Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feast of St James

The oldest known representation of St James as a pilgrim on route to his own shrine, from the eleventh century. Note the cockle shell insignia.

Today is the feast of St James the Greater, known in Spain as Santiago el Mayor. His tomb in Compostela in the Northwestern region of Galicia has been an important pilgrimage site for well over a thousand years -- as important in the Middle Ages as Rome and Jerusalem. A bit of information: his story from the Golden Legend in Caxton's translation, and an interesting interactive site from UCLA on the Way of St James.

Imagine what it's like when weary pilgrims who have been walking for weeks under the unforgiving Spanish sun arrive at the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. Imagine how meaningful it is to them! Imagine how bad they smell! You need a lot of incense to cover that up, hence the Botafumeiro:


Talmida said...

Okay, now THAT is scary!!

A cousin of mine, a middle aged Irishman, did the pilgrimage 2 years ago. He hiked for a year to get in shape, and I think it took them 3 weeks (not sure if they did the long or the short walk).

Very cool that people still do it.

crystal said...

It sounds like a wonderful experience to make this pilgrimage. I looked for some pics of him and they mostly showed him on horseback, fighting the Moors (I think) ... what's that all about?

crystal said...

PS - happy almost birthday.

Liam said...

Talmida -- I haven't done the pilgrimage, but I have seen the botafumeiro. It's really quite spectacular. My friend William (Cowboyangel at Zone) has done the pilgrimage.

Liam said...

There was a legend that a mounted, sword-wielding Santiago would appear in battle on the Christian side during the reconquista. There are a lot of representations of "Santiago Matamoros" -- St. James the Moor-slayer. Not a great use of a Christian symbol, but hey, that's history. I do have a Santiago Matamoros beer opener I got at a stand near the cathedral.

Thanks for the birthday wishes! It's today -- I plan to gorge myself on dumplings in Chinatown.

cowboyangel said...

I hope you're celebrating the Feast Day of St. Liam! Feliz CumpleaƱos! Wish I could celebrate with you. Fried dumplings?! That's cool. But do have a Guinness or something, please.

You need to do the Camino. I can't think of anyone in this world who would appreciate it more than you.

I want to do it again! Best thing, next to marrying my lovely wife, that I've ever done.

Anonymous said...

It looks like an absolutely beautiful service! I wish I could do something like this.

I dig the statue too.

Thanks for putting this together.

good grief, that incense burner looks like its going to either take someone out or splatter burning frankinsence all over everyone.


Jeff said...

Enjoy your birthday Liam!

Regarding "Joey Botafumeiro" (Sorry, but it sounds like a low-level foot-soldier or capo in La Cosa Nostra), I was looking over that wiki article, and I'm surprised there haven't been more accidents with that thing. The rope looks like it has a lot of play in it. Imagine getting clocked by that contraption? Dios Mio...

Garpu the Fork said...

Happy late birthday!

I'm trying to convince steve we need to do that pilgrimage.