In Your Midst

Jubilee Year of St. James

July 2010

A Photo Essay

The relics of our patron, St. James the Greater, have been venerated at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain for more than a millennium.  For centuries, pilgrims from across Europe and around the world have walked, ridden, and cycled their way to the great shrine.  This year marks a Compostela Holy Year, which occurs when the Feast of St. James, July 25, falls on a Sunday (there will not be another Holy Year until 2021!).  Pope Benedict XVI will visit Santiago later this year.  Cathedral parishioner Barbara DeLateur and friend Wendy Shore walked the ancient camino--the pilgrim way of St. James, earlier this year.  Photo by Dr. Wendy Shore.

 Photo by Dr. Wendy Shore.

 Photo by Dr. Wendy Shore.

"This is a land well-managed, excellent, and full of all blessing.  If, perchance, you cross it in summertime, guard yourself diligently from the enormous flies that greatly abound there, and which are called, in the vulgar, wasps, or horseflies." (from The Pilgrim's Guide, 12th century).  Photo by Dr. Wendy Shore.

As the pilgrims approach Santiago, they catch their first sight of the Cathedral. “This church, in the middle of the city, shines gloriously.  In it, one cannot find a single crack or defect: it is admirably built, large, spacious, luminous, of becoming dimensions, well-proportioned in width, length, and height, of incredibly marvelous workmanship, and even built on two levels, as a royal palace.  He who enters the cathedral in a sad mood, having seen the superior beauty of this temple, will leave happy and contented.”
(from the 12th-century Pilgrim’s Guide)

Below: special traditions abound at the Cathedral.  The “botafumeiro,” an immense thurible, is swung from end to end of the Cathedral on great feasts. On the right: Pilgrims climb a narrow set of steps behind the high altar to embrace the gold-studded image of St. James.  “By these and by many other utmost precious works, the basilica of the Blessed James shines in magnificent glory.”

The streets of Santiago de Compostela are relatively unchanged since the Middle Ages.  “It is there that scallop shells, the insignia of Santiago, are sold to the pilgrims.  And also, wine skins, shoes, knapsacks, sidebags, leather straps, belts, all sorts of medicinal herbs, no less than sundry drugs and many more things” (Pilgrim’s Guide, 12th century).

An image of James crowns the impressive façade of the Cathedral.

The scallop shell is the ancient symbol of pilgrimage to Compostela (this shell is more than a thousand years old!).

One of the many faces of James to be found in Compostela.  “O James, pray for us all with continual prayer.  It is yours to pray for the pilgrims who seek you, so that we may all deserve to possess together with you the perpetual kingdom of heaven” (Pope Calixtus II).


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