Saint James: The historical figure
When speaking of Saint James, we speak of Saint James the Greater. There are not many known facts about the life of Saint James, rather the figure was formed out of myths.
Saint James belonged, together with his brother John and Petrus, to the closest circle around Christ. For Saint James the prediction of his martyrdom was the first one to be fulfilled. In the year 44 B.C. he was beheaded by the order of Herodes Agrippa I. in Jerusalem. There is also a Church of Saint James in Jerusalem where this execution is said to have happened.
Saint James: The Legend
In the seventh century legends about Saint James began to arise. It was told that he had preached in Spain and as well that he was buried there. The disciples had taken his dead body to a close port „Jaffa“, where a wonderously waiting boat took them into the uncertain.
After one week of sailing with the wind without taking any action, they arrived in the port „Itia Flavia“, a place which is in Galicia and is called „Padron“ today. Close to the coast they built an altar made of stone and burried the dead body. After that they split and went to preach on the Iberian Peninsula.
The first pilgrim
Soon after this legend about Saint James arose, a shepherd named Pelayo discovered the grave in the year 813. During his nighty sheep tending, the stars signalised him the position of the grave. After he found the grave, he immediately informed the bishop of Itia Flavia. This bishop hurried up and declared those bones in the grave oficially to the relics of Saint James.
King Alfons II. was also informed soon, after which he started to walk to Santiago from Oviedo. His way lead him over the mountains (Camino Primitivo) and so he was the first pilgrim.
Because the war with he Moors caused him big troubles, he made Saint James the patron of his empire: The presence of Saint James in Spain legitimated the claim to power of the Christians on the Iberian Peninsula.
The relics were placed in a wooden box in the basement of a little church.
Santiago de Compostella: Development of the city and the cathedral
Around this church a little town manifested, Santiago de Compostela. The name reminds of the legend behind it, „Santiago“ is simply the Spanish name for „Saint James“. And his relics were found on a field (lat. Campus) where the stars (lat. Stellae) were shining.
The construction of the cathedral started in the eleventh century.