Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Saint James Major

Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece, Saint James Major
German, c. 1500
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

“The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
"What do you wish?"
She answered him,
"Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom."
Jesus said in reply,
"You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"
They said to him, "We can."
He replied,
"My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Matthew 20:20-28
(Gospel for July 25th, Feast of Saint James the Greater, Apostle)

During the third week of July we celebrate the feast days of three great saints, patrons of neighboring European countries, and, if legends are to be given credibility, blood relatives.  They are Saints Anne and Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint James Major (or the Greater), brother of Saint John the Evangelist, one of the sons of Zebedee, and consequently, perhaps another grandchild of Anne and Joachim and, therefore, nephew of Mary and first cousin of Jesus.1  The feast day of Anne and Joachim is July 26th.  The feast day of Saint James the Greater is the day before, July 25th.  
Saint Anne is one of the patron saints of France, especially of the region of Brittany.  Saint James is one of the patron saints of Spain.  In fact, it is his great shrine at Compostela, in northwestern Spain, that was and is one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in Europe.  Each year, thousands of pilgrims still make their way, frequently on foot, along the Camino de Santiago, just as they have for over a thousand years.2   
Albrecht Dürer, Saint James
German, 1516
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi 

Saint James' association with Spain goes back to the time of Charlemagne, in the ninth century.  According to the legends recorded at about this time, shortly after Pentecost James tried to evangelize the Iberian Peninsula, without great success.  Although there is no evidence in the Acts of the Apostles or in the works of the early Fathers for this trip, it is not entirely impossible.  The Iberian Peninsula was part of the Roman Empire by the beginning of the first century and ultimately comprised the Roman provinces of Hispania Tarraconensis, Hispania Lusitania and Hispania Baetica and would certainly be one of the areas that attracted the early evangelists.  Indeed, Saint Paul mentions his own intentions to undertake a missionary journey to Hispania in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 15:24).  However, his plans were stymied when he was imprisoned and transported to Rome for trial, where he was martyred.
Richard de Montbaston, Saint James Preaching
From Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c. 1348
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 241, fol. 169v
Jean Bandol and Others,  Saint James Preaching
From Grande Bible Historiale Completeé
French (Paris), c. 1371- 1372
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS RMMW 10 B 23, fol. 569r
Jacques de Besancon, Saint James Preaching
From Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c. 1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 1

The Saint James legend further suggests that, after preaching in Hispania for some time, he returned to Palestine and eventual martyrdom.  After martyrdom his remains were moved at some point to Spain, eventually settling in the northwestern town of Compostela.  In addition, later legend holds that, during a battle of the Christians of northern Spain against the Muslim Moors who dominated southern Spain from the seventh century on, Saint James appeared among the Christian warriors, riding a white horse and leading them to victory.  He thus became the patron of Christian Spaniards. 

Pilgrimage to his relics at Compostela was established by the ninth century and continues unbroken to the present.  Indeed, it has had a resurgence of interest in the last three decades that sees larger and larger numbers make the pilgrimage each year. 


Iconography of Saint James

The iconography of Saint James Major is largely dependent on what is known about him from the Gospels and from the numerous legends that have become attached to him over time. 

Saint James in the Gospels

In the Gospels we learn that James (derived from Jacob) was the son of Zebedee, who appears to have been a prosperous owner of fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee.  He is the brother of the Evangelist, John.  
Plaque with Saints James and John the Evangelist
Mosan, c. 1160-1180
Chicago, Art Institute
Saints John Evangelist and James Major
German, c. 14th Century
Arnsberg Kreis Arnsberg, Church of Saint Lawrence
Israhel van Mechenem, Saints James the Greater and John the Evangelist
From The Apostles
German, c. 1500
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The two brothers were the second set of brothers called into discipleship by Jesus, immediately after Andrew and Simon, who became Peter (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19 sq.; and Luke 5:1-11).  
P. Hoeaxhlwe, Calling of Saint James
German, c. 1866-1872
Schwandorf, Church of St. James
James Tissot, Calling of James and John
French, c. 1886-1894
New  York, Brooklyn Museum
And, with Peter, the two sons of Zebedee form a kind of trio, Peter, James and John, who become the witnesses to many of the most important events in the New Testament, such as the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28) and the Agony in the Garden (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33).  Thus they seem to have formed a special inner circle of disciples within the twelve. 


