I recently learned an interesting bit of information. We are aware of the noble Shrine of Santiago de Compestella in northern Spain, claiming to be the burial site of St James the Greater.
The tradition of St James being buried in Spain does not arise till the 9th century. However, excavations beneath Santiago Cathedral in 1878 and again between 1946-1959 reveal a small Christian chapel and ancient graves positioned in an east/west orientation common to Christians dating from the 5th century.
Therefore, the site was deemed sacred by Christians as early as the 400s. So what is the story?
There is an interesting theory that the site is the resting place of Priscillian. He was an extreme ascetic reformer of northern Spain. He and his followers were decapitated in AD 385 by Magnus Maximus even though the action was protested by Pope Damasus I, St Martin of Tours, and St Ambrose of Milan.
Priscillian was condemned as a Manichaean and promoted the following customs:
women were forbidden to join with men during the time of prayer;Priscillian was beheaded and he became a celebrated "martyr" among Spanish Christians of Galicia. His followers obtained his body and buried them in Galicia where the site was venerated as a holy place. According to some, this is the current site of the Compestela Shrine of St James, the new saint serving as a whitewash for the venerated tomb of a condemned heretic.
fasting on Sunday was condemned;
no one was to retreat at home or in the mountains during Lent;
the Eucharist was to be taken in church and not brought home;
excommunicated persons were not to be sheltered by bishops;
a cleric was forbidden to become a monk on the motivation of a more perfect life;
no one was to assume the title "doctor" (Latin for teacher);
women were not to be accounted "virgins" until they had reached the age of forty.
4th century - Priscillian killed
5th century - Chapel and burial ground created in N. Spain
9th century - St James the Greater's relics discovered in N. Spain
If the site is the burial place of Priscillian, then it is quite ironic that St Martin of Tours shrine was the traditional passing point to Santiago, seeing that St Martin of Tours sought desperately to save the life of Priscillian. In fact, St Martin of Tours refused to share in the Eucharist with Maximus because he had killed Priscillian.