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Who Was St. James?

There are at least two Jameses in the Christian scriptures, either of whom could be our patron saint. We claim both.


James (Jacob) of Jerusalem (also called James “the Just”) was a brother of Jesus who led the early Jesus movement in Jerusalem. He is also believed to have written the biblical letter of James, which emphasizes the importance of good works as the outgrowth of faith. He was martyred (killed for his faith) in 62 or 69 CE. We celebrate his day, October 23, as our patronal feast day.


James (Jacob, Iago, Diego) “the Great” (that is, “the Older”) was a fisherman, the son of Zebedee and elder brother of John. James and John were among Jesus’ first disciples and part of his inner circle. James was martyred in 44 CE, and according to legend, his body was taken by boat to Spain, giving rise to the cult of Santiago (St. James) of Compostela and its famous pilgrimage. His symbols include the St. James Cross (shaped like a dagger), pilgrim’s staff, boat, and scallop shell. He was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages, and many churches have been named for him. He is pictured with Jesus and surrounded by his symbols in the stained glass window of our south tower. He is the patron saint of Spain, and his feast day is July 25.

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