Our Lady's Apparition to Saint James in Spain
Traditional Pilgrim Routes to Saint James
According to tradition, sometime after Pentecost, Saint Peter cast lots with the Apostles to determine the portions of the world to which each Apostle would plant the Church. The lot of the Roman Province of Spain fell to the Apostle James the Greater who proclaimed the Catholic Faith to the Celtic people of the Iberian Peninsula.
In AD 40, the Blessed Virgin Mary (while she was still alive in Jerusalem) appeared to Saint James in Spain on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta. This is the first Marian apparition known to man, and it is still revered as "Our Lady of the Pillar." The Mother of God, we might suppose, summoned James to return to Jerusalem.
James returned to Jerusalem. No long after, he was seized by Herod Agrippa and beheaded:
“And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.” (Acts 12:1–2, D-R)Catholic scholars place the martyrdom of Saint James the Greater to year AD 44.
According to the medieval tradition of Compostela, the physical remains of Saint James were transferred from Jerusalem to northern Spain, either by angels or by Spanish disciples of Saint James Padrón to the coast of Galicia who then carried the relics inland for burial at Compostela.
In case you doubt the validity of the Saint James relics in Compostela, Pope Leo XIII verified the relics of Saint James as authentic in his 1894 bull Omnipotens Deus.
Following third century Roman persecutions in Spain, his tomb was abandoned in the third century. The tomb was rediscovered in AD 814 by the hermit Pelayo after the monk observed strange lights in the night sky (hence the name "Campus Stellae" or "Field of Stars"). The local bishop confirmed the miracle and the relics of Saint James. King Alfonso II (791-842) built a shrine on the location. This is the current site of the Basilica of Compostela.
Saint James the Greater, pray for us!