History of St James Day: and the Camino de Santiago

Bill Petro
6 min readJul 25, 2022
St James, Rembrandt

July 25 is the Feast Day of St James, and St James Day is accordingly celebrated by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Protestants. For Orthodox churches that follow the Julian calendar, it’s April 30.

Each summer, pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James that finds its way to the grave of Saint James in Spain.

Who was St James, and what is his relation to this pilgrimage?

Who was St James

There are two St James mentioned in the New Testament. One is the half-brother of Jesus, who wrote the Book of James in the Bible, and was the leader of the church in Jerusalem after the departure of St Peter.

We are going to discuss the other one. James the Greater, or Great, so designated because he was older or taller, not more important than Jesus’ half-brother.

St James the Great was the Son of Zebedee along with his brother St. John the Evangelist. Jesus called these two brothers “the Sons of Thunder” or Boanerges (probably from the Hebrew bene reghesh “sons of the tumult.”) When Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria, and the inhabitants did not respond to their message, they asked

“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Another time, they (or their mother Salome) asked Jesus

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask… Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory.”

These brothers, along with Peter, were some of the earliest whom Jesus called to follow him and were considered his “inner circle.” They saw Jesus’ Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37 and Luke 8:15), and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33 and Matthew 26:37.) John was the last to die of all the disciples. But James was the first to be martyred for Jesus.

Ministry of St James

James and his younger brother John had a fishing business in Galilee. John had connections in Jerusalem with the High Priest, as his Gospel tells us much about what happened at Jesus’ trial while their fishing partner…

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com