Saints John, Peter and James
From Pelerinage de Jesus-Christ by Guillaume de Digulleville
French (Rennes), c. 1425-1450
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 376, fol. 210v

Possible Familial Relationship to Jesus

According to pious tradition which, however, makes a certain amount of sense, some of the special closeness which the Zebedee boys have to Jesus may be accounted for by a familial relationship.  There are old legends that suggest that SaintAnne was married three times, Joachim being her final spouse and Mary her only daughter with him.  By each of her earlier marriages she is said to have also had a daughter.  One of these daughters is supposed to have been named Salome.  And, Salome is the name of a woman mentioned in two of the Synoptic Gospels as being among the women who were present at the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40) and who were among the first witnesses to the Resurrection (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).  The Gospel of John calls this woman, “his mother’s sister” (John 19:25).   So, this line of thought implies that Salome was the mother of the Zebedee brothers and the sister of Mary, which made them her nephews and the first cousins of Jesus.  This also would mean that Jesus’ commendation of his mother, Mary, to the care of the Apostle John, which he made from the cross, a logical request.  For, he would be asking his cousin to look after his mother, who would, therefore, be John’s aunt.   Whether true or not, this was believed for much of the subsequent course of Christian history.  It can be seen in images such as the Holy Kindred images, which link together all the many legends which held Saint Anne to be the matriarch of a large and holy extended family.4   These images usually include Saint Anne and her three daughters:  Mary with Jesus, Salome with Saints John and James and Mary Cleophas with her sons (Saints James the Less, Joseph the Just, Simon and Jude).  The men of the family will also usually be included.  These include Saint Joseph; the husbands of Saint Anne's other daughters, Alphaeus and Zebedee; and the three husbands of Saint Anne (Cleophas, Salome and Joachim). Sometimes Saints Zachary and Elizabeth and their son, John the Baptist may also be included. 
Jean Fouquet, Saint Anne with Her Daughters and Grandchildren
From Hours of Etienne Chevalier
French (Tours), c. 1452-1460
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 1416, verso
Master of the Legend of Saint Anne, The Holy Kindred
Netherlandish, 1475
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Triptych of the Holy Kindred
Flemish, c. 1490s
Ghent, Museum voor Shone Kunsten
The Education of the Virgin with Saint Anne and Her Daughter Mary Salome and Saints James and John
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1490-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M7, fol. 78v
Attributed to Matthaeus Gutrecht the Younger
German, c.1500-1510
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Master of the Legend of Saint Anne. Holy Kindred
Netherlandish, 1475
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Master of Holy Kinship. Holy Kinship
Flemish, c. 1505-1510
Cologne, Wallraf-Richertz Museum and Foundation Corbaud
Quentin Massys. The Holy Kindred
Center Panel of the Saint Anne Altarpiece
Flemish, c. 1507-1508
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
Johann von der Leyten, Holy Kindred
German, 1511
Marburg, Elisabethkirche
Mary Cleophas and Mary Salome with Their Husbands and Children (with portraits of Freidrich the Wise as Alphaeus
and  Johann the Constant as Zebedee)
German, c. 1520-1530
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum and Foundation Corbaud
Maarten De Vos, The Holy Kindred
Flemish, c. 1585
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten

It is also suggestive that the Gospel passage for today’s feast day is the one which focuses on the rather shocking demand for high places in the kingdom with which the mother of the Zebedees badgers Jesus.  Absent a family relationship this request seems quite outrageous.  However, it takes on a more understandable context if you imagine that this is a sister of Mary, asking her nephew to place his cousins in important positions in his coming kingdom.  Of course, it is quite clear from the text that neither the brothers or their mother have any idea of what they are actually asking for, i.e., martyrdom, although both did end up suffering for their eventual belief in Jesus’ unworldly kingdom.  James died early on, in 44 AD, by beheading.  John lived on till the end of the century but suffered a non-fatal martyrdom and exile.

