Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saint-James from Compostela: The "Moor Slayer" and the Politically Correct

In January, I went to Santiago de Compostela (Saint James of Compostela) , in the Galiza (or Galicia) region, Spain. No, I did not go in pilgrimage, as nowadays´ fashion among the Brazilians (they are third in the pilgrims´ ranking to Santiago – blame it on Paulo Coelho, Bill Clinton´s favorite esoteric charlatan writer, who turned a faithful journey into a “must” to the neo-pagan esoteric new-age crowd). I went there using regular means of transportation and regular roads. Thanks to the low-cost entrepreneurs..

So, when I crossed the Spanish border from the north of Portugal (through the Minho river) I came across some warnings of what I would find there: the welcome billboard, that says “ Bienvenidos a España” was vandalized, so “Spain” was changed by a graffitied “Galiza”. Yes, Galiza is one of the Spain´s region that struggle for its independence But let´s go ahead.

Coming to the beautiful – but uncared – Saint James´ Cathedral I was astonished by its dimensions, its statues, the pilgrims that was coming through its seven doors, its architecture and by its history. I´ve learned that that Apostle James (Major). His name in Spanish came from the name “Yacob”, later “Jacobo” (Latin) .Other Latin variance was “Iago”. Together with “Sant” , became “Sant Iago”, finally “Santiago”. For the French is “ Saint-Jacques” and for the English, “Saint James”.

The (hi)story told us that James wandered from Jerusalem to the point known as “Finnis Terrae” (Galicia) after the death/resurrection of Jesus Christ. There he continued his work preaching the news of the Kingdom. Back in Jerusalem, years later, Mary becomes sick and feels that her death was on the way. She asked to the angels to get the apostles together in Jerusalem; She appeared to James over a pole in Saragossa (the site became famous in the Shrine of Our Lady of Pillar); James returned to Jerusalem; Mary dies; Saint James is arrested and beheaded by Herodes circa 44 DC.; His followers moved his body back to Galicia, through the Mediterranean Sea, where he was buried; Many years later his body and the vault is found; The Cathedral is built; The pilgrimage started, specially from France, so the most famous of the “Way of Saint James” was created. But there are other ways, even here in Portugal.

But there´s a special chapter in Saint James´ history: the transformation of Saint James into the Santiago “Matamoros” (“Moor Slayer”).

During the Muslim invasion of the South of Spain, Saint James appeared to the King of Castela, guiding him to freed Spain from the Muslims invaders. His appearances kept the Spanish morale´s high and they kept winning. Sometime later, James “Moor Slayer”, became the symbol of the “Reconquista” and the new Spanish unity.

So, I was there inside the Church when I saw the famous statue of the “Matamoros”, but there were no Muslims there. They were covered by flowers. Back in the hotel, I could see the original statue on a postcard. Could Santiago have became a victim of the “politically correct” syndrome?

But I found much more than this.

By the newspapers, you can have a larger view of what is going on. The warrior apostle, the Moor Slayer, is not only inconvenient by being openly an anti-Islamic symbol and thus susceptible to “hurt other´s religion feelings” - according to the declaration of the committee in charge of the Cathedral´s administration. He is inconvenient because he is the Spain Patron, a thing that nationalists from all regions disgust.

The Andalusian nationalists, allied to the Galician, claim for the withdrawal of Saint-James´ spade providing that the “Moor Slayer” profile of Saint-James to be forgotten.

This vision is not modern. There´s been a long time that Catalan, Gallegos, Andalusian and – mainly – the Basque, claim for their independence from Spain and to destitute the “Moor Slayer” as their Patron is their goal. They are a kind of “Renconqista” revisionist, cause for them, there was nothing “nothing to be reconquered”.

In this way, it is clear why Basque terrorist group ETA join their efforts with Al-Qaeda: they are in the same fight, cause the victory for nationalists only could be made if Catholicism and its symbol, Saint-James, could be weakened. It is difficult to understand why many people, even inside of Catholic Church in Spain - specially the so-called “progressives” - fell into this trap.

But fortunately they did not win, at least partially. Some years ago, rumors said that the Moor Slayer image will be withdraw from the Cathedral After a chain of protests, debates, they reached a Salomonic choice: they did not withdraw the image, but hid Muslim figures behind the flowers. You can see the images above. The Politically Correct attack against the Apostle, added by the inflation of a new-pagan-esoteric frenzy on the “Ways of Saint James” - that praises the path, not its real meaning – wants to change a Christian and Spanish symbol to its opposite.

Forget Paulo Coelho´s “ Pilgrimage”. It´s the old “Moor Slayer” that we need.


Amawalker said...

A little more research would have revealed that Jacob the fisherman evolved into the archetypal hero of Western culture from Sant’ Iago Matamoros (killer of the Moors) to Sant’ Iago Mataindios (killer of Indians) to Sant’ Iago Mataespañois (killer of Spaniards) – everyone wanted him as their hero!
In Mexico City there is a carving from the altarpiece of the Church of Santiago Tlatelolco showing him as Santiago Mataindios - the Indian-slayer.
And although Christianity and the Catholic religion were taken to the Americas by the Spaniards, when Mexico fought to obtain its independence from Spain in 1810, Sant’ Iago was exalted as Santiago Mataespañois - the slayer of Spaniards!
In Peru, during an indigenous uprising in 19th-century they adopted Santiago
as its champion, using the "Matamoros" iconography of “Santiago Mataespañois” that in Peru had come to be associated with a pre-Columbian deity who drove out evil forces.
There is a mid-19thC silver statue of Santiago Mataespañois in the Museum of Pilgrimages in Santiago de Compostela.

and another one – scroll down to under Ano 1998 - (as well as pictures of items from the museum) here:

You can see the altarpiece of Santiago Mataindios here (click on the photo to enlarge it)

You can see paintings of Santiago Matamoros and Mataindios together here:

Anonymous said...

I think I can speak for most, when I say:


Anonymous said...

thank you for a fine post.

I have walked the Way of St. James twice.

Another time a Spanish judge took me to the top of an obscure mountain just beyond Oviedo in Asturias. There he showed me a 13th century church built over a 7th century chapel--yes, high and hidden in the mountains--and from there Alfonso's small band of men began the Reconquista that would take 800 years to complete.

The arrogance and ignorance of those who would bow to political correctness may soon turn to bitter sorrow--The West will soon need the aid of Santiago MATAMOROS again!

MJ Anderson

Anonymous said...

I live in Topeka, kansas U.S.A.. I am part of a traditionalist latin mass community and a supporter of The American Society for the preservation of Tradition, Family and Property I have a 20ft flag pole in my yard topped with a Papal standard and below is a white flag with a Red Santiago Matamoros Espada. I have a statue of Santiago in my house complete with dead moslems. We need Santiago now more than ever.

Renjith said...

It is unfortunate that the Muslim figures have been covered with flowers. Christians should not be cowards. Be proud of your heritage and your spiritual legacy. Europe today needs the protection of Santiago Matamoros more than ever.

Anonymous said...

Praise the living God for Catholics who are not afraid. Our Church needs us!