In the last few years, the centuries-old tradition of pilgrimage to to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela has become quite popular. But you don’t need to walk or cycle 1900 kilometres to find Saint James (in Dutch Sint Jacob). You can find him at several spots in The Hague.
Among the 12 apostles of Jesus, two were named James. The James we are talking about in this article is known as James the Greater or the Elder. He and his brother John, the later evangelist, were fishermen. Together with Peter the two brothers were the most important disciples of Jesus. As was often the case with saints, James died in a nasty way. King Herod had him imprisoned, tortured and killed with the sword.
Santiago de Compostella
Two of his followers put his body in a boat and with the help of angels they crossed the Mediterranean Sea and sailed along the Portuguese coast to northern Spain. After a number of miraculous events, James was finally buried in the place we now know as Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Even today pilgrims from all over Europe walk to this place of pilgrimage. Or in a more modern way: they go there by bike.
If you are a lover of good food, you might have heard of Coquilles Saint-Jacques. The shell of this delicacy is the symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago.
In The Hague
There are two churches in The Hague that bear his name: the Grote or Sint Jacobskerk, in the Torenstraat, and the Sint Jacobuskerk in the Parkstraat. The first is the oldest, built as a Catholic church but taken into the hands of the Protestants after the iconoclasm. Copper scallops have recently been placed in the paths around the Grote Kerk. A nice symbol, but you have to be careful not to trip over them.
Copper scallops have recently been placed in the paths around the Grote Kerk. A nice symbol, but you have to be careful not to trip over them.
The Sint Jacobuskerk on the Parkstraat was built in the 19th century when Roman Catholics were allowed to have churches again.
Before that, Catholics had to use the so-called ‘hidden churches’ (in Dutch, ‘schuilkerken’): buildings that from the outside looked like normal houses. The plaque in the Oude Molstraat reminds us of this sort of church.
The feast day (or name day) of our James is July 25th. It’s a sensible thing to keep track of the temperature on this day. Before we had apps to tell us the weather forecast, people often relied on weather proverbs like this one: ‘Is Sint-Jacobus hel en warm, bevriest met kerstmis rijk en arm’, (= if it’s bright and warm on Saint James’ Day, rich and poor will freeze by Christmas).
Would you like to learn more about churches in The Hague? Invite family and friends to a city walk through The Hague.