Martyrdom of Saint James
From a Psalter
German (Hildesheim), c. 1230-1240
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3102, fol. 4v
Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Martyrdom
From Vies de saints
French (Paris), c. 1300-1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS FRancais 183, fol. 34v
Jeanne de Montbaston, Saint James as a Pilgrim
From Vies de Saints
French (Paris), c. 1325-1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS FRancais 185, fol. 47
Scenes from the Martyrdom of Saint James
German, 15th Century
Würzburg, Mainfränkisches Museum
Chroniques II Workshop, Saint James and Philetus, the Martrydom of Saint James
From Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M674, fol. 333v
Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, Beheading of Saint James the Greater
From the Pistoia Santa Trinita Altarpiece
Italian, c. 1455-1460
London, National Gallery
Albrecht Dürer, Martyrdom of Saint James Major
German, c. 1507-1509
Frankfurt-am-Main, Historisches Museum
Jacques Callot, Martyrdom of Saint James Major
French, c. 1634-1635
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Francisco de Zurbaran, The Martyrdom of Saint James
Spanish, c. 1640
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Johann Boeckhorst, Martyrdom of Saint James
German, c. 1650-1660
Valenciennes, Musee des Beaux-Arts
Noel Coypel, Saint James the Greater Led to Torture
French, 1661
Paris, Musée du Louvre
P. Horschler, Execution of Saint James
German, c. 1866-1872
Schwandorf, Church of Saint James

Early Legends of Saint James Major


By the late thirteenth century Saint James Major had a richly embellished legend in Western Europe, as attested by the entry for him in the most popular hagiographic work of the middle ages, The Golden Legend (Legenda aurea) by Jacobus (James) de Voragine, the Archbishop of Genoa, first published in 1275.3  Among the legends collected by de Voragine were:

The Legend of Hermogenes

Hermogenes was said to be a magician who colluded with the Pharisees upon James’ return from Spain to Palestine.  He sent an assistant named Philetus to perform his magic and overcome James.  When Philetus was unsuccessful, and returned to Hermogenes saying that James was the real deal, Hermogenes bound him with magic and challenged James to free him.  This James did, from a distance.  This enraged Hermogenes, who summoned up demons to attack James and bring him bound before him.  However, the demons were unable to attack James and were, in fact, themselves tormented.  When they reported this to Hermogenes he realized he was bested, converted, and begged a token from James to assist him.  James sent him his staff.  Hermogenes then sent all his books of magic to James who cast them into the sea.  This series of “events” led indirectly to James’ martyrdom, for the Pharisees were angry and stirred up Herod Agrippa against James and Herod had him beheaded.

Mahiet and Workshop, Hermogenes Sending Demons to Saint James
From Speculum historiale by Vincent of Beauvais
French (Paris), c. 1335
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 5080, fol. 10v
Fra Angelico, Saint James Major Freeing the Magician Philetus
Italian, c. 1434-1435
Fort Worth, Kimball Art Museum


The Legend of the Return to Spain


After the martyrdom of James his body was taken by some of his disciples, put into a coffin and placed on a ship.   They cast off “without sail or rudder” trusting to God that the body would come to rest in a place chosen by God.  They eventually landed in Galicia in north western Spain, in the territory of a queen named Lupa.  When they brought the body ashore they laid it on a rock and it sank into the rock “as it had been soft wax, and made to the body a stone as it were a sepulcher”. When the disciples asked for a place to bury the body the queen treacherously told them to yoke two of her oxen to a cart and transport it to where they wished.  This was a trick since the two animals she indicated were not oxen at all, but fierce fighting bulls.  However, once blessed the bulls became docile and allowed themselves to be harnessed to the cart.  They transported the body to the top of hill, where it was buried.  The burial place was in Compostela.  The queen repented and was converted and built a church there.

Martin Bernat, The Embarkation of James the Greater’s Body at Jaffa
Spanish, c. 1480-1490
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Martin Bernat, The Translation of the Body of Saint James the Greater at the Palace of Queen Lupa
Spanish, c. 1480-1490
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Master of Astorga, Debarkation of the Body of Saint James
Spanish, First Quarter of 16th Century
Madrid, Museo Lazaro Galdiano
Master of Astorga, Translation of the Body of Saint James
Spanish, First Quarter of 16th Century
Madrid, Museo Lazaro Galdiano

