The abandoned church in Spain forms bookends for the novel—Santiago dreams of his treasure while sleeping in the collapsed church at the beginning of the book, and he returns to the church to find his treasure at the very end. The abandoned church symbolizes the value of the familiar and of home. Santiago ultimately did not have to travel any physical distance to find his treasure, which was in his own homeland, but the journey itself was as much a part of his quest as was the final result. The importance of this journey is symbolized by his initial distant goal of the Egyptian Pyramids.
Santiago’s realization that his treasure is in a place he knew all along marks the final stage of his self-development in the book. Early in the novel he is consumed with wanderlust, but by the book’s end he realizes the value of returning home. Coelho suggests that both the journey and the destination are valuable, and the abandoned church symbolizes this idea.