The Cult of Santiago

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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...

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... were influenced by these movements because they are infused in the new towns and cities along the Camino as well as being carried into "the farthermost [sic] corners of Europe" (Lehelma).

The Cult of Saint James was born through turmoil but survived because of faith. The fact that Spain was never conquered by the Moors and turned into an Arab nation is believed to be thanks to Saint James, and also why he is, and has been, the patron saint of Spain. Santiago de Compostela is considered one of the three most important centers of Christianity with Jerusalem and Rome being the other two. For this feat, Spain was and is grateful to Saint James, and the pilgrimage to his tomb has been a monumentous occasion for Christians all over Europe and the world.

Works Cited

Antti Lehelma. "A Short Guide For Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela." 1 June 1999. Online Posting.
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