De Voragine tells us nothing about what happened after that.  However, the legend continues.  Apparently, the burial place was forgotten during the period of the collapse of Roman rule under the pressure of the barbarian invasions, which Spain did not escape.  When the dust had settled so to speak and the last group of barbarian invaders, the Visigoths, had established a relatively stable kingdom, it re-emerged.  According to the legend of its finding, in the year 813 a monk, named Pelagius (or Pelayo) had a dream vision of a star shooting over a hilltop field.  He related his vision to the bishop of the town of Iria (the former Iria Flavia, the town where the body of Saint James was said to have landed).  The bishop investigated the field and the forgotten chapel with its burial place was discovered.  The king of Asturias and Galicia, Alfonso II, built a church on the site (the star field or campus stella in Latin, hence Campostela).  This church was later replaced by the present cathedral, which was begun in 1075 and completed in 1211. 
Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Body of Saint James Brought to Compostela
The Oxburgh Retable
Flemish, c. 1500-1530
Norfolk (UK), Oxburgh Hall, National Trust
Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Pilgrims at Compostela
The Oxburgh Retable
Flemish, c. 1500-1530
Norfolk (UK), Oxburgh Hall, National Trust

While it may be possible that a relic of Saint James was brought to Spain, to Compostela, it is considered highly unlikely that the entire body of the saint is held there, as other places also claim parts of his body.  Since it is not unusual for the relics of saints (even modern day ones) to be fragmented so that parts of their body are located in different places it is not unlikely that the places that claim the relics do actually have them.  On the other hand, the bones in this tomb may not be those of Saint James at all.  In a way, their identity is irrelevant.  It is the person of the saint, not simply his bones, that pilgrims venerate.  And, unquestionably, the saint who is venerated at Santiago is Saint James the Great.

Devotional Badge with Saint James Flanked by Two Kneeling Pilgrims
Italian, c. 1200-1250
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Saint James Major with Pilgrims
German, c. 1226-1250
Linz am Rhein, Old Catholic Parish Church of Saint Martin
Praying to Saint James
From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Flemish (Hainaut), c. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 66
Master Francois, Pilgrims Praying Before the Shrine of Saint James
From Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais, Vol III
French, c. 1400
Chantilly, Musée Condé MS 722, fol. 216r
Chief Associate of Master Francois, Saint James and a Pilgrim
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1480-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 231, fol. 198v
St. James the Great Venerated by Pilgrims
German, c. 1501-1525
Oberwesel, Church of Our Lady
Saint James Venerated by a Woman Presented by Saint Helena
From Inserted Leaf in Book of Hours
French (Dijon), c. 1520
London, British Library
MS Harley 3181, fol. 23v

The Legend of Our Lady of the Pillar

This is a story not included in the Golden Legend.  According to this legend, while Saint James was preaching in Spain (or to be more chronologically correct, the provinces of Hispania) on January 2, 40 AD, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him seated atop a pillar.  She was still alive at the time and living in Ephesus with his brother, the Apostle/Evangelist John.  She requested his return to Palestine.  He obeyed and returned to his martyrdom.

Our Lady of the Pillar Appearing to Saint James the Great
Italian, c. 17th-18th Century
Rome, Church of Our Lady of Monserrat
Nicolas Poussin, Apparition of the Virgin to St. James Major
French, c. 1650
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio Gonzalez Velasquez, the Elder, Saint James' Vision of the Virgin of the Pillar
Spanish, c. 1750-1755
Chicago, Art Institute
Francisco Bayeu y Subias, St. James Being Visited by the Virgin
Spanish, 1760
London, National Gallery

Saint James Matamoros (the Moor Slayer)

Saint James is the patron saint of Spain both because of the presence of his relics in Compostela and because of the legend of Saint James Matamoros (the Moor Slayer).  According to this legend Saint James appeared during the early years of the bitter war between the established Christian population made up of Iberian natives and Visigothic settlers and the invading Islamic armies of Moors and Berbers that began in 711 and lasted until 1492.  At the battle of Clavijo (itself a legendary event, though apparently based on a real battle, the second battle of Albelda) he is reported to have appeared, riding a white stallion and brandishing a white banner, and assisted the outnumbered Christian army of the Kingdom of Asturias to defeat the larger Moorish army. 


