When is the Feast of St. James?
July 25th is the feast of St. James, also known as St. James the Great Day, who was the patron saint of Spain.It is also Galicia Day, which is fitting as St. James is the patron saint of Galicia as well as Spain. According to legend, his remains are held in the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in Galicia.
History of the Feast of St. James
It is a public holiday observed in Galicia, and is observed but not a public holiday in other regions of Spain.
James was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Following the ascension of Jesus, the apostles travelled spreading the word of the gospel. James’ travels took him to Spain, Initially, his sermons were not well received – even being taken prisoner in Grenada. However, he was soon released and went on to preach in Galicia.
According to local tradition, in January 40AD, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia. She appeared upon a pillar, which remains today and is venerated within the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza. She told James to return to Jerusalem once the church had been established.James went back to Jerusalem in 44AD, as Mary had wished. During the trip back he visited Mary in Ephesus. Mary predicted his death in Jerusalem, and on his return to Jerusalem, he was soon taken prisoner.He was taken to Calvary, the same place where years before Jesus had been crucified. He was then tied to the rocks, blindfolded and beheaded.The body of James was taken by his disciples back to Galicia. His remains are said to be buried in the cathedral in Galicia.
How is the Feast of St. James celebrated?
Popularised in the ninth century, many pilgrims from across Europe, walk the “Camino de Santiago” (way of St. James) which leads them to the saint’s tomb, to ask pardon for their sins. Routes lead to the cathedral from many European countries, including Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland.
Today, many pilgrims still time their Camino to arrive at the Cathedral for the Holy Feast Day of St James. On the eve of the Feast day, a spectacular show of fireworks, music and lasers illuminate the cathedral.