Saturday, 5 September 2009

St. James is discovered...

A tomb was discovered. It was of considerable size. There was a partition between two areas north to south and there was an opening giving access to the east from the west the first part now considered an atrium of some sort. This was found during excavation in the 19th century but no human remains were to be discovered. In the centre of the eastern chamber there was a rectangular pit which might have been an altar of some kind. Many people seem to have been buried around it by the mid 7th century at the latest. Why no body in the crypt in question?

Remember Sir Francis Drake? He might have been a hero to you when you were at school but he was perhaps literally an unholy threat to Spain and in the mid 16th century and under extreme pressure someone (perhaps the archbishop of the time, we don’t know) recognised the threat it would pose if the English could carry off the remains of Spain’s most sacred martyr; so he, or they, hid the body and they did a really good job. The remains were hidden for 300 years!

Let’s return to earlier times for a moment: from the information we read in connection with the Camino de Santiago it would seem a certainty that it was St. James’ remains that were discovered in the mid 800’s. But, about Pelayo the shepherd/hermit who supposedly discovered the tomb (and even he was airbrushed out in the 12th century) and Bishop Theodemir we know next to nothing. There is nothing written in those years. The king was invited in for a look-see and was only too glad to declare the remains to be St. James, but he had an ultimo motivo as the Moors were knocking on his door. The date could be anywhere in the 9th century but we should aim for 842 at the latest.

So why was Bishop Theodemir so convinced that the remains were those of St. James when there was no evidence up to that point?

Let’s just look at the cult of Saints remains for a moment. In Merida the following saints (or bits of) remains were supposed to rest:

St. John the Baptist
St. Stephen
St. Paul
St. James the Evangelist
St. James (Lesser, the Just: the “brother of Christ”?)
St. Julian
Sta. Eulalia
St. Tirsus
St. Genesus
Sta. Marcella

With the inroad of the Moors, it is thought that these, or some of these saints’ remains were transferred northwards into Asturias and Galicia which seemed safe. Santa Eulalia, for example, remains the patron saint of Merida, but her remains are in Oviedo in Asturias. So what about the others? Well, the cathedral in Oviedo was richly endowed by the king with the arrival of Sta. Eulalia, but the church of St. James in Compostela was nothing but a wattle and daub affair (described as a “modest structure”) with little to commend it. Santa Leocadia was thought to be a very powerful intercession because of her entombment in Toledo had an elaborate church built by Alfonso II in Oviedo. But St. James’ remained somewhat neglected. Why? There may indeed have been a translation of a St. James’(which one? The Greater, the Less, the Just?) relics to Compostela but even if so, this doesn’t explain the existence of a mausoleum three centuries before, nor the proliferation of burial sites close to that mausoleum. At this point we have to truly begin to question the idea of James being buried in Compostela as this is the best evidence so far the historians have been able to suggest.

At this point, interest in St. James, weak as it is already, begins to peter out.

1 comment:

  1. Excavation of Saint James

    Quite amazingly Georgiana Goddard King mentiones the word excavation only once in all 3 Volumes of her classic The Way of Saint James!

    Volume 1: BOOK ONE: THE PILGRIMAGE: chapters I – V: pp 1-134: [53] ‘About the beginning of the ninth century, in 830 or 813, perhaps, a hermit named Pelayo lived among the rocks of a steep hillside; by night he watched the stars, and once he saw one burning strangely low and strangely bright. There is another version, however, by which many little lights were seen hovering and flickering above the spot. The villagers near by saw it as well, the Bishop Theodomir was apprized: excavations revealed the tombs of the Apostle and his followers, and Alfonso the Chaste in person beheld and adored.
    Remain only the episodes when S. James appeared again and showed himself, like Castor, on a huge white horse. At the battle of Clavijo, in the Rioja near Nájera, to the cry of "Santiago, Cierra Espana!" he swept the field clear of the Hagarenes: this was in 845. At Simancas, in 939, with mitre and crozier he was manifested along with S. Millán, the two together, "white horsemen that ride on white horses, the Knights of God." [The White Horsemen] He appeared at Baeza before 1149, find helped in the winning of Estremadura, at Ciudad Rodrigo and Merida, and elsewhere, and in America, [In all 38 apparitions] though at times the credit was transferred to others.’

    The Way of Saint James contains FOUR BOOKS in 3 Volumes:
    Volume 1: BOOK ONE: THE PILGRIMAGE: chapters I – V: pp 1-134
    Volume 1: BOOK TWO: THE WAY: chapters I – VIII: 135-463
    Volume 2: BOOK TWO: THE WAY: chapters IX – XVI: 1-514
    Volume 3: BOOK THREE: THE BOURNE: chapters I – VII: 1-370
    Volume 3: BOOK FOUR: HOMEWARD: chapters I – III: 371-710

    NB: It may be confusing that BOOK TWO: THE WAY is divided over Volume 1 (chapters I – VIII) and Volume 2 (chapters IX – XVI). So pp 135-463 occur twice in this second BOOK!

    Full Index of all 3 Volumes: .

    Flip books for easy reading and flat texts for quick browsing: - Volume 1 - - Volume 2 - - Volume 3 -

    Pelgrim Geerτ's English homepage: