St. James is called James the Greater, possibly because he followed Christ before the other apostle named James. Very early in his public life, Jesus called James to follow him. Along with Peter and John, James was one of the favored three to witness the Transfiguration of Jesus, the raising of Jairus's daughter, and the agony in the garden on Holy Thursday night.
James and John were known as Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder.” They seem to have had strong tempers. We read in Matthew 20:20-28 that the mother of James and John once asked Jesus to give her sons a high position in his kingdom. When Jesus asked the two brothers if they could endure the same suffering he was going to endure, they both said yes.
We do not know very much about James' life. Tradition says he may have traveled to Spain. During the Middle Ages there was a famous shrine to St. James at Compostela in Spain. Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles: “It was about this time that King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James, the brother of John” (Acts 12:1-2). James is thought to have been the first apostle martyred.
St. James is a very popular saint in England, where more than four hundred churches are dedicated to him.
from Saints Kit
Image credit: Saint James the Greater by Rembrandt, 1661. Public Domain via Wikimedia.