Saint James the Greater

Trinity Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania

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.

Trinity Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania

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4 Responses to Saint James the Greater

  1. emilydnelson says:

    Hey, Douglas!
    Just a reminder that your blog is awesome, so keep up the good work! I really enjoy reading about all these societies I didn’t know existed and the subtle language of the grave!
    – Emily


    A friend of mine went on the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela…a most memorable experience. The film THE WAY with Martin Sheen is a pretty authentic view of what it is like to make the pilgrimage…it’s becoming a kind of cult film now. Interesting that this is in Pennsylvania!

    • There is a part of me that would love to make that sort of a trek and pilgrimage. It would be arduous and difficult but it must feel quite rewarding at the end of the trip to know that you made it.

  3. Tim says:

    This is John the Baptist….clues to the identity of the statue are: the cloak of camel’s hair, the long hair (he was a Nazarite), the lamb at his feet echos his famous words recorded in the Gospels, “Behold the Lamb of God”, the shell is the symbol baptism, his hand is raised in the act of baptism, the draped staff in the shape of a cross indicates the crucifixion has not taken place but is a future event…these items have long been associated with John the Baptist. The statue is also based upon several famous paintings of John the Baptist, one of which is very similar to this statue. I have also seen an almost identical statue on a cathedral baptismal font.

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