Images of Medieval Art and Architecture

Text from Sacred and Legendary Art
by Anna Jameson
Third Editon: London, 1911
Pages 250-1.

Saint James the Less
In Latin, Jacobus Frater Domini
In Greek, Adelphotheos
In Italian, San Jacopo or Giacomo Minore
In French, St. St. Jacques Mineur
Saint's Day- May 1

THE ninth is St. James Minor, or the Less, called also the Just: he was a near relative of Christ, being the son of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was the sister of the Virgin Mary; hence he is styled 'the Lord's brother.' Nothing particular is related of him till after the ascension. He is regarded as first Christian bishop of Jerusalem, and venerated for his self-denial, his piety, his wisdom, and his charity. These characteristics are conspicuous in the beautiful Epistle which bears his name. Having excited, by the fervor of his teaching, the fury of the Scribes and Pharisees, and particularly the enmity of the high-priest Ananus, they flung him down from a terrace or parapet of the Temple, and one of the infuriated populace below beat out his brains with a fuller's club.

In single figures and devotional pictures, St. James is generally leaning on this club, the instrument of his martyrdom. According to an early tradition, he so nearly resembled our Lord in person, in features and deportment, that it was difficult to distinguish them. 'The Holy Virgin herself,' says the legend, 'had she been capable of error, might have mistaken one for the other:' and this exact resemblance rendered necessary the kiss of the traitor Judas, in order to point out his victim to the soldiers.

This characteristic resemblance is attended to in the earliest and best representations of St. James, and by this be may usually be distinguished when he does not bear his club, which is often a thick stick or staff. With the exception of those Scripture scenes in which the apostles are present, I have met with few pictures in which St. James Minor is introduced: he does not appear to have been popular as a patron saint. The event of his martyrdom occurs very seldom, and is very literally rendered. The scene is a court of the Temple, with terraces and balconies; he is falling, or has fallen, to the ground; and one of the crowd lifts up the club to smite him. ......

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