There are some legends that say that the apostle James the Greater (brother of John) traveled to the actual territory of Spain where he spread the Word. Also there are some accounts that place his final days in Jerusalem where he was martyred.

Is this legend true? Are there any historical accounts that support the legend? Are there any other theories about the later life of apostle James?

  • don't know about the historicity, but most of Spain claims St James (Sant Iago) to be their patron saint :)
    – warren
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 15:48
  • In fact, that legend inspired this question
    – deps_stats
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


Whether or not James the Greater traveled to Spain is highly contested.

The entry on St. James the Greater in the Catholic Encyclopedia from newadvent.org lists some reasons why this is contested.

With regard to the preaching of the Gospel in Spain by St. James the greater, several difficulties have been raised:

  • St. James suffered martyrdom A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2), and, according to the tradition of the early Church, he had not yet left Jerusalem at
    this time (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata VI; Apollonius, quoted by Eusebius, Church History VI.18).
  • St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (A.D. 58) expressed the
    intention to visit Spain (Romans 15:24) just after he had mentioned
    (15:20) that he did not "build upon another man's foundation."
  • The argument ex silentio: although the tradition that James founded an Apostolic see in Spain was current in the year 700, no certain
    mention of such tradition is to be found in the genuine writings of
    early writers nor in the early councils; the first certain mention we find in the ninth century, in Notker, a monk of St. Gall (Martyrol.,
    25 July), Walafried Strabo (Poema de XII Apost.), and others.
  • The tradition was not unanimously admitted afterwards, while numerous scholars reject it. The Bollandists however defended it (see Acta Sanctorum, July, VI and VII, where other sources are given).

The fact that James the Greater was martyred in Jerusalem is pretty widely accepted since it is mentioned in the Bible.

Acts 12:1-2 NIV
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

  • It is likely that this is a tradition where a saint was adopted as a patron (like St. George for the English) and later on someone cooked up or discovered a legend connecting him to their land.
    – user304
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 17:46

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