Saint James

25th of July our Church remembers Saint James the Greater. Let`s look at what we know about this great Apostle 


10 facts about Saint James

  1. He was one of the apostles called early on, right after Peter and Andrew:

“He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).

The oldest depiction of Saint James (around 400 AD)

  1. He was one of the twelve, but also one of the inner circle of three – Peter, John and James. This is especially clear in those three incidents:


“Six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter and [a]James and John his brother, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three [b]tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell [c]face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.”(Matthew 17:1-8)

Raising to life the Daughter of Jairus

51 When He came to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the girl’s father and mother. 52 Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.” 53 And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. 54 He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Child, arise!” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat. (Luke 8: 51-55)

The Agony in Gethsemani

36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”(Matthew 26:36-38)

Euphrasian Basilica, Poreč, Croatia This detail is from above the vault of the main apse, directly to the left of Christ. Except in the case of Peter's keys, the attributes carried by the apostles appear to be determined by the design of the piece rather than any individual characteristics.

  1. James was certainly struggling with pride, as it is clear from the following fragment:

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to [m]Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”(Matthew 20: 19-23)

Of course, other apostles were not happy about it and Jesus used this episode to give everyone a lesson on humility.

  1. Another passion James struggled with was anger:

“51 He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them… (Luke 9, 51-56)

 On the left St. James the Greater holds his pilgrim's staff and a small scroll, the latter perhaps referring to his epistle. On the right is St. Francis of Assisi: tonsure, Franciscan habit with thrice-knotted cord, stigmata showing on his right hand and through the rip in his habit. Both are labeled with their names in Latin.

On the left St. James the Greater holds his pilgrim's staff and a small scroll. On the right is St. Francis of Assisi: tonsure, Franciscan habit with thrice-knotted cord, stigmata showing on his right hand and through the rip in his habit. Both are labeled with their names in Latin. 

  1. From what we know, it seems that James was the first of the apostles to be martyred:

 “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a)

  1. This James is also called James the Greater. He is different from James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James
  2. The New Testament name “James” is actually the same as Old Testament “Jacob”. It is given as Iakobos in the Greek of the Gospels.
  3. According to the Legend, after Saint James was beheaded by Herod, his disciples put it in a boat and the boat sailed to Iberian Peninsula, modern Spain. A large rock re-formed itself into a sarcophagus for the body. The place was forgotten for many centuries, while the territory was inhabited by non-Christians. Then in the 9th century some local people saw angels and brilliant illuminations appearing in the night in that same woods. They told the bishop, who went to the woods, found the house and the sarcophagus, and took the news to the king. As more and more pilgrims started visiting the place, the bishop built a basilica, now known as Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, around the tomb.Cathedral of Santigo de Compostela, at Night*
  4. You may not believe the legend from the previous point, but it is still interesting to know about the Way of Saint James, or Camino de Santiago in Spanish. The Way of Saint James is a network of pilgrim routes leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. It was one of the most popular Medieval pilgrim routes. It is experiencing a revival in modern days. More than 272,000 pilgrims made the trip during the course of 2010. To receive the certificate of completion, one must walk at least 100 km (62.14 miles) or ride a bicycle or a horse for twice that distance. Most modern pilgrims chose the most arduous of Caminos, from the French border in St Jean Pied de Port and walk over 700 kilometers (500 miles) to complete their pilgrimage travel.Gil de Siloe  St. James the Greater
  5. Because of the connection with this famous pilgrimage, in Western Art Saint James is often depicted as a pilgrim himself.