The Cult of Santiago: The Images and Legends of Saint James and Their Significance in Modern Spain

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Whether we see the stories of Santiago as myth or a matter of "real" history, the legends of the saint had, and still carry, great cultural, political, and religious significance. One focus of this essay is to identify ways in which myth makes cultural meaning. We cannot, therefore, define myth as "unreal and fantastic" while we define history as "real and valid". Not everything that happened in the past is historical fact. History, as with any form of narrative, is very much influenced by the teller and the medium through which it is told. The myths of Saint James very much effected the people of Spain and their beliefs, yet we can be fairly sure that most of them did not actually take place. It is important to mention here that whether we believe the legends of Saint James or not has no bearing on his story or the cultural importance of that story in Spain. The Spanish people needed to believe those myths, and that fact makes them significant. The phenomenon of the cult of Saint James provides a fascinating study of the role of mythology and its importance in the history of a nation.

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