25 July – The Feast of St James and St Christopher

Tudor History Tours with the Tudor Society

25 July is the Feast of St James the Great (or Greater), the apostle, and of St Christopher the Martyr.

St James was one of the Twelve Apostles and he and his brother John, "the Disciple whom Jesus loved", were sons of Zebedee, a fisherman. His martyrdom, being executed by sword on the orders of King Herod, is recorded in the Book of Acts: "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2, King James Version)

James is the patron saint of Spain and his shrine at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. According to Fisheaters.com, those people who couldn't go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela would build grottoes out of seashells, bits of broken coloured glass, stones and flowers in his honour. It was also traditional to eat oysters on St James's Day.

People still go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela today and here are a couple of videos about it:

Before 1969, 25 July was also the feast day of St Christopher the Martyr, a Canaanite who was executed in the 3rd century AD. Legend has it that Christopher, who was initially named Reprobus, wanted to serve the devil, who he believed to be "the greatest king there was", but on realising that the devil feared Jesus Christ decided to look for Christ. A hermit instructed him in the Christian faith and Christopher performed service to Christ by helping people across a dangerous river. According to the legend, a child wanted to cross the river when it was swollen and at its most dangerous. Christopher carried the child across the river on his shoulders and the said to the child "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were." The child answered "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." And then the child disappeared.

St Christopher is known as the patron saint of travellers and today many people wear pendants bearing his image.

25 July is also the anniversary of the marriage of Queen Mary I and Philip of Spain, son of Emperor Charles V, at Winchester Cathedral. Members can read a primary source account in 25 July 1554 – Mary I gets married.

Taken from the Tudor Society e-book Tudor Feast Days.

Pictures: St James the Greater by Guido Reni and St Christopher Carrying the Christ Child by Hieronymus Bosch.

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25 July – The Feast of St James and St Christopher