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Apothecary San Martiño Pinario. Photo: SMP Cultural Space

San Martiño Pinario at the service of pilgrims

The monastery of San Martiño Pinario was linked from its origin to the cult of the apostle Saint James and the Jacobean tradition. Therefore, it is not surprising that it dedicated part of its services to the welfare of the pilgrims who arrived at its doors.

From the end of the 16th century, the monastery had an apothecary’s shop. It was managed by a monk from the community. Initially, it only provided care for the monks and monastery staff.

However, San Martiño always had a large alms budget and provided a service to the pilgrims. It is therefore not surprising that the apothecary’s shop also devoted its efforts to care for pilgrims and poor people who needed it.

The monastery had its vegetable garden, where some medicinal plants were cultivated and used as remedies. The apothecary gained his position through an examination before the court of the Protomedicato, an institution dating from the time of the Catholic Kings.

Reconstruction of the apothecary's shop. Photo: SMP Cultural Space.

Reconstruction of the apothecary’s shop. Photo: SMP Cultural Space.

Applicants entered the monastery between the ages of fourteen and twenty and could not sit the examination until they were twenty-five. Apothecaries were required to know Latin, to have practised for four years under the supervision of an approved master and have clean blood.

The apothecary’s shop of San Martiño Pinario trained numerous monks who ended up serving in monastic centres. However, it also trained apothecaries who worked in civilian apothecaries’ shops, such as the Hospital of the Catholic Kings in Santiago.

The Royal Hospital was built at the beginning of the 16th century and paid attention to pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela along the Way of Saint James. Along the Pilgrims’ Route, numerous health centres had their own apothecary’s shop, so the teachings that were given in San Martiño Pinario could benefit thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.

Today, the monastery museum houses a reconstruction of what could have been the apothecary’s shop. It also conserves original utensils in which the monks kept the ointments obtained from the distillation of plants.

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