Witnesses to the Resurrection: St James the Lesser

By Jordan Grantham, Eastertide 2017
St James the Greater, El Greco. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ceiling fresco, Church of the Twelve Holy Apostle, Rome. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Name: St James the Lesser

Feast Day: May 3

Patronage: The Dying, Hat makers, Pharmacists, Uruguay

Death: 62AD, Jerusalem. Stoning.

Shrine: Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles, Rome

Interior of the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Scripture and Life:

Tradition holds that St James the Lesser was a strict ascetic and prayed so much that his knees were as tough as a camel’s knees.

The Gospels of St Matthew and Mark name Alphaeus as St James’ father. The Gospel of St John tells us that the Mother of God was at the Crucifixion with her sister, also named Mary and the latter’s husband Clophas (the Greek rendering of Alphaeus).

St James the Lesser was the cousin of Christ.

St Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians that Christ appeared to St James the Lesser before the other Apostles.

St James became the first Bishop of Jerusalem and presided over the Council of Jerusalem, which decided Gentiles did not have to follow the Jewish Law.

Church Fathers:

Hegesippus [160AD] is quoted by Eusebius as writing that St James was maternal cousin of Christ. St Jerome has the same opinion. St John Chrysostom follows the Eastern tradition that St Matthew the Apostle and St James the Lesser were both sons of Alphaeus, and therefore brothers.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes how St James was stoned to death after being condemned by the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish elders.

The crypt which contains the relics of St Philip and St James the Lesser. Image: Wikimedia Commons


With thanks to Rev Dr Paul Stenhouse MSC, Whatever happened to the twelve apostles? (2006, Chevalier Press)

Read Daily
* indicates required