Feast Day 25 July
Martyred 44 AD
James, son of Zebedee, was one of the Twelve Disciples. He was beheaded in Judea
by King Herod Agrippa I himself. His remains are believed to be buried in Santiago
de Compostela in Spain, the third holiest site in Christendom, after Jerusalem
Patron Saint of Spain, tradition later relates that he appeared to fight with the Christian army against
the Moors. Santiago y cierra España ("St James and strike for Spain") has
been the traditional battle cry of Spanish armies ever since, and Santiago
evolved into ‘dago’ a disparaging term for a Spaniard and hence, by association,
the Italians and Portuguese.
Tradition also says that his body was carried to Spain and brought ashore near
Finisterre. Queen Lupa provided a marble tomb and the saint was buried there
with two of his disciples Athanasius and Theodore. The site was then forgotten
for eight centuries. In the time of King Alfonso II (791-842) and Bishop Theodemir
of Iria, a hermit, Pelayo, was led to the spot by a vision, the relics were
authenticated by the local bishop and the pilgrimage to Compostela became almost
as popular and important in medieval Europe as
that to Jerusalem. Because of this, seventeen English peers and eight baronets
have scallop shells (or cockle shells, the emblem of the saint) in their coats of arms.
Late 19th and 20th century excavations under Compostela Cathedral disclosed a
Roman-period tomb below the high altar, and a stone inscribed with the names Athanasius and Theodore.