Saint James the Greater (to differentiate him from other Jameses named in the New Testament) is commemorated today in Western Christianity. This James was the son of Zebedee who, with his brother John, left their fisherman father by the seashore to follow Jesus. James and John were called the Sons of Thunder by Mark.
Unlike some of the disciples, James is specifically placed in several of the stories of Jesus's ministry, so more is known about him than others. He was also the first of the disciples to be martyred, beheaded by Herod in the year 44. Some accounts claim that his body was taken to Spain and buried there, where he had evangelized for some years, and thus he is named as the patron saint of that country. He is often depicted as a pilgrim, carrying a staff, as in the window here.
For all thy saints, a noble throng,
Who fell by sword and flame,
Who soon were called, or waited long,
O Christ, we praise thy Name!
For James, who left his father’s side,
Nor lingered by the shore,
When, softer than the rolling tide,
Thy summons glided o’er.
Who stood beside the maiden dead,
Who climbed the mount with thee,
And saw the glory round thy head,
One of thy chosen three.
Who knelt beneath the olive shade,
Who drank thy cup of pain,
And passed from Herod’s flashing blade
To see thy face again.
So shall we learn to drink thy cup,
So strong and firm be found,
When thou shalt come to take us up
Where all thy saints are crowned.
Cecil Frances Alexander, 1875, alt.
Tune: ST. JAMES (C.M.)
Ralph Courteville, 1696
Cecil Frances Alexander was the wife of an Anglican bishop who wrote many hymns, some of which are still familiar today, such as the recently-mentioned Once in royal David's city. This text was probably written specifically to go with this older tune, which originally had appeared in a hymnal with the unwieldy title of Select Psalms and Hymns for the Use of the Parish Church and Tabernacle of St. James’, Westminster.