Santa Maria de Tera (on the Vía de la Plata): the oldest statue of Saint James as a pilgrim (11th century)

“Santiago” is Spanish for Saint James. James (the Greater) was one of Jesus’ apostles. The Codex Calixtinus tells us that he used to preach in Spain. In later years, he returned to Jerusalem, where he died as a martyr. Supposedly, his body was then transported to Spain, where he was buried in the place which is known today as “Santiago de Compostela”. 

It is described in the Codex how the grave was rediscovered in the 9th century. The news travelled quickly and Compostela became one of the most important  pilgrimage destinations. Until then, the only European grave of an apostle could be found in Rome.
During the recapture (“Reconquista”) from the Muslims of present-day Spain, the peace-loving apostle was gradually assigned a new role, namely the role of knight in shining armour. His name became a battle-cry, his nickname “the Moor Killer” (Matamoros). The conquest of Granada, in 1492, signified the end of the Reconquista. In that same year, America is discovered. The Spanish “conquistadors” (conquerors) continue their battles in the New World in name of their faith and Santiago. Several towns and villages are named after him in Central and South America.
After that, Santiago disappears into the background until… General Franco puts him forward as Spain’s patron saint during the Civil War.
The great revival of the Camino de Santiago, however, does not come about until the 1980s. By that time, Franco has died, Spain has become a democracy and the “Camino” – literally and figuratively, has become a movement of tens of thousands of people who take the road by their own choice: peacefully and with an open attitude towards others, irrespective of race, political conviction or faith.