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“In this revered basilica, as it is reported, in his honour rests the venerated body of the Blessed James. It is enclosed in a marble casket placed in a most precious vaulted tomb. His body is immovable.”

Twelve hundred years ago on the westernmost margin of the European continent, an ancient mausoleum was found. One of the skeletons inside the stone tomb was identified as Christ’s apostle James. The burial place was Compostela and it was the goal of the supreme pilgrimage of medieval Europe.

“At this place the barbarous and civilised peoples of all the regions of the world arrive. Some go with bare feet, some without their own goods, some bound in irons for the sake of penitence. Some bring iron or lead in their hands for work on the Apostle’s basilica. This is a chosen race”santiago-36 As the only Apostolic tomb in medieval western Europe, the lustre of Compostela was very great. There, was buried one of Christ’s closest disciples. Saint James, together with his brother John and Peter were the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration. He was the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom. According to sacred text he had performed his Apostolic Mission in Spain before returning to Jerusalem where he was beheaded in A.D. 44 on the instruction of King Herod, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. His body was transported by boat on a miraculous wind to Galicia where it was buried by his disciples and lay forgotten for eight hundred years.

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  1. […] And indeed, in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries a number of “inventios” of significant Biblical characters were discovered in Western Europe and seized the popular imagination. In Burgundy there was Mary Magdalene and Lazarus. In Aquitaine, the head of John the Baptist and at Compostela, the Apostle James. […]

  2. […] its capital at Ovideo and which soon expanded to include Galicia and the shrine of the Apostle at Compostela. In the late ninth century Alfonso III recovered the city of León and moved his capital […]

  3. […] Tagged Apocalypse, Conques, Cult of Relics, End of Time, Last Judgment, Psychostasis, Romanesque Sculpture, Saint Faith, Sainte Foy, Tympanum The tympanum sculpture above the western entrance to the abbey of Conques is one of the most imposing works of Romanesque stone sculpture. It was created in the first half of the twelfth century and its size and quality at this extremely remote site is testament, both to the power of the cult of saint’s relics and the importance of the pilgrimage to Compostela. […]

  4. […] It was here that pilgrims came to venerate one of the greatest saints of the middle ages and it was the foutainhead of one of the four great pilgrimage roads to Santiago de Compostela. […]

  5. […] Reina is eloquent testimony to the important flow of pilgrims that were travelling from France to Compostela by the first half of the eleventh century. Halfway between Pamplona and Estella, its five arches […]

  6. By Masks « The Joining of Heaven & Earth on 28 Feb 2010 at 12:03 am

    […] church of Saint-Pierre-de-la-Tour at Aulnay de Saintonge lies along the Tours route to Santiago de Compostela. The capital reliefs both on the exterior and the interior of the church feature a series of […]

  7. […] among others and in Spain on the Camino Francès at Sangüesa, Carrión de los Condés , León and Compostela […]

  8. […] de Compostela Pilgrimage Medieval Relics Saints Romanesque From Limoges, pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela along the old Roman highway, reached, after seventy miles the old city of Perigeux. There, pilgrims […]

  9. […] Relics Saints Romanesque, Limoges, Saint Front, Périgeux From Limoges, pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela along the old Roman highway, reached, after seventy miles the old city of Perigeux. There, pilgrims […]

  10. […] de Compostela Pilgrimage Medieval Relics Saints Romanesque From Limoges, pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela along the old Roman highway reached, after seventy miles, the old city of Perigeux. There, they […]

  11. […] Christian north remained impotent. The vizier Al-Mansur, was able to attack the towns of León and Compostela with impunity, razing the cathedral of Santiago in 997 and carrying its bells to Cordoba, as though […]

  12. […] legend of the existence of the body of the mother of the Apostle of Compostela at this point was given added further weight by the tradition of his preaching in Catalonia, at […]

  13. […] was a region exceptionally rich in sacred legends. Pilgrims to Compostela travelling along the Toulouse Road could venerate the relics of Saint Honoratus and Caesarius at […]

  14. […] journeying to Compostela on the Toulouse Road were able to venerate the mortal remains of a major saint who had been, […]

  15. […] west of Poitiers and the great shrine of Saint-Hilaire on the Road of Tours, the pilgrimage way to Santiago de Compostela. It is just to the south of the abbeys of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes and […]

  16. […] day as they harked back to the glory days of olden times when Charlemagne had liberated the road to Compostela from the Saracens and Roland had died the martyr’s death at the great battle of the Roncevaux […]

  17. […] was a narrative of redemption emanating from within the shrine itself, which contained that prodigious conduit with the celestial, the very body of the […]

  18. […] It is the only large scale Transfiguration in twelfth century Romanesque sculpture, apart from the putative remnants now situated above the Platerias Portal at Compostela. […]

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