Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Evidence for St. James...

Where did James become connected to the Camino? If you want the official and “accepted” version log on to any of the usual Camino de Santiago sites: decapitated in Jerusalem, body brought to Galicia by miracles etc. I won’t go into them here as they have been written about so much. What do we really know? You might not like the answers...

There is no mention whatsoever of St. James in Spain before the late 6th century. The first mention comes from the Breviarum Apostelorum which was distributed before the 6th century (late 500’s). Don’t forget we are talking about almost 600 years, and if that is difficult to comprehend, imagine something original and surprising coming to light about Richard III just now. The Brevarium Apostelorum is a list of Jesus’ apostles: where they preached, when, how they died etc. It is a Latin translation from the Greek (Fketcher calls it an “amplification”). It suggests that Phillip, for example, preached in Gaul, and James in Spain. My own research says that if he made nine converts, he was very lucky. He then went back to Jerusalem where he was beheaded. He may have been buried there at the intercession of his converts, or possibly in Egypt. We just don´t know but the overwhelming evidence says that Spain is very, very unlikely.

The author of the Breviarum Apostolorum is unknown, but the earliest date we have is the late 6th century (500’s). We don’t know who he was, or where he might have preached. What we do know is that he was known to St. Anselm (d.709) and was cited by Julian of Toledo who preached in the middle of the 7th century. So far, so good.

However, and many later chose to overlook this point, even Julian (who may or may not have written De Ortu et Orbitu Patrum) chose to disregard any connection between James and Spain. In other words, Julian wasn’t convinced. In fact, any mention of St. James may have later been interpostulated in the middle of the 8th century, at a very convenient time as this was about the time that James’ burial site was “discovered”.

The next mention of St. James in Spain is (probably erroneously) attributed to Isidore of Sevilla. Isidore has to be taken seriously, but even he was very emphatic that even if James had preached in Spain, e was not buried there.

By the time that we are investigating, the Moors and the word of the Prophet Mohammed had spread throughout Spain. How and why is a case in point, but methods of propagation notwithstanding, by the middle of the 700’s most of “Spain” had fallen. Clearly, something had to be done if the countries of the various kings were to protected.

What we know as “Spain” was anything but a united country in those days. There were feuds betweeen the kings of the various regions, especially in the north: Aragon, Navarre, Leon, Castilla, and other areas to the south which were by then overun and conquered, or threatened to be so. The power of Córdoba over all was a threatening supreme. Something, as I have said, had to be done. The Moors had Mohammed as their figurehead. “Spain” has nothing like it. Enter St James.

In the latter part of the 9th century a “Hymm to Santiago” was composed in Asturias, perhaps the only province not to fall under the power of the Moors (Galicia fell for about a generation but no more). The author, of whom we know nothing, clearly believed that St. James had preached in Spain. But even he said nothing about James having been buried in Spain. St. Beatus of Liebana in Asturias supposedly made a commentary on James (the illustrations from this are truly beautiful and I have a copy of one in my bedroom) and claimed his (James’) appearance in Spain, but lovely as these are, they are thought to be dated no earlier than the late 10th century.

So where does this leave us?


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