating sets, joining the sets when they belong to different keyboards, starting up the crescendo general, the tutti, etc. In June 2005 Mascioni restored the organ's traction with the addition of an electronic combiner whose software can store 3 programmable crescendi and 2490 combinations that can be copied into memory cards. These combinations can be activated one after the other with forward and reverse devices during the performance.

Currently, the musicians in charge of playing the cathedral's organ are Manuel Cela and Adrián Regueiro.

Mascioni Organ - Layout




Organ (reCORDINGS):






ALÉN, Mª P.: Historia da Música Galega. Cantos, Cantigas e Cánticos. A Nosa Terra, 1997.

ALÉN, Mª P.: La Capilla de Música de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. Ediciós do Castro, 1995.

BRESCIA, M. (Ed.): Libro de Órgano de Melchor López (1781).Consorcio de Santiago, 2011.

CAMPO OLASO, S.: La Escuela Echevarría de Organería en Galicia en El Órgano del Real Monasterio de Santa Clara de Santiago: Historia y restauración. Goetze & Gwynn, 2005. Págs. 17-135.

CANCELA MONTES, B.: Santiago Tafall. Un Músico Compostelano en los Albores del Galleguismo. Alvarellos, 2010.

CELA FOLGUEIRAS, M. J. y LÓPEZ FARIÑA, M. A.: Mariano Tafall y su Obra. Xunta de Galicia, 1996.

CELA FOLGUEIRAS, M. J. y LÓPEZ FARIÑA, M. A.: Órgano, en Gran Enciclopedia Galega Silverio Cañada. Vol. XXXIII. El Progreso-Diario de Pontevedra, 2003. Págs. 161-166.

DÍAZ Y DÍAZ, M.: El Códice Calixtino de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela: Estudio codicológico y de Contenido. Centro de Estudios Jacobeos, 1988.

JIMÉNEZ, E.: Acordes en Sol e Lúa. Os Quince Órganos do Noso Santiago Vello. Consello da Cultura Galega. 1999.

LÓPEZ CALO, J.: Obras musicales de Fray José de Vaquedano. Cuadernos de Música en Compostela, 1990.

LÓPEZ CALO, J.: La Música de Galicia, en Galicia Eterna. Vol. IV. Nauta. Págs. 877-931.

LÓPEZ CALO, J.: La Música en la Catedral de Santiago. Vols. I-XI. Diputación Provincial de La Coruña. 1992-1999.

LÓPEZ CALO, J.: La Música Medieval en Galicia. Fundación Barríe de la Maza, 1982.

LÓPEZ CALO, J. y TRILLO, J.: Melchor López. Misa de Requiem. Cuadernos de Música en Compostela, 1987.

LÓPEZ CALO, J. y VILLANUEVA, C. (Eds.): El Códice Calixtino y la Música de su Tiempo. Fundación Barríe de la Maza, 2001.

TRILLO, J. y VILLANUEVA, C.: Polifonía Sacra Galega. Ediciós do Castro, 1982.

VARIOS, A.: La Música en la Catedral de Santiago en Ritmo, nº 527, 1982. Págs. 8-30.

WHITEHILL, W. y PRADO, G.: Liber Sancti Iacobi. Codex Calixtinus. 3 vols. Seminario de Estudios Gallegos, 1944.

VILLANUEVA, C.: Las Lamentaciones de Fray José de Vaquedano. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 1992.

VILLANUEVA, C.: El Pórtico de la Gloria. Música, Arte y Pensamiento. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 1988.



Himno al Apóstol Santiago



Órgano Mascioni de la catedral compostelana - CD Obras de órgano de Melchor López

Capilla musical de la catedral y Capela Compostelana - CD Eclesiastico Canto

Grupo Martín Códax - CD Devotio

Órgano Mascioni de la catedral compostelana - CD Colores Litúrgicos