Next Monday, 25th July, is the Feast of the Apostle, St. James, (called James the Great to differentiate him from St. James the Younger who is always associated with St. Philip). He was a friend of Christ and the first disciple to be martyred for the faith. James was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, both fishermen who worked in Galilee. When he was called by Jesus, James was mending his nets, with his brother by Lake Gennesaret. After his calling, James and his brother stayed with Jesus throughout his years of teaching and miracles, and appear to have been amongst his closest friends. James is especially mentioned in the gospel accounts of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and the raising of the daughter of Jairus. He was one of the three who witnessed the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and also the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. Jesus nicknamed the brothers ‘Boanerges’ (sons of thunder) traditionally because of their impetuous desire to strike the Samaritan village down with lightning because it refused Jesus hospitality. It was James and John – or according to St. Matthew’s Gospel their mother – who requested that Jesus reserve them seats in heaven at his left and right hand. In the subsequent history of the Church, James was the first of the apostles to be martyred, his death by beheading at the hands of Herod Agrippa being recorded in Acts 12. Later tradition asserted he preached in Spain and that after his martyrdom his body was brought from Jerusalem and buried there in Compostela. This tradition has had a massive impact on Spanish Catholicism and led in the ninth century to the building of the great shrine of Compostela, one of the great mediaeval centres of pilgrimage. Indeed, pilgrimages to Compostela have become so popular in the times since that St. James in art is often depicted with a pilgrim’s hat and staff and the cockle-shell representing Compostela. He is the patron saint of Spain. Reading Abbey, now St. James’s Reading, has a relic of St. James’s hand and is the start of the pilgrim route from England.