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The legend of Saint James


After the crucifixion Saint James, the brother of Saint John the Evangelist, went to Spain to spread the Gospel.

Somewhere around 42-44 AD he returned to Jerusalem where he ignored the warnings against preaching Christ's teachings to the Jews. Saint James was taken prisoner by Herodes Agrippa and tortured to death. The king forbade people to bury him and during the night two disciples of Saint James stole his body and brought him, in a sarcophagus of marble, on board a small boat.

They landed on the Galician coast in the north west coast of Spain and buried his body at a secret place in a wood. saint James

Centuries later, in 813, a hermit named Pelayo heard music in the same wood and saw a light. For this light the place was named "Campus Stellae", meaning, in Latin, field of the star, and later became Compostela.

Bishop Teodomiro heard of the event and ordered an investigation and the tomb of the Apostle was discovered. King Alphonse II declared Saint James the patron of his empire and had a chapel built at that place. It is reported that from then on Saint James performed several miracles and also that he fought for King Ramiro I against the Moors.

More and more pilgrims followed the way of Santiago, "Camino de Santiago", and the original chapel became the cathedral of the new settlement, Santiago de Compostela.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the town had its greatest importance, and Pope Alexander III declared it a Holy Town, like Rome and Jerusalem. Pope Calixto II declared that the pilgrims who went to Santiago in a Holy Year should be free of all their sins. It is Holy Year when Saint James's birthday (25 July) falls on a Sunday.

The emblem of Saint James was the scallop shell (or "cockle shell"), and pilgrims to his shrine often wore that symbol on their hats or clothes. The French for a scallop is coquille St. Jacques (cockle of Saint James).

scallop shell

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