SATURDAY, APRIL 30: Orthodox Christians honor James, son of Zebedee, on today’s James the Greater Day. James was one of the Twelve called by Jesus and stood out among the rest.
James and his brother John were called by Jesus while working with their father on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. James was one of only three apostles to witness the Transfiguration of Jesus. And, James was the first apostle to become a martyr for his faith; his death by sword under orders from Herod Agrippa I is the only martyrdom of one of the Twelve recorded in the New Testament. (Wikipedia has details.)
Today, St. James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain, and his remains lie at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, has existed for more than 1,000 years, and Santiago been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may enjoy reading an interview with the popular travel writer Judith Fein, which mentions this famous network of pilgrimage routes.
Rembrandt van Rijn’s depiction of the disciple, a painting he titled “St. James the Elder” (and shown in the photo at left) is one of only five portraits Rembrandt created of the apostles in 1661. The original oil painting was sold in 2007 for $25.8 million.
There are many variances in remembering St. James. While the Eastern Christian church celebrates this weekend, the Western Christian church celebrates on July 25. The name seems to change as pilgrims circle the globe: James may appear as Giacomo in Italy. And in large portions of Spain, James traditionally was called Iago, which turns St. James into Santiago.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.