Thursday, December 18, 2008


The story of Santiago de Compostela

Here, as something different, is a very brief summary of the story (or myth) behind Santiago de Compostela.

Santiago de Compostela started life in the 9th century as a church and monastic development built over the tomb of one of the apostles, Saint James – or so it is claimed!

On the face of it this does not sound terribly interesting, but it is, and even if you have no real interest in Christianity there is a great semi mythical story to it.

It is asserted that St James was sent out in to the world by Jesus to preach "the word of the Lord" and some how found his way to what we now know as modern day Spain. Travelling through the country, James found himself in Iria Flavia (now known as Padron), from where he regularly preached and made Christian converts of the locals.

Later he returned to Jerusalem, but was not welcomed and was in fact beheaded at the Kings orders. On hearing this, former aides in Galicia headed to the Holy lands to retrieve his body which they successfully managed to do.

With his remains on board, albeit headless, they returned by boat to the Iberian Peninsula and moored up at Padron. From there his body was taken to a spot, now known as Santiago, and a burial took place.

Over the next 800 years, due to warring, invasion and the persecution of Christians, his place of internment was lost until, in the 9th century, a hermit witnessed an unusual event.

What the hermit saw was a series of lights in the sky with, it is claimed, accompanying noises. Knowing that Saint James was rumoured to be buried in this area, the man took these events as a signal from God and contacted the Archbishop with his news.

A few days later, after a successful search of the area, the tomb was uncovered and the legend of St James and Santiago set into motion. The King instructed that a church be built on the spot where his mortal remains lay and the early beginnings of Santiago were spawned.

The name – Santiago de Compostela

Compostela is derived from a phonetically similar Latin term meaning something akin to "star field", hence Santiago of the star field or "compostela".

Is this story true? Certainly a massive Christian community believe so and Santiago is acknowledged by the Pope and Vatican as the 3rd most important place in Christendom. True or false it still makes a good tale.

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