Bartholomew the Apostle
St Bartholomew by Rubens, c. 1611
Apostle and Martyr
Born1st century AD
Cana, Galilee, Roman Empire
Diedc. 69/71 AD
Albanopolis, Kingdom of Armenia[1][2][3][4]
Venerated inAll Christian denominations which venerate saints
Major shrine

Bartholomew[a] was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. Most scholars today identify Bartholomew as Nathanael or Nathaniel,[6] who appears in the Gospel of John (1:45–51; cf. 21:2).[7][8][9]

Bartholomew the Apostle, detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century

New Testament references

The name Bartholomew (Greek: Βαρθολομαῖος, transliterated "Bartholomaios") comes from the Imperial Aramaic: בר-תולמי bar-Tolmay "son of Talmai"[10] or "son of the furrows".[10] Bartholomew is listed in the New Testament among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew,[11] Mark,[12] and Luke,[13] and in Acts of the Apostles.[14]


Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History (5:10) states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Tradition narrates that he served as a missionary in Mesopotamia and Parthia, as well as Lycaonia and Ethiopia in other accounts.[15] Popular traditions say that Bartholomew preached the Gospel in India and then went to Greater Armenia.[10]

Mission to India

Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew in India. These are by Eusebius of Caesarea (early 4th century) and by Saint Jerome (late 4th century). Both of these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Saint Pantaenus to India in the 2nd century.[16] The studies of Fr A.C. Perumalil SJ and Moraes hold that the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, a region which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan, was the field of Saint Bartholomew's missionary activities. Previously the consensus among scholars was at least skeptical about an apostolate of Saint Bartholomew in India. Stallings (1703), Neander (1853), Hunter (1886), Rae (1892), Zaleski (1915) supported it, while scholars such as Sollerius (1669), Carpentier (1822), Harnack (1903), Medlycott (1905), Mingana (1926), Thurston (1933), Attwater (1935), etc. do not. The main argument is that the India that Eusebius and Jerome refer to should be identified as Ethiopia or Arabia Felix.[16]

In Armenia

Saint Bartholomew Monastery at the site of the Apostle's martyrdom in historical Armenia, now ruinous

Along with his fellow apostle Jude "Thaddeus", Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. Thus, both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. According to these traditions, Bartholomew is the second Catholicos-Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.[17]

Christian tradition offers three accounts of Bartholomew's death: "One speaks of his being kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and cast into the sea to drown. Another account states that he was crucified upside down, and another says that he was skinned alive and beheaded in Albac or Albanopolis, near Baku, Azerbaijan[18] or Başkale, Turkey."[19]

In the Hellenic tradition, Bartholomew was executed in Albanopolis in Armenia, where he was martyred for having converted Polymius, the local king, to Christianity. Enraged by the monarch's conversion, and fearing a Roman backlash, King Polymius's brother, Prince Astyages, ordered Bartholomew's torture and execution. However, this version of the story appears ahistorical, as there are no records of any Armenian king of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia with the name "Polymius". Other accounts of his martyrdom name the king as either Agrippa (identified with Tigranes VI), or Sanatruk, king of Armenia.[20]

The 13th-century Saint Bartholomew Monastery was a prominent Armenian monastery constructed at the presumed site of Bartholomew's martyrdom in Vaspurakan, Greater Armenia (now in southeastern Turkey).[21]

In Present-Day Azerbaijan

Saint Bartholomew Church (Baku) before the destruction

Saint Bartholomew Church (Baku) was built in 1892 with donations from the local Christian population on the site where the Apostle Bartholomew was believed to have been martyred.[22] It is believed that in this area near the Maiden Tower, the apostle Bartholomew was crucified and killed by pagans around 71 AD.[23] The church continued to operate until 1936, when it was demolished as a part of the Soviet campaign against religion.


The Armenian Apostolic Church honours Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thaddeus as its patron saints.

The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates Bartholomew on June 11.[24] Bartholomew is also venerated on August 25 in commemoration of the transfer of Bartholomew's relics.[25] He is also venerated as one of the twelve apostles on June 30.[26]

Hence, the Russian Orthodox Eparchy of Baku and Azerbaijan[27] honour Saint Bartholomew as the Patron Saint of Azerbaijan and regards him as the bringer of Christianity to the region of Caucasian Albania, modern-day Azerbaijan. The feast day of the Apostle is solemnly celebrated there on 24 August by the Christian laity and the Church officials alike.[28]

In the Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Bartholomew's martyrdom is commemorated on the first day of the Coptic calendar (i.e., the first day of the month of Thout), which currently falls on 11 September (corresponding to 29 August in the Julian calendar).

In the current Roman General Calendar Saint Bartholomew's feast occurs on 24 August.[29]

Bartholomew the Apostle is remembered in the Church of England with a Festival on 24 August.[30][31]


Altar of San Bartolomeo Basilica in Benevento, containing the relics of Bartholomew

The 6th-century writer Theodorus Lector averred that in about 507, the Byzantine emperor Anastasius I Dicorus gave the body of Bartholomew to the city of Daras, in Mesopotamia, which he had recently refounded.[32] The existence of relics at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily, in the part of Italy controlled from Constantinople, was explained by Gregory of Tours[33] by his body having miraculously washed up there. A large piece of his skin and many bones that were kept in the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew in Lipari, were translated to Benevento in 838, where they are still kept now in the Basilica San Bartolomeo. A portion of the relics was given in 983 by Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor, to Rome, where it is conserved at San Bartolomeo all'Isola, which was founded on the site of the temple of Asclepius, in pagan times an important Roman medical centre. This association with medicine caused Bartholomew's name to become associated in course of time with hospitals.[34] A part of Bartholomew's alleged skull was transferred to the Frankfurt Cathedral, while an arm was venerated in Canterbury Cathedral.[citation needed] In 2003, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople brought some of the remains of St. Bartholomew to Baku as a gift to Azerbaijani Christians, and these remains are now kept in the Holy Myrrhbearers Cathedral.[35]

Saint Bartholomew has been credited with several miracles.[36]

Art and literature

In artistic depictions, Bartholomew is most commonly depicted holding his flayed skin and the knife with which he was skinned.[37] Of this a well known example is featured in Michelangelo's Last Judgement.

