Itinerary of the cult of Saint James
In 1145, a bone fragment of the apostle James the Great, venerated at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, was brought to Pistoia. From that moment on, the town became one of the most important destinations for pilgrims along the Via Francigena in central Italy. Every year on 25th July, following a centuries-old tradition, the annual festa di San Jacopo – a celebration in honour of the patron saint of the town – takes place with its Corteo Storico – a historical costume parade that winds through the city, and the Giostra dell’Orso – a medieval joust, in which 12 knights attempt to hit a bear-shaped target with their lances.
In the Cathedral of Saint Zeno, the Chapel of Judgement holds the majestic silver altar of Saint James. The Museo Civico inside the Palazzo del Comune contains numerous paintings related to Saint James’s iconography. In the Pistoia Cathedral’s Museum (Museo della Cattedrale di San Zeno), while visiting the Antico Palazzo dei Vescovi, the original sacristy of the treasure of Saint James can be admired. In the Piazza Giovanni XXIII, a notable work is the frieze on the Spedale del Ceppo arcaded loggia, with panels depicting the seven works of mercy. One of the panels is dedicated to Welcoming the Pilgrims. From there, the Church of Saint Andrew (Chiesa di Sant’Andrea) can be easily reached. The architrave that rests on the church’s portal depicts the journey of the biblical Three Kings, the very first pilgrims of Christianity.