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Saint James

… Anita Schmidt

In September 1850, the Rev. W.H. Taylor came to the Diocese of Rupert’s Land and was given the task of organizing a church in the District of Assiniboia.  He is credited with naming the Parish of St. James.

Although there were two apostles called James, tradition links St. James the Greater, sometimes known as St. James the Elder, with the parish established in Assiniboia, (later commonly known as the District of St. James).

St. James the Greater was one of the first four apostles chosen by Jesus. First chosen were the two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew. Next Jesus chose James and John, brothers from another family. The latter were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. They also were fishermen who immediately left their boat and father to follow Jesus.

Peter, James and John were chosen by Jesus on several occasions to accompany him when the other apostles were not present.

For example, James and John, (along with Peter’s brother, Andrew,) were present at the cure of Peter’s mother in law.

Mark 1:29-30: And immediately he (Jesus) left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her…

On another occasion when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead he allowed only Peter, James and John to follow him to the house where the 12 year old girl lay. (Mark 5:37)

Again, James, John and Peter were the only three witnesses at the Transfiguration

Matthew 17: 1-6:  And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And then He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white with light…and a voice from the cloud said, “this is my beloved Son” with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.

They also were the only three in the Garden of Gethsemane (the three who went to sleep) while Jesus went through the night of agony that preceded the Passion.

It is not known for certain where James traveled to spread the gospel following the death of Jesus. Many believe he traveled to Spain around AD 40. By AD 44 he had returned to Jerusalem where he became the first of the apostles to be martyred. King Herod Agrippa 1 had him decapitated by a sword in an attempt to please the opponents to Christianity.

Although James was buried in Jerusalem, many believe that later his remains were transported to Compostela in Spain. They were discovered there in the ninth century.

There are several symbols that we have come to connect with James the Greater. People on the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where James is believed to be entombed, often carry a shell with them and see many milestones along the pathways with shells attached to guide them on their way (shells are attached to Saint James’ cloak in the tapestry above). One story is that when James’ relics were being transported by ship from Jerusalem to Spain a man happened to be riding a horse near a beach on the coast of Portugal. The horse plunged into the sea and attempted to approach the boat. The horse and rider sank and the horse was covered in scallop shells when they emerged from the water. The legend has it that this made the cockle shell a symbol of James!

Other symbols are the pilgrim’s staff and the scroll of the Gospel in hand (as seen in the above depiction). The latter two show that James was a traveling Apostle who was dedicated to proclaiming the Good News. The Christian life also is considered to be a pilgrimage in itself.

James is often seen in illustrations carrying a sword. Legend has it that in AD 841 St. James was seen on a horse (adorned with cockleshells and waving a banner) leading the Christians to a victory over the Moors.  

July 25 is the Saint’s Day for St. James.


Augustana Book Concern. The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version. Rock Island, Ill., Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1952.

Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Concise Edition. Harper & Row, Publishers, San Francisco, 1985.

Hallam, Elizabeth. Saints, Who They Are and How They Help You. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994.

Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.htm



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