After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His Apostles began to spread the message he left throughout Israel and shortly thereafter, through the Roman empire. One of these Apostles, James (the Greater), reportedly travelled as far as west of Spain to the village of Saragossa in north east of Spain. While James was there, he became disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that while he was deep in prayer the Blessed Mother appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper and instructed him to build a church in her honor:
“This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.”
The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at a church that houses them. About a year after the apparition James arranged to build a small chapel in the Blessed Mother’s honor, the first Church ever dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary. After James returned to Jerusalem, he was executed by Herod Agrippa in about 44 AD, the first apostle to be martyred for his faith. Several of his disciples took his body and returned it for final burial in Spain. The local queen, observing several of the miracles performed by James’ disciples, converted to Christianity and permitted his body to be buried in a local field. Eight centuries later, a cathedral in honor of St. James was erected after his gravesite was rediscovered by a local hermit. The hermit found the burial site after noticing an unusual star formation. The site for the cathedral was called Compostella (starry field) and it is a major pilgrimage site to this day.