Saint James, somtimes referred to as James the Greater, was one of the Twelve Apostles. In some church traditions, James’ mother is reported to be the sister to Jesus’ mother, Mary, making Jesus and James first cousins. Tradition also has it that the remains of the Saint were taken to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia, which is in the north of Spain.
Saint James became the patron saint of Spain during the reconquest of the country from the Moors and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela became a popular site for Christian pilgrims. Galacia, noted for delicious seafood, including scallops, drew thousands of Christians pilgrims who often carried a scallop shell back with them as a souvenir of the trip. Before long, the sea shell became a symbol of Christian pilgrimage.