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Feast of Saint James

The Feast of Saint James, or Saint James' Day, commemorates James the Great, who is also known as James the Greater or James, son of Zebedee. It is celebrated on July 25 on the liturgical calendars of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Anglican, Lutheran, and some other Protestant churches. James was one of Jesus's first apostles (the name "the Greater" distinguishes him from the other apostle named James.) According to the Gospels, James was on the seashore with his brother John and their father Zebedee when Jesus called the brothers. James, along with John and Peter, were the three apostles closest to Jesus. They were the only apostles with him during his transfiguration and waiting near him in the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday.

It is believed that James preached in the Holy Land and Hispania, and then became a martyr at the hands of Herod Agrippa when he was beheaded in Jerusalem in Judea in 44 CE. His followers brought his body by boat to Iria Flavia in Galicia and then carried him to Santiago de Compostela for burial. It is thought that he was buried in the location where the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is now located. After James's relics were discovered sometime between 791 CE and 842 CE, Santiago de Compostela became a destination for pilgrims. Some scholars dispute Spain as his burial place, however.

James is a patron saint of Spaniards. In Galicia and Basque Country, two autonomous communities in northwestern Spain, July 25 is a public holiday. In Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, a pilgrimage is made to the aforementioned Santiago de Compostela Cathedral on the day, where the shrine of James is located. The pilgrimage is called the Way of St James. The event is the largest yearly festival in Santiago de Compostela, and it is augmented with fireworks and processions. Many other events take place in Galicia and Basque Country on or around the day. There are special church services honoring Saint James, theater productions, street shows, exhibitions of artwork, concerts, and dance events.

How to Observe Feast of Saint James

If you are able to travel, the best place to go is Spain, particularly to Galicia or Basque Country, where there are special church services honoring Saint James, theater productions, street shows, exhibitions of artwork, concerts, and dance events. A pilgrimage can be made to Santiago de Compostela, to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, to see the shrine of James. You could also travel to Jerusalem, to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of St. James, and go to the Chapel of St. James, where it is believed James was martyred. If traveling isn't possible, you could read the Gospels, The Road to Santiago: Pilgrims of St. James, or Saint James the Greater in History, Art and Culture.

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