It is necessary to specify that in the legend of Santiago there are two well differentiated parts, one that speaks of a trip from Santiago to Spain and its preaching in Hispanic lands, and another that refers to the transfer of the remains of the Apostle to Galicia by some disciples, who would have brought him from Jerusalem, where he was martyred. Therefore, more than a single tradition, are two traditions in one, that it is necessary to distinguish.
The first places Santiago in Spain, not necessarily or exclusively in Galicia, and is based on an oral tradition whose origin is in the beginnings of Christianity, reinforced later by documentary evidence that suggests the existence of a Tradition that is transmitted through the centuries. The second begins in the ninth century, and consists of two elements: a first consisting of the revelation of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago (Inventio), and a later one that relates how the transfer of the remains to his tomb (Translatio).
Each of the two traditions has its own argument, and rather than dissociate them must be analyzed. But each of them reinforces the other, and really are two moments of the same Tradition, as anticipated Bede the Venerable in the seventh century, because in addition to talking about the evangelization of Santiago in Hispania, he associates it with a transfer: “The Sacred bones of this blessed Apostle, were transferred to Hispania, and in their extreme part, placed safely in front of the British Sea “. The British term does not refer here to the British Isles or to French Brittany, but to Britonia, the Breton diocese of the Spanish northwest whose headquarters was Santa Maria de Bretoña, today San Martin de Mondoñedo (Lugo). That is to say, the connection between the two traditions existed already before the texts that sought to explain the Inventio and the Traslatio appeared, and before the discovery of the apostolic remains. It is important to emphasize this, because a singular fact in the appearance of the elements of the Tradition is that they appear in reverse order, first the tomb is revealed, and later the stories that explain the transfer appear. It is a contradictory question that many have used as a criterion of falsity, but which on the contrary has a very rational justification. The tomb is first discovered because its location was a local fact of little or no diffusion that is lost in the memory of an incipient and punished Christianity. It will be after the discovery when the need arises to explain the transfer on the signs of a very diluted and deformed oral tradition.
If James had died in Jerusalem, where was his body? In order to respond to this, a formal discovery was necessary, which according to the use of the time could only come convincingly through revelation. The first written reference to revelation are found in three ancient letters of Compostela from the 9th century (829, 844 and 854) in which it is only mentioned that the body of James was revealed in 813, being Teodomiro bishop of Iria Flavia , During the reign of Alfonso II the Casto, and that the discovery took place in the valley of Amaia, but nothing is said about the circumstances of the revelation.
The story of the Inventio appears in the “Concordia de Antealtares” (1077), between Diego Peláez, bishop of Iria, and Fagildo, abbot of the Antealtares Monastery. The first focus of construction of the future construction of Compostela, will be a small basilica and a monastery with a community of monks who took care of the relics cult of the apostle Santiago, raised on the east side in front of the entrance door of the Roman tomb, For which he was given the name of Antealtares, and of which there are no vestiges since it was demolished for the uprising of the cathedral that would replace the basilica of Alfonso III raised in the opposite side of the edículo, that remained between both constructions. This demolition involved a litigation between basilica and monastery because the beginning of the cathedral that demanded to demolish monastic edification, with a struggle of interests that concluded with the signing of the document of agreement on the new location of the monastery, with guarantees and agreements by which the Monks renounce the Church in exchange for privileges in the new cathedral, which will centralize the custody of the apostolic sepulcher, whose remains are related to its origin. Its documentary value is questioned because it arises two and a half centuries after the discovery, but together with the above mentioned antecedent, it must be added that the agreement does not seek to fill a void that did not concern in the Feudal Compostela, but to resolve the conflict of interests and Lay the custody of the holy body. The supposed void was occupied by an oral tradition that ends up finding a written expression.
Belief and even popular knowledge goes here before the Church, in the elaboration of a narrative explaining the preaching in Spain, the martyrdom in Jerusalem and the burial in Galicia.
The oldest document is the Translatio Sancti Jacobo, collected in the Codex Calixtino and Historia Compostelana (12th century), and later adorned in La Leyenda Aurea de Jacobo de la Vorágine (13th century). It is the anonymous compilation in the ninth century of texts related to the Apostle of the popular oral tradition of the place, originally vulgar and appropriate for its declamation and perhaps intonation with some musical accompaniment in popular public forums. Its content mixes the Tradition with the Seven Apostolic Men of the Betica who are the disciples of Santiago, three of whom remain guarding the tomb, and the other four dispersed to preach. It includes local terms such as Iria and Sacred Peak, and popular myths such as the dragon, brave bulls and the sinking of the bridge.
The second document that explains the appearance of the body of the apostle in Spain is the Epistle of St. Leo. There are three versions of it, in which a more careful narrative is formed in the background and the forms in evolution from the popular to the cultured. The first, written between the end of the 9th centuyy and the beginning of the 10th century, is the version of the abbey of San Marcial de Limoges, supposedly attributed to Saint Leo I, pope between 440-461, known in Galicia in relation to Priscillianism; Is faithful to the Translatio but better tracing the outlines of the tradition, and still mixing it with that of the Seven Apostolic Men of the Betic, citing three remaining tombs, Torcuato, Tesifonte and Anastasio, (the first two homonyms to the list Of the Seven Men of the Betic), and four others returning to Jerusalem. His Latin is quite deficient, which translates his inspiration into the most popular Traslatio. The 2nd, from the end of the tenth century, is preserved in the Escorial, and is a more careful version, attributed to Pope Leo III (795-816); Eliminates the miraculous facts too portentous and only quotes to Anastasio like common name to the previous one, not pertaining to list of the Seven Men. The third is a scholarly writing from the end of the eleventh century or beginning of the twelfth century, attributed also to Leo III, is the form that is recorded in book III of the Codex Calixtino, which recognizes only two disciples other than the Seven Apostolic Men: Athanasius and Teodoro.
Already with the phenomenon of pilgrimage in boom, starting from the conviction in the value of the compostelan discovery, and to give credit and orthodoxy to the new that the discovery had confirmed, The Tradition needs arguments that support it and allow a solid and congruent diffusion. It can be said that it seeks to promote Compostela with principles equivalent to the current advertising. It is what the Letter of St. Leo seeks, explaining how the body of James the Greater, who was said to be the evangelizer of Hispania, after his martyrdom in Jerusalem narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, was able to reach the coast of Iria Flavia and be buried in the future Compostela. Its basic purpose, common to all versions, is the certification of the primacy of the Church as ecclesiastical endorsement. The different versions are successive adaptations of the Translatio to convert the popular oral tradition into a written, erudite and cultured tradition, demystifying the transfer and dissociating it from the Tradition of the Seven Apostolic Men.