Friday, July 25, 2008

Santiago Matamoros

In Spain, the 25th of July is celebrated with great pomposity as the feast of St. James the Great-- or, as he is popularly known there, Santiago Matamoros. The epithet Matamoros literally means 'Moor-slayer', and was appellated to the saint by the Spaniards during the Reconquista. The story goes that, at the eve of the battle of Clavijo, the saint appeared to a soldier in a dream. The next day, on the battle itself, the Christian armies-- being vastly outnumbered-- were greeted by the sight of a knight astride a white horse. It was St. James himself, riding through the enemy hordes and slaying the Moors. To this day, many Spaniards shout 'Santiago y cierra Espana' (St. James and strike for Spain) as a battle cry.

The photo above is from Fort Santiago in the Philippines, taken from Fra Lawrence's ever excellent photostream.

"St James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had ... has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection."
- Cervantes, Don Quixote

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