Feast Day : July 25
Patronage: apothecaries; arthritis; blacksmiths; druggists; funeral directors; furriers; knights; laborers; pharmacists; pilgrims; rheumatism; rheumatoid sufferers; Chile; Guatemala; Nicaragua; Spain; Spanish conquistadores
Also known as: Giacomo; Iago; Iakob; Jacobo; Jacques; Jacobus Major; James Boanerges; Santiago; Yakob
James was the son of Zebedee and Salomone and the elder brother of St. John the Divine. Zebedee and his family were prosperous fishermen, and James and John were followers of St. John the Baptist before they met Jesus. When Jesus called them to become “fishers of men,” they left their occupation to become his fulltime disciples. James is referred to as James the Greater because he was taller than another of the apostles, St. James the Lesser. James and his brother were given the surname “Boanerges,” meaning “Sons of Thunder,” by Jesus, in recognition of their fiery personalities and evangelizing zeal. Little is known for certain about James’s apostolate. There is a tradition that he preached the Gospel in Spain, but this is suspect both because St. Paul, who definitely did evangelize Spain, wrote in his Epistle to the Romans that he was not building “upon another man’s foundation,” and because contemporary Spanish writers do not mention him. According to this tradition, which was current by the year 700, James returned to Jerusalem, where he was killed by King Herod Agrippa I (r. 42–44), grandson of Herod the Great. Of greater credence is another tradition, which holds that James had not left Jerusalem by the time of his martyrdom. Herod Agrippa, a great defender of the Jewish faith, was concerned with the rapid spread of Christianity. He chose Passover of the year 44 to launch a persecution against the Christian community in Jerusalem, and James became his first victim. Agrippa is said to have beheaded James together with his accuser, who had been so moved by James’s confession that he had converted to Christianity. James’s martyrdom fulfilled a prophecy of Jesus that those who shared his chalice would share in his sufferings. The tradition that has James evangelizing Spain holds also that his relics were miraculously translated to Iria Flavia in the northwest of that country, whence they were transported to Compostela. During the Middle Ages, the latter town was one of the most famous pilgrimage places in the world, inspiring the creation of the Order of Knights of St. James of Compostela in the 12th century. The authenticity of the sacred relics of Compostela is vouched for in a Bull of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903). However, they are also claimed by the Church of St.-Saturnin at Toulouse, France, so they may have been divided. In art, James is represented by a cockleshell; a key; a pilgrim’s staff; and a sword. He is depicted as an elderly, bearded man wearing a hat with a scallop shell; as a man with shells around him; and as a pilgrim with wallet and staff.