James the Apostle, brother of John

The statue

This James is often referred to as James the Greater. James is portrayed as a pilgrim with a walking stick and a large, broad-brimmed hat hanging on his back. He glances, as the only one of the twelve apostle figures, in a direction away from the Christ figure and with a stern gaze on the congregation entering the church.

The story

James was a son of Zebedee and brother of John, and the two are also known as ’The Sons of Thunder’. He preached in Syria, Judah and was beheaded by Herod in the year 44. A legend attaches him to the North of Spain, in which it is told that his corpse was taken to Santiago de Compostela, maybe as part of the war against the Moors in Spain.

A pilgrim is a person who, for religious reasons, visits or travels to holy places. The great, important locations for pilgrimage are first and foremost Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the other Biblical locations, or the tombs of Peter and Paul in Rome. But in the Middle Ages other important religious locations came to be. The tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela in the North of Spain is thus one of the great places of pilgrimage whereto pilgrims flock from far away. In the Middle Ages the pilgrimage was seen as an expression of humbleness and piety, but going on a pilgrimage could also be imposed on a person as a punishment for a crime committed.

The facts

The figure was sculpted in the end of 1821 by Pietro Marchetti from Thorvaldsen’s sketch.