St. James Matamoros
Spanish, c. 1180-1200
Compostela, Cathedral of Santiago
Saint James Fighting the Moors
From a Title of Nobility
Spanish (Grenada), 1567
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Espagnol 435, fol. 2
Saint James In Combat
Spanish, 17th Century
Paris, Musée de Cluny, Musée national du Moyen Age_MS CL 14101
Saint James Battling the Moors
From a Book of Hours
Spanish, 17th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10565, fol. 20v
Juan Carreňo de Miranda, St. James Major at the Battle of Clavijo
Spanish, 1660
Budapest, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, St. James Conquering the Moors
Italian, c. 1749-1750
Budapest, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum
Corrado Giaquinto, The Battle of Clavijo
Italian, c. 1755-1756
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Joseph Winterhalder the Younger, Victory of St. James of Compostela Over the Saracens in the Battle of Clavijo
Austrian, c. 1764
Vienna, Belvedere Museum
This legend made James the patron of the Christian kingdoms of Iberia in their long battle to regain the peninsula from the invaders and, hence, the patron saint of the reunited kingdom of Spain.  One manifestation of this was the founding of the Order of Saint James (or Santiago) in the twelfth century.  Originally founded, like the Templars or other crusading orders founded for the Holy Land, to develop religious brothers who would fight against the Muslim armies in defense of Christians, over time it devolved into a more ceremonial order of chivalry or mark of rank, like the Order of Garter in England.

Epistle Writer

According to tradition, James was also the writer of the Epistle that bears his name.  Therefore, he is sometimes shown with the attributes of a writer, such as a scroll, a book or writing implements.
Saint James the Greater
French (Limoges), c. 1231
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Grifo di Tancredi, Saint James Major
Italian, c. 1310
Washington, National Gallery of Art
In addition to the scroll, indicating his authorship of an Epistle, this Saint James has a small cockle shell on his left shoulder.
Antonio Veneziano, Saint James Major
Italian, c. 1380
Vatican City, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Although the book appears to be the primary attribute in this picture, the pilgrim staff has a prominent position.  If this painting was cut down from something larger the cockle shell may also have appeared.
Bonifacio Bembo, Saint James the Great
Italian, c. 1450
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
Jean le Tavernier and Follower, St. James the Greater
From Hours of Philip of Burgundy
Flemish (Oudenaarde), c. 1450-1460
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F2 f,252r
St. James the Greater
French (Burgundy), c. 1450-1475
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters Collection
Carlo Crivelli, Saint James Major
Italian, c. 1472
New York, Brooklyn Museum
Possibly Master of Saint Antonius, St.  James the Great
Dutch,,c. 1480-1510
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Jean Bourdichon, Saint James the Greater
From Hours of Frederic of Aragon
French (Tours), c. 1501-1502
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10532, fol. 338
Jose de Ribera, Saint James the Great
Spanish, c. 1640
Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes


Saint of the Camino

From the ninth century until the present day pilgrims have made their way to Compostela to pay homage to the saint.  Indeed, for many centuries, there were three major pilgrimages which European people could make:  Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.  Since, bar the period of Crusader control, Jerusalem was in the hands of Muslim rulers for most of the medieval period travel there was severely limited, extremely costly and frequently resulted in the death of the pilgrim, it was the least often undertaken.  Since most people were unable to get there to venerate the great sites associated with the Passion of Jesus, other options became attractive.  Rome and Santiago were important because they were or were believed to be the resting place of two of the Apostles most closely associated with Jesus, Peter and James.  Rome likely had precedence as it also held some of the relics of the Passion, such as parts of the True Cross or the Holy Stairs, as well as being the headquarters of the Pope, the successor of Saint Peter.  However, travel to Rome, though not as dangerous or expensive as travel to Jerusalem, was still somewhat difficult for the average northern European.  Therefore, Santiago became the most popular site for travel.  There were three well established routes leading from different areas of northern Europe.  The pilgrims could stay in monasteries and cathedral towns as they traveled southwest through France.  The three routes eventually met in northeastern Spain and a single route traveled across northern Spain to Compostela.  Some pilgrims might also arrive by sea as well.   Many who had walked as an act of penance also departed by sea, their penance done. 

Most pilgrims carried a walking staff to assist them over the often tough terrain.  Those who came and/or departed by sea would often take shells from the seashore as mementos of their experience.  Both the pilgrim staff and the shell, especially the cockle shell, especially when worn as a pendant or as an ornament on a large hat, became attributes of Saint James and many pictures and statues use them to identify him. 

