Celebrating St. James

Today is the Feast of St. James, the apostle who was son of Zebedee and brother of John. I got back recently from a journey on the Camino de Santiago, the network of medieval pilgrimage trails leading to James' supposed tomb in northwestern Spain, and filed this report at BustedHalo.com.The image of James was transformed during the Middle Ages from peaceful evangelist to bloodthirsty warrior: Santiago Matamoros, St. James the Moor Slayer, based on the legend that sword-waving James rode to the rescue in a battle against the Moors in 844. His story is a good reminder of how religion can be warped to serve war. The Matamoros is an image that lingers - there was a controversy at the start of the Iraq war when Spanish soldiers wore the sword-like Cross of St. James. On his feast day, let's return him back to the fisherman-evangelist-martyr Scripture says he was.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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