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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Church to remove Moor-slayer saint
Spanish King Juan Carlos with a statue of St James
The church wants to emphasise St James's kinder side
A statue in a Spanish cathedral showing St James slicing the heads off Moorish invaders is to be removed to avoid causing offence to Muslims.

Cathedral authorities in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, on Spain's north west coast, plan to move the statue to the museum.

Among the reasons for the move is to avoid upsetting the "sensitivities of other ethnic groups".

The statue of St James "the Moor-slayer" is expected to be replaced by one depicting the calmer image of St James "the Pilgrim", by the same 18th century artist, Jose Gambino.

The Saracen-slaying image of St James, or Santiago in Spanish, is a symbol of the fight between Christianity and Islam and the reconquest of Spain from eight centuries of Moorish rule before 1492.

The saint is said to have appeared to Christian troops fighting Moorish army at the Battle of Clavijo in 844, the crusaders rallying to the cry of "Santiago y cierra Espana" - "St James, we will reconquer Spain".


Cathedral authorities insist the timing of the decision has nothing to do with the 11 March bombings in Madrid, which an Islamic group is alleged to have carried out.

Alejandro Barral, president of the cultural commission for the cathedral council, told BBC News Online: "This is not an opportunistic decision. This is not through fear of fanatics of any kind and nothing to do with 11 March or 11 September."

He said the decision was taken a few years ago, but simply had not yet been implemented.

Mr Barral said the idea was to try to take the image of the saint back to its origins - St James as the apostle or pilgrim who took the word of Jesus to the Iberian Peninsula.

The Baroque image of a sword-wielding St James cutting the heads off Moors is not a very sensitive or evangelical image that fits the teachings of Christ, he added.

The statue, when it is eventually moved from the chapel in the cathedral, is not likely to be hidden from the six million pilgrims and tourists who visit the city every year. It is due to take its place alongside dozens of other images of St James in the cathedral museum.

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