According to Acts of the Apostles, in the year 44 AD, while preaching in Jerusalem, James was arrested by Herod Agrippa I, who ordered his beheading. He was therefore the first apostle to be martyred.
James Alphaeus (“the Less”) is traditionally believed to have taken James’ head and given it to the Virgin Mary to look after. Today, this relic is kept in the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem, which belongs to the Armenian Patriarchate. In relation to his body, his disciples collected it and set off in a boat to look for an appropriate burial site. In this magical boat, which had no crew and did not require any guidance, they crossed the Mediterranean and arrived at the Atlantic coast.
They docked in the port of Iria Flavia, at the end of the known world, where the boat was moored to a stone post, which explains the etymological origin of the name of the town of Padrón (“pedrón”). The territory was dominated by a pagan queen, “Raíña Lupa.” The disciples asked her for a wagon and a yoke of cattle to transport James’ body. She cunningly sent them to a nearby hill, where a herds of wild bulls were grazing. However, instead of charging at them, the bulls docilely approached the disciples and let them place the yoke. “Raíña Lupa” is said to have been so impressed by this and other wonders, that she converted to Christianity.
With the saint’s body on the wagon, the bulls set off without being guided. James would be buried in the place where the bulls stopped. The disciples Teodorus and Athanasius remained as wardens of the tomb. When they died, they were buried beside their Teacher. The site of “arcis marmaricis” would be forgotten during centuries, covered by the thick vegetation of Monte Libredón. One evening, Paio, a hermit who lived there, saw a bright light that indicated the exact spot of the shrine. Some researchers point to the year 813 as the date of the discovery, and others to 820 or 830. That hermit could never have imagined that his discovery would result in one of the most flourishing cities of medieval Europe, a new Holy City and a beautiful Cathedral that would attract worshippers from all over Europe.