Thursday, June 25, 2009

Medieval Footpath

Saint James(in Spanish, Santiago) was one of the 12 Apostles of Christ. After Jesus was crucified, the Apostles were to go forth and spread the Gospel. As the story goes, James went to Spain where he had little success in converting the locals. Upon his return to Jerusalem he was promptly beheaded by King Herod Agrippa, making him the first Apostle to be martyred. James' followers secreted his body away in a boat and sent it back to Spain where they buried it and it laid hidden for several hundred years. Then, in 813 AD a curious hermit followed "sweet music and twinkling stars" to a remote field in Galicia, in northern Spain and discovered what was to be identified as the tomb of Saint James. King Alphonso II of Spain visited the site, built a church and monastery over the tomb and declared Santiago patron saint of Spain.
Pilgrimages to the site began and by the ninth century, the number of Pilgrims rose over the years, and peaked in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when about a half million people made the pilgrimage and when many of the towns and cities along the camino were built. Most of these ancient villages have changed very little over the centuries. After around 1500AD the number of Pilgrims dropped off significantly because of reformation, political reasons and other factures. But In 1982 Pope John Paul II visited Santiago de Compostela and popularity soared once again and has grown steadily since then. In 1987, the European Union declared the Camino Europe's first cultural itinerary. In 1993 UNESCO added the Camino to its World Heritage list.
The Gospel tells us that James, son of Zebedee, was in his boat mending nets with his brother John, when Jesus summoned them, saying "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men". James and his brother did follow Jesus. And if one considers that today 100,000 people a year make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to visit his burial place, it would seem that James is still "a fisher of men" over 2000 years later.

No comments:

Post a Comment