I visited Santiago de Compostela three years ago and it’s a fascinating place. My last blog post was a re-blog about Irish pilgrims who visited the shrine of Saint James the Apostle in the Middle Ages. It was a very popular destination and was established as a holy site in the ninth century CE.
In the year 813, a shepherd followed a bright star (yeah, I know…you’ve heard that story before!) and it led him to a mysterious burial place. He reported it to the local Bishop of Iria, Teodomiro, who declared that the skeleton was the remains of Saint James the Apostle.
Now, the year 813 was just over a hundred years since the Islamic caliphate had conquered the whole of the Iberian peninsula even pressing in to southern France. But the Moors, as the Muslims were referred to, had been pushed out of the northernmost areas of Iberia and Christian kingdoms had been established. They were much poorer than the Islamic caliphate to the south, ruled from Cordoba, but they were determined to guard their independence.
Saint James became a symbol to the Christian kingdoms of their just cause and in one battle against the Moors, it was said that the apostle appeared in person and slew loads of Moors. This gave him the title of Saint James Moor Slayer – and James is still portrayed in Santiago on horseback killing terrified Moors.
Pilgrims still flood to Santiago and the journey is great fun. Here are some of my pictures from my visit three years ago.