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The Cult Of Santiago Essay

1098 words - 4 pages

The Cult of Santiago

During the first century Europe was plagued with many different wars for political and religious agendas. At this time Christianity was still just a new trend and seen by many the way that we see doomsday cults today. Rather than making it impossible for Christianity to get a foothold in the people, the new Christianity trend used the turmoil as a doorway through which it was able to find strong followers. Saint James, known in Spanish as Santiago, was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus; during his lifetime he came to Spain to preach the gospel, probably following a route that leads to the "End of the Earth" which held a great deal of mythical and mystical value to Europeans (Lehelma). During this time the Moors, or Arabs, were in the process of expanding their territory, infringing upon many people's lands and belief systems. In the year 711 Visogothic Spain had nearly been conquered by the Moors, and the Spaniards were in dire need of a savior. Thus follows the birth of the Cult of Saint James. During the battle of Clavijo Saint James appeared as a holy warrior fighting for Ramiro I of Leon, attempting to push back and defeat the troops of Abdurrahaman II. The image of Saint James the Moor-slayer,mounted horseback striking down all Moors in his path with a mighty sword, however grotesque, was then used to strengthen the Christian resistance to the Arabs.

During Saint James' lifetime it seems that his preaching found little results. It is believed that he managed to convert only nine people to Christianity (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1071). The route that the Camino takes is believed to have been used in Roman and even prehistoric times as a route to Finisterre, which was believed to be the "End of the Earth" (Lehelma). Saint James' teachings and preachings stayed within the general area of Galicia, the NorthWest corner of the Iberian Peninsula, where he was able to come into contact with people traveling to Finistere. Finding few converts in Spain, James returned to Palestine where King Herodes Agrippa I had him beheaded. As an apostle of Jesus there is at least one miracle attributed to James, the raising of Jairus' daughter. However it is possible that James conducted other miracles. Following James' death it seems that his disciples brought his body back to Galicia in "a miraculous boat that went without sails, steered by God himself" (Lehelma). When the boat landed, James disciples asked Queen Lupa for a place to bury his body, but being a pagan and a very unpleasant woman, she decided instead to just make the disciples lives very difficult. Over time, they managed to convert her to Christianity, though, and she became so devoted that she had her palace turned into a church that included the tomb of Saint James.

The Europeans, specifically the Spaniards, developed a cult around the idea that James helped fight off the Moors in the battle of Clavijo in the year 834, nearly eight centuries after his death. In a...

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