St. James (or Santiago in Spanish) was one of the original 12 apostles, a fisherman who left his nets by the Sea of Galilee to follow Jesus and help establish the Christian faith. By tradition we are told that after Jesus’s death and resurrection, James traveled across the Mediterranean to Spain to preach. He returned to Jerusalem around 44 A.D. and was beheaded by Herod Agrippa. James was the first of the apostles to be martyred.
Legend goes that to prevent its desecration believers secretly carried the saint’s body back to Spain and buried it near the northern coast. There it lay undisturbed for nearly 800 years until 813 A.D. Within 100 years, people from all over the European continent were making the harrowing, frequently life-threatening, journey to pray at the gravesite. A church was soon built over the bones of this patron saint of Spain, and around it arose the town of Santiago de Compostela. By 1000 A.D. it was the most popular of all Christian pilgrimages.