All kinds of robberies and pilferings have thus been perpetrated with the once abundant wealth of Santiago.1 The jealous care which keeps the copious archives inaccessible to all the outside world is in itself of sinister significance. It has transpired, furthermore, that many of the bishops have "exchanged," or simply stolen, portions of the holy property. Besides these clerical dilapidations, a cartload, weighing half a ton, was carried off by Marshal Ney, though some was subsequently handed back, " because the spoilers feared the hostility of the Plateros, the silversmiths who live close to the cathedral, and by whom many workmen were employed in making little graven images, teraphims and lares, as well as medallions of Santiago, which pilgrims purchase."2
Among the gifts of value which this temple yet preserves are the ancient processional cross presented by the third Alfonso in the year of grace 874,1 and the hideous fourteenth-century reliquary shaped to represent the head of James Alfeo, and containing (as it is believed) this very relic (Pl. viii.). I make a reservation here, because the Chapter have forbidden the reliquary to be opened. In either case, whether the head be there or not, heads of the same apostle are affirmed to be at Chartres, Toulouse, and other places. Similarly, discussing these Hydra-headed beings of the Bible and the hagiology, Villa-amil y Castro (El Tesoro de la Catedral de Santiago, published in the Museo Espanol de Antiguedades) recalls to us the ten authenticated and indubitable mazzards of Saint John the Baptist.
1 A recent instance, not devoid of humour, is as follows. About three years ago, a silly rogue removed and carried off the crown from Santiago's head; but since the actual jewel is only worn on solemn festivals, his prize turned out to be a worthless piece of tin. An odd removal of the treasure of another Spanish church was noted by the traveller Bowles. " The curate of the place, a worthy fellow who put me up in his house, assured me that a detachment of a legion of locusts entered the church, ate up the silk clothes upon the images, and gnawed the varnish on the altars." Perhaps these adamantine-stomached insects have assailed, from time to time, the gold and silver plate of Santiago.
2 Ford, Handbook, vol. ii. p. 671. I briefly notice, in Appendix B, the Santiago jet-work, also practised by these craftsmen.
Saint James In Pilgrim's Dress (Silver-gilt statuette; 15th Century. Santiago Cathedral)
1 To lend my censures further cogency, I leave this statement as I set it down some weeks ago; since when, on picking up a Spanish newspaper, I read the following telegram: -
"Theft in Santiago Cathedral "Santiago, May 7th, 1906 (9.15 p.m.).
"This morning, when the canon in charge of the Chapel of the Relics unlocked the door, he was surprised to observe that some of these were lying in confusion on the floor. Fearing that a theft had been committed, he sent for the dean and others of the clergy, who had examination made, and found the following objects to be missing: -
"A gold cross, presented by King Alfonso the Great, when he attended the consecration of this temple in the year 874.
"Another cross, of silver, dating from the fifteenth century - a present from Archbishop Spinola.
"An aureole of the fifteenth century, studded with precious stones belonging to a statuette of the apostle Santiago.
"The authorities were summoned and at once began their search.
"They find that two of the thick iron bars of the skylight in the ceiling of the cloister have been filed through. This cloister has a skylight which opens upon the chapel.
"They have also found, upon the roof, a knotted rope. This rope was only long enough to reach a cornice in the chapel wall. The wall itself affords no sign that anybody has attempted to descend by it."
The head-shaped reliquary is of beaten silver with enamelled visage, and the hair and beard gilt.1 The workmanship is French. The cross, which hung till recently above the altar of the Relicario, but which now requires to be placed upon the lengthy list of stolen wealth, was not unlike the Cross of Angels in the Camara Santa at Oviedo, and had a wooden body covered with gold plates in finely executed filigree, studded with precious stones and cameos. Not many days ago, the wooden core, divested of the precious metal and the precious stones, was found abandoned in a field.
1 This form of reliquary was not uncommon. Morales, in his Viaje Sacro, describes another one, also preserved at Santiago, saying that it was a bust of silver, life-size and gilded to the breast, "with a large diadem of rays and many stones, both small and great, all or most of them of fine quality, though not of the most precious." Other bust-reliquaries belong, or have belonged, to the Cathedrals of Burgos and Toledo.
Visitors to the shrine of Santiago seldom fail to have their curiosity excited by the monster "smoke-thrower" (bota-fumeiro) or incensory, lowered (much like the deadly sword in Poe's exciting tale) on each fiesta by a batch of vigorous Gallegos from an iron frame fixed into the pen-dentives of the dome. "The calmest heart," says Villa-amil, "grows agitated to behold this giant vessel descending from the apex of the nave until it almost sweeps the ground, wreathed in dense smoke and spewing flame." Ford seems to have been unaware that the real purpose of this metal monster was not to simply scent the holy precincts, but to cover up the pestilential atmosphere created by a horde of verminous, diseased, and evil-smelling pilgrims, who, by a usage which is now suppressed, were authorized to pass the night before the services within the actual cathedral wall.
The original bota-fumeiro, resembling, in Oxea's words, "a silver boiler of gigantic bulk," was lost or stolen in the War of Spanish Independence. It was replaced by another of iron, and this, in 1851, by the present apparatus of white metal.