Simone Martini, Saint James Major
Italian, c. 1315-1320
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Here Saint James is shown with both the attributes of the pilgrim and the Epistle writer.
Maubeuge Master, Saint James the Great
From Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M323, fol. 275r
The large hat, with cockle shell decoration, became one of the most recognizable attributes of the saint.
Robert de Lannoy, Saint Jaques
French, c. 1326-1327
Paris, Musée de Cluny
Although this statue is damaged you can make out the
 cockle shell on the purselike bag hanging from the 
saint's waist.
Saint James Major
German, c. 1360
Cologne, Schnuetgen-Museum
This statue includes both the attributes of the
pilgrim and the writer. 










































Saint James Major
English, Early 15th Century
Chelmsford, Essex (UK), Chelmsford Museum

Saint James the Great
German, 15th Century
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Head of St. James the Greater
French (Burgundy), c. 1450-1500
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is one of my favorite images of Saint James.  I love the delicate but realistic modeling of the face, hair and beard and I especially love the wooly texture of the hat.
Saint James as a Pilgrim
French, c. 1475-1500
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Saint James the Greater
German, c. 1475-1500
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Saint James the Great
German, c. 1475-1500
Cologne, Schnuetgen Museum
Chief Associate of Master Francois, St. James Major
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1485-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M195, fol. 174r
Gil de Siloe, Saint James the Greater
Spanish (Burgos), c. 1489-1493
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection
Saint James the Great
German, c. 1490
Nuremberg, Church of St. James
Follower of Master of Spencer 6, Saint James Major
From a Book of Hours
French (Langres), c. 1495-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M271, fol. 120r
Saint James the Great
German, c. 1500
Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinishce Kunst

In this interesting image and that which follows, Saint James is depicted with what appears to be prayer beads, possibly an early form of rosary in addition to his usual attributes.


Maestro de la Vistacion de Palencia, The Apostle James
Spanish, c. 1500
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Saint James Major
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1500-1510
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M160, fol. 88r
Saint James the Great
German, c. 1501-1515
Herbstein, Catholic Parish Church of Saint James


Juan de Flandes, The Apostle Saint James
Flemish, c. 1507
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado


Workshop of the Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian, Saint James the Great
From the Spinola Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1510-1520
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 252v
Hans Sebald Beham, Saint James the Great
German, c. 1530-1540
Paris, Musée du Louvre


Saint James Major
German, c. 1530
Cologne, Schnuetgen Museum


Jacques Callot, Saint James Major
French, c. 1630
Paris, Musée du Louvre


Eventually, the pilgrim staff alone became sufficient to identify him.


El Greco, Saint James Major
Greco-Spanish, c. 1610-1614
Toledo, Museo de El Greco
_Peter Paul Rubens, Saint James the Greater
Flemish, c. 1610-1618
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Guido Reni, The Apostle James the Greater
Italian, c. 1618-1623
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Jose de Ribera, Saint James the Greater
Spanish, c. 1630-1632
London, English Heritage, the Wellington Collection, Apsley House
Jose de Ribera, Saint James the Greater
Spanish, c. 1630-1635
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Alonso Cano, Saint James Major
Spanish, c. 1650
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Carlo Maratta, St. James Major
Italian, c. 1661
Leeds (UK), Lees Museum and Galleries, Temple Newsam House
Attributed to Luigi Baldi, St. James the Great
Italian, c. 1750-1800
Rome, Church of Our Lady of Monserrat
There is at least one unusual depiction of the saint in which instead of book or pilgrim staff, he holds the sword of his martyrdom.
Ulrich Widmann Workshop, Saint James Major
German, 1481
Bamberg,, Church of Our Lady
From the thirteenth century the cathedral at Compostela has cultivated a tradition of using a huge thurible (swinging incense burner) to spread the smoke and odor of incense through the entire church.  The tradition continues today.  The burner, called the botafumeiro, takes eight men to swing it into motion.  The current botafumeiro dates from 1851, but replaces an earlier one which was plundered by Napoleon’s army.  The pulley mechanism that swings it dates from 1640.  The event is impressive to watch.  In the videos available the swinging of the botafumeiro is accompanied by the singing of a hymn to Saint James as patron and protector of Spain.  As one watches one can realize that they are seeing a spectacle that would have been familiar to Ferdinand and Isabella, their predecessors and successors, as well as to hundreds upon hundreds of ordinary people stretching back through time for a thousand years.

