The Feast of St. James
Santiago or Saint James is the Patron Saint of Spain. The annual Feast of Saint James (Dia de Santiago) took place in Santiago de Compostela on the 25th July and was a public holiday in Galicia.
The truly devout visited Santiago in the days leading up to 25th July, which is both the Dia de Santiago and the Dia de Galicia, Day of Galicia. As far back as 865AD, St Germain’s text, Martyrology, mentions the Feast Day and it was on July 25th, 1120 that Santiago was given the supremacy of the churches in the west of Spain.
The two weeks leading up to El Día de Santiago are full of art exhibitions, drama productions, indoor and outdoor concerts of all kinds of music and street entertainment – both professional and amateur. Almost every night there will be something going on in the major squares, Plaza del Obradoiro and Plaza de la Quintana. On the evening of 24th July, in the Plaza del Obradoiro, are the Fuegos del Apóstol – an incredible display of pyrotechnics that sees the side of the cathedral dramatically and unforgettably illuminated at midnight.
The feast day itself includes many official celebrations the most important of which is an official mass which is attended by representatives of the Galician government and often by members of the Spanish Royal family. Known as the King’s Offering to the Apostle, this is the occasion when the gigantic incense burner, the Botafumeiro, is swung down the cathedral aisles in breathtaking fashion almost touching the vaulted ceilings. The handlers of the botafumeiro, known as tiraboleiros, somehow guide its movements by ropes.
On the day of the Feast of Saint James, the streets of Santiago de Compostela are lined with people watching processions of different carnival groups, papier-mâché cabezudos and a multitude of Galician pipers. The dancing, music, eating and drink continue well into the next morning. Much emphasis is placed on the eating of oysters or scallops in order to ensure that the following year is wealthy and healthy.
Santiago de Compostela is a beguiling city full of historical and religious atmosphere but also, with its large student population, a vibrant, lively place to visit. Around the time of the Día de Santiago it is remarkably busy, but especially worth visiting. Should July 25th happen to fall on a Sunday then the day becomes more special. The year itself is proclaimed to be a Jacobean Year and there are, astonishingly, even greater celebrations than usual.
Closer to home, St. James Day Mass was celebrated on Sunday, the 29th of July at St James’s Church, Dublin 8. The mass was celebrated by Fr. John Collins and by the Reverend Dermot Dunne, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral.
Celebrating the Feast of St. James and the Camino de Santiago in Pearse Lyons Distillery, Dublin 8
On the 25th of July, Pearse Lyons Distillery celebrated the feast day of St. James. The first Church of St. James was built in the Liberties in 1196, which is today the Pearse Lyons Distillery. The connection with this ancient pilgrimage is embraced in the beautiful stained-glass window (below) over the choir balcony inside the newly refurbished distillery.
All visitors to the distillery on July 25th had the opportunity to see a special photographic exhibition taken on the Camino by pilgrims. These photos have been featured on Shamrocks and Shells previously. Our Pilgrims’ Book was on view also and visitors had an opportunity to see the hundreds of names inscribed upon this historic document. Guests were offered a Pilgrim Passport, with their first stamp being from Pearse Lyons Distillery.