Saint James the Greater at the Battle of Clavijo
99 cm x 127.8 cm (39 in. x 50 5/16 in.)
Johann Heinrich Schönfeld
(Biberach an der Riß, Germany, 1609 - 1684, Augsburg, Germany)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
The Suida-Manning Collection
Mounted on a white stallion and clad in armor, James the Greater charges toward fleeing enemies. According to legend, James miraculously appeared at the fictional ninth-century Battle of Clavijo, where he helped the outnumbered Spaniards vanquish the Moors. For this reason, Saint James the Greater, or Santiago in Spanish, was venerated as the patron saint of Spain. The legend of the battle had a particular resonance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the political and military conflict with the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean stoked European fear of Muslims. The red cross on the knight-saint’s breastplate is the insignia of the Order of Santiago, founded in the twelfth century to protect pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and to defend Christendom.