Azabachería, the final façade… it sounds like the opening of a Patrick Steward Star Trek monologue. We might well say ‘boldly going where no peregrino has gone before’, because although this north façade of the cathedral is the first that most peregrinos pass as they finish the francés/primitivo/norte/ingles routes, it’s usually ignored in the rush to enter the Praza do Obradoiro outside the ‘front’ of the cathedral. Maybe the next day you might give it a look.
If you do, you’ll find that it has an architectural style unique among the four facades. The Obradoiro and Quintana are solidly baroque – that post-Council of Trent artistic style characterised by decoration, exuberance and appeals to the senses (the opposite end of the pendulum arc from the plain austerity of Protestant religious architecture). The Platerías retains its twelfth-century medieval demeanour – solid no-nonsense Romanesque arches and winged monkeys aplenty. But the newest façade (dating from the second half of the eighteenth century), on the north of the Cathedral, is deadly neo-classical with its smooth columns and medallions with the faces of Christ and the Virgin over the windows, and takes its name from the craftsmen who worked in azabache (jet/lignite) in the facing square.
As with most of the other façades, its dominated by a statue of Santiago as a pilgrim, and kneeling at either side of him the crowned kings Alfonso III of Asturias and León (848?–910) and his son, Ordoño II of León (872?–924). Alfonso the Great, as he was known, is historically seen as one of the first significant figures of the Reconquista (‘reconquest’), the gradual Christian takeover of lands ruled by the Muslims in the Iberian peninsula since the early eighth century. He divided his kingdom between three of his sons, García (León), Fruela (Asturias) and Ordoño (Galicia), and left the cathedral 500 pieces of gold in his will (which García probably pocketed). One of Fruela’s first actions as king was to journey to Santiago de Compostela to ask the saint’s help for his new responsibility, while Ordoño (who had already ruled Galicia under his father) was also a generous patron of the early medieval cathedral, as he and his wife gave it two chests of gold and thirty-five Muslim prisoners of war.
The job of designing this façade and replacing the earlier Romanesque exterior was entrusted to Domingo Antonio Lois Monteagudo from Pontevedra (1722–85), an architect who shone as a student in Madrid and Rome, but has traditionally been seen as the epitome of a frustrated talent, chafing at having to implement the works of other. But you would never imagine that, looking at the most architecturally coherent of all the four facades of one of the most impressive medieval-early modern buildings in the world.
 José María Manuel García-Osuna y Rodríguez, ‘El astur rey de León Fruela II Adefónsiz “El Leproso”’, Argutorio: revista de la Asociación Cultural ‘Monte Irago’ 20 (2008), 25–8: 25. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=2501667
 José María Manuel García-Osuna y Rodríguez, ‘El astur rey de León Fruela II Adefónsiz “El Leproso”’, Argutorio: revista de la Asociación Cultural ‘Monte Irago’ 20 (2008), 25–8: 26. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=2501667
 César Álvarez Álvarez, ‘Ordoño II’, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico (DBe) de la Real Academia de la Historia, https://dbe.rah.es/biografias/7299/ordono-ii.
 Enrique Fernández Castiñeiras, ‘Domingo Antonio Lois Monteagudo’, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico (DBe) de la Real Academia de la Historia, https://dbe.rah.es/biografias/22021/domingo-antonio-lois-monteagudo.