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Who was St. James?

The name James is derived from the Hebrew "skeb", which means "heel". James was one of the privileged disciples of Jesus, who witnessed the resurrection of Jairus' daughter (cf. Mark 5:37 and Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (cf. Matthew 17:1nn, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:28) and prayer in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:37).

Together with his brother John, they received from Christ himself (cf. Mark 3:18) the nicknamed Boanerges, which means "sons of thunder". It is because they wanted a lightning to fell on the city in Samaria which did not want to take in Jesus and His disciples (cf. Luke 9:55-56). The Gospels mention James the Greater in the pages of the Holy Scripture in 18 places, which altogether covers 31 lines. According to tradition of the Church, he developed his evangelizing work in the Iberian Peninsula. James was the first martyr of the Church among the Apostles, and the second after St. Stephen.

St. James in Spain
The oldest documents relating to the tomb of St. James indicate that around 820 the worship of the mortal remains of the Apostle begins to spread rapidly in Compostela – to such an extent that even the bishop of the diocese, Teodomir, wanted to be buried there. The circumstances which gave rise to this cult were explained in a document dated to 1077. According to the version presented in it, in King Alfonso II time, a hermit named Pelagius had a divine revelation that the tomb of St. James, which was pointed out by the light seen by local residents, is located in the vicinity of the Church of Saint Fiz of Solovio. The bishop of Iria Flavia – Teodomir – informed of the incident, found the marble tomb and linked it with the burial place of St. James.

The story of how the remains of St. James got there and were placed in the tomb can be found in one of the oldest preserved documents, that is, copy of the Letter of the Bishop of Leon, coming from around 900. However, currently, the origin, dating and authenticity of this document are discussed and subject to continuous research. We learn from this text that after the martyrdom of St. James, seven of his disciples carried the body of the Apostle by sea to a place a few miles away from the coast of Galicia (now town Padrón). The remains of three of them are also buried there: Torkwat, Tysefont and Anastasius (other versions say only about two disciples: Theodore and Athanasius). The other four returned to Jerusalem.

Respect for and centuries-old memory of St. James are confirmed by the following facts: early Christian cemetery located underneath the contemporary Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with burials dating back to the period between the third and sixth century, placed in the direction of the mausoleum, proves the cult of the Apostle. The number of graves – too big for such a small village – draws the attention. Apart from that, numerous churches in the neighbouring province of Galicia, for instance, Asturias or from the area of Merida in Extremadura, assumed the name of St. James, which was usually caused by the proximity of the grave of a given saint, as well as the fact that there were churches and relics associated with him.