Spain’s patron saint has a fifteen-day holiday… how many does yours have?

Fireworks over the cathedral in the fiestas of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela / Wikimedia
Fireworks over the cathedral in the fiestas of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela / Wikimedia
2 July 2019, Redaction

Saint James’s Day

St. James, known in Spanish as Santiago Apóstol, is the patron saint of Spain and is especially loved in Galicia and the city of Santiago de Compostela in the north of the country. The festival that is held in his honour lasts for fifteen full days and involves fireworks and fiesta in Santiago in July.

The festival of Santiago Apóstol is one of the most popular and lively festivals in Spain, with the 24th and 25th July 2019 being the biggest days. On the night of the 24th there is an impressive fireworks display in Santiago, while on the 25th July, which is the official Día de Santiago, there is a solemn mass in the cathedral.

Santiago de Compostela: Spain’s pilgrimage city

Santiago is tucked away in Spain’s northwesternmost corner, a beautiful medieval city that most tourists don’t even know about. The city is most famous for being the ending point of the Camino de Santiago, or St. James’s Way, where pilgrims come to visit the Cathedral and get their El Camino certificate.

Who is Saint James the Apostle?

St. James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain and was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. According to his biography, it is said that he came to northern Spain and Portugal to preach and was buried in the region. After his remains were discovered, it was on this spot that the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was built.

How is the Feast of Saint James the Apostle celebrated in Spain?

One of the most popular ways to honour St. James at this time of year is to arrive in Santiago de Compostela for his saint day. Pilgrims who finish their camino walk on 25th July 2019 will be in for a real treat because there are parties and concerts in the whole city.

There is also a special mass in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral where the church’s most famous resident makes its appearance. This is the botafumeiro, a huge incense burner than hangs by an enormous chain from the ceiling and swings like a precarious pendulum from one side of the cathedral to the other and anoints the faithful there gathered with sweet, aromatic smoke.

Although the 25th July 2019 is the most important day to celebrate St. James in Santiago de Compostela, the festivities start ten days earlier with a programme full of theatre performances, musical concerts, exhibitions and street shows. All over the city, there are mini-parades and verbenas (street parties) with live music on every single day of these two weeks.

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