Other Iconographic Representations

As with any major saint, James appears often in groups of saints, both in altarpieces and in more private devotional works.

Sano di Pietro, Madonna and Child with Saints James the Great and John the Evangelist
Italian, c. 1460-1465
New York, Brooklyn Museum
Bartolomeo Vivarini, St. James Polyptych
Italian, c. 1490
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
Luca Signorelli, Madonna and Child with Saints James Major, Simon, Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure
Italian, 1507
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
Nicolo Pisano, Madonna and Child with Saints James and Helen
Italian, 1512
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
Gaspare Negro, Pieta with Saints Sebastien, Blaise, Margaret and James Major
Italian, 1513
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Jacopo Pontormo, Madonna and Child with Saints
Italian, 1518
Florence, Church of San Michele Visdomini
In this rather odd painting Saint Francis kneels in adoration of what appears to be an extended Holy Family group in which Mary and Jesus are accompanied by Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist as a child and Saints John the Evangelist (as an old man) and James the Great (as a young pilgrim.
Jacopo Bassano, Madonna and Child with Saints James Major and John the Baptist
Italian, c. 1545-1550
Munich, Alte Pinakothek
Giovanni Lanfranco, Madonna and Child with Saints Anthony Abbot and James Major
Italian, c. 1622-1623
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
He is frequently seen as one of a pair or a group of saints, most frequently saints who were martyred for the faith. He, himself, was one of the earliest martyrs and the first of the Apostles to be martyred.
Workshop of Willilam of Devon, Saints James Major and Lawrence
From the Cuerden Psalter
English, c. 1270
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M756, fol. 9r
Michele Giambono, Polyptych of Saint James
(Saint James with Saints Paul, Benedict, Michael and a Franciscan Bishop Saint)
Italian, c. 1450
Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia
Pesellino, Santa Trinita Altarpiece (Saints Mamas, James, Zeno and Jerome)
Italian, c. 1455-1460
London, National Gallery
Saints Mary Magdalene and James Major
German, c. 1460
Cologne, Schnuetgen Museum
Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Altarpiece with Saints Vincent, James Major and Eustace
Italian, c. 1467-1468
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi

Christoforo Caselli, Saints Paul and James the Great
Italian, c. 1499
Detroit, Institute of Arts
Orazio Samacchini, Saints James and Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, c. 1565
Glasgow, Museums Resource Centre
Attributed to Pieter Claeissens the Younger, Saints James the Great, Bavo and Willibrord
Flemish, 1574
Bruges, Groeninge Museum

James As Patron

Not only is James patron of Spain, but he is also a personal patron.  He is, of course, patron to men named Jacob or James or Jacques (the French variant), Jacopo (the Italian) or Diego (from the Spanish contraction of his name, Santiago).  Consequently, he is often shown in many paintings as the powerful personal patron of various persons, both lay and clerical. 

Follower of Roger van der Weyden, Edelheere Altarpiece
Flemish, 1443
Leuven, Sint-Pieterskerk
Style of Roger van der Weyden, St. James with Donor
Flemish, c. 1450
West Sussex (UK), Petworth House, National Trust

Bernardo Zenale, Madonn and Child with Saints James and Philip and the Family of Antonio Busti
Italian, c. 1515-1518
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Saint James the Greater with Donors in Prayer
Flemish, 1532
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Girolamo Giovenone, Madonna and Child with Saints Martha, James, Joseph and a Donor
Italian, c. 1543
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

Whatever the facts of the family connections of Saint James to Jesus, of his missionary work in Spain, of the arrival of his relics in Compostela, there is no doubt that Saint James the Great continues to be a presence in the world today.  So, today there are pilgrims on the roads to Santiago (a friend of mine returned from her pilgrimage just last month), just as there have been for a thousand years.  On July 25th the crowds will come and the botafumiero will swing as it does every year.  And James will be remembered afresh. 

James Tissot, Saint James the Great
French, c. 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum


© M. Duffy, 2019

  1. Camerlynck, Achille. "Saint James the Greater." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 24 Jul. 2018 (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.htm).
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago
  3. The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275.  First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.), Volume 4.  (https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/goldenlegend/GoldenLegend-Volume4.asp#James%20the%20More)
  4. For more about the possible family ties of James and Jesus, see my article “St. Anne, Matriarch of the Holy Kindred” 
Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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