The body of St. James remained in the Franciscan church of Santa Maria Nova in Naples for more than five centuries. In 2001, it was transferred to his birthplace of Monteprandone.
It’s an understatement to say that Italy has a lot of saints. Those who have made pilgrimages to the country are often surprised that practically every church has at least one saint, blessed, or servant of God.
Many saints and blesseds are objects of local devotion.
St. James of Marches
One such saint, whose remains are incorruptible, is conserved within the Franciscan church of Monteprandone, in the central Italian region of the Marches: St. James of the Marches.
This little-known Franciscan saint was born in 1393 to a poor family in Monteprandone. As a boy, he worked as a shepherd. Eventually, an uncle, who was a priest, arranged for his education.
At the age of 23, while traveling through Assisi, Domenico went into the church of St. Mary of the Angels to pray. Inspired by the Franciscan friars, he decided to enter the Franciscan Order, and was given the religious name, James.
After he was ordained a priest, his superiors discovered his numerous spiritual gifts and talents. In time, he became known throughout all of Italy as a great preacher, penitent, peacemaker, builder, healer, and saint.
James took the vow of poverty very seriously. He walked everywhere he went and pulled all his possessions behind him on a small wagon. He didn’t have much, just a Bible, a breviary, some books and theological works, vestments, and vessels for Mass.
A humble Franciscan known for his great deeds
He worked tirelessly to build up the Kingdom of God. He wrote prolifically. He helped codify various civil statutes in towns and cities. He negotiated peace and reconciled numerous factions – rival families, feuding towns, and Guelphs and Ghibellines. He worked to design basilicas, friaries, convents, libraries, cisterns, and wells. He also conceived of a lending institution called Montes Pietatis — a type of nonprofit credit agency that lent money at little to no interest.
He was called on by the pope to serve as papal nuncio to the Holy See. He accepted and traveled throughout Europe, which was no small feat, given the difficulty of traveling and the fact that he traveled on foot.
Together with St. Bernardine of Siena, James of the Marches countered the widespread superstitions of amulets and charms by promoting the Name of Jesus. They wrote the letters, IHS (Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus, the Savior of Humanity) on parchments which they touched to the bodies of the sick and infirmed.
In 1476, he was sent by the pope to Naples to aid the ailing king. On November 28, 1476, he died in Naples. His funeral was attended by the pope, the king, the royal court, and countless clergy and laypersons.
Pope Urban VIII beatified James on August 12, 1624. He was canonized on December 10, 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII.
A pilgrimage to visit his incorrupt body
The body of St. James remained in the Franciscan church of Santa Maria Nova in Naples for more than five centuries. In 2001, the Franciscan Provincial Minister of the Marches petitioned and transferred the remains of St. James to his birthplace of Monteprandone.
St. James of the March is patron saint of the Franciscan friars of the Marches region, the city of Monteprandone, one of the (numerous) patrons of Naples, and of children. His feast day is celebrated on November 28.
In the church of St. James of the Marches in Monteprandone, visitors can visit the saint’s incorrupt body in addition to a museum containing various relics.