The construction of the church, with adjoining monastery and hostel, may have taken place between 1125 and 1132 by the Monks of Santa Maria di Marola, a Benedictine Abbey founded by Matilda of Tuscany in the Reggiano Apennines. Its dedication to Saint James would suggest that it was erected along a medieval pilgrimage route and was a stopover for those who, coming from Reggio and from Modena, prepared to cross the Apennines towards Rome. During the fifteenth century, the monastery held one of the largest agricultural properties in the diocese of Modena. The church became a parish church in the seventeenth century, undergoing Baroque style transformations with altars and furnishings in keeping with the taste of the time. Other changes were made over the centuries that followed: a stone plaque in the nave documents the 1670 restorations by the commendatory abbot Cardinal Giacomo Rospigliosi, while other restorations by the commendatory abbot Conte Filippo Giuseppe Marchisio are documented by a marble plaque dated 1773. The work carried out in the twentieth century aimed to restore the original Romanesque appearance to the church.
The façade was rebuilt in 1963, the year carved on the architrave of the main entrance, together with the name of Ludovico Aggazzotti who commissioned the work. Though rebuilt, the present-day mullioned window preserves the leafy Romanesque capital of the old building. Other original features include the single-light windows on the southern side and the plinth along the sides, the external ashlar wall in sandstone and a small mullioned window, visible between the church and the presbytery, where a restored column made up of one single block comprising both base and capital was placed in recent decades. The bell tower dates back to the mid 18th century.
Inside, the church has a latin cross plan, with a single nave with wooden roof connected to the apse and to the two side chapels surmounted by cross vaults. At the back is the large 18th century canvas with Saint James the Apostle, depicted with the book and pilgrim’s staff, in front of a vessel (which according to tradition carried the remains of the saint from the Holy Land to Galicia). On either side are two eighteenth century canvases with Saint Geminianus and Saint Roch. The sumptuous altar with marble inlay dates back to the mid eighteenth century.
(Source: "I luoghi sacri dell'arte – itinerari nelle chiese modenesi di proprietà comunale" - Comune di Modena- Artestampa, 1994)
The church is only open for religious services.
Mass: Sunday and public holidays at 8.30 am and 11.00 am; weekdays (Wednesday and Thursday; no services in July-August) at 7.00 pm.