Not rarely, Bartholomew is shown draping his own skin around his body.[38] Moreover, representations of Bartholomew with a chained demon are common in Spanish painting.[38]

St Bartholomew Manuscript Leaf with the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, from a 'Laudario', by Pacino di Bonaguida c. 1340 Florence
The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Jusepe de Ribera (1634)

St. Bartholomew is the most prominent flayed Christian martyr;[39] During the 16th century, images of the flaying of Bartholomew were popular and this detail came to become a virtual constant of iconography.[38] [37] An echo of concentration on these details is found in medieval heraldry regarding Bartholomew, which depicts "flaying knives with silver blades and gold handles, on a red field."[40]

Saint Bartholomew is often depicted in lavish medieval manuscripts.[41] Bearing in mind that manuscripts are in fact made from flayed and manipulated skin, they hold a strong visual and cognitive association with the saint during the medieval period.[41]

Florentine artist Pacino di Bonaguida, depicts his martyrdom in a complex and striking composition in his Laudario of Sant'Agnese, a book of Italian Hymns produced for the Compagnia di Sant'Agnese c. 1340.[39] In the five-scene, narrative-based image, three torturers flay Bartholomew's legs and arms as he is immobilised and chained to a gate. On the right, the saint wears his own skin tied around his neck while he kneels in prayer before a rock, his severed head lying on the ground.

A further depiction is that of the Flaying of St. Bartholomew in the Luttrell Psalter c. 1325–1340. There, Bartholomew is depicted lying on a surgical table, surrounded by tormentors while he is flayed with golden knives.[42]

Martyrdoms of St. Francis, St. Claire, St. Bartholomew, and St. Catherine of Alexandria
Reliquary shutters with the Martyrdoms of St. Francis, St. Claire, St. Bartholomew, and St. Catherine of Alexandria by Guido da Siena

Due to the nature of his martyrdom, Bartholomew is the patron saint of tanners, plasterers, tailors, leatherworkers, bookbinders, farmers, housepainters, butchers, and glove makers.[43][38] In works of art the saint has been depicted being skinned by tanners, as in Guido da Siena's reliquary shutters with the Martyrdoms of St. Francis, St. Claire, St. Bartholomew, and St. Catherine of Alexandria.[44] Popular in Florence and other areas in Tuscany, the saint also came to be associated with salt, oil, and cheese merchants.[45]

The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew (1634) by Jusepe de Ribera depicts Bartholomew's final moments before being flayed alive. The viewer is meant to empathize with Bartholomew, whose body seemingly bursts through the surface of the canvas, and whose outstretched arms embrace a mystical light that illuminates his flesh. His piercing eyes, open mouth, and petitioning left hand bespeak an intense communion with the divine; yet this same hand draws our attention to the instruments of his torture, symbolically positioned in the shape of a cross. Transfixed by Bartholomew's active faith, the executioner seems to have stopped short in his actions, and his furrowed brow and partially illuminated face suggest a moment of doubt, with the possibility of conversion.[46] The representation of Bartholomew's demise in the National Gallery painting differs significantly from all other depictions by Ribera. By limiting the number of participants to the main protagonists of the story (the saint, his executioner, one of the priests who condemned him, and one of the soldiers who captured him), and presenting them half-length and filling the picture space, the artist rejected an active, movemented composition for one of intense psychological drama. The cusping along all four edges shows that the painting has not been cut down: Ribera intended the composition to be just such a tight, restricted presentation, with the figures cut off and pressed together.[47]

Although Bartholomew's death is commonly depicted in artworks of a religious nature, his story has also been used to represent anatomical depictions of the human body devoid of flesh. An example of this can be seen in Marco d'Agrate's St Bartholomew Flayed (1562) where Bartholomew is depicted wrapped in his own skin with every muscle, vein and tendon clearly visible, acting as a clear description of the muscles and structure of the human body.[48]

This idea has influenced some contemporary artists to create an artwork depicting an anatomical study of a human body is found amongst with Gunther Von Hagens's The Skin Man (2002) and Damien Hirst's Exquisite Pain (2006). Within Gunther Von Hagens's body of work called Body Worlds a figure reminiscent of Bartholomew holds up his skin. This figure is depicted in actual human tissues (made possible by Hagens's plastination process) to educate the public about the inner workings of the human body and to show the effects of healthy and unhealthy lifestyles.[49] In Exquisite Pain 2006, Damien Hirst depicts St Bartholomew with a high level of anatomical detail with his flayed skin draped over his right arm, a scalpel in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. The inclusion of scissors was inspired by Tim Burton's film Edward Scissorhands (1990).[50]

Bartholomew plays a part in Francis Bacon's Utopian tale New Atlantis, about a mythical isolated land, Bensalem, populated by a people dedicated to reason and natural philosophy. Some twenty years after the ascension of Christ the people of Bensalem find an ark floating off their shore. The ark contains a letter as well as the books of the Old and New Testaments. The letter is from Bartholomew the Apostle and declares that an angel told him to set the ark and its contents afloat. Thus the scientists of Bensalem receive the revelation of the Word of God.[51]


The festival in August has been a traditional occasion for markets and fairs, such as the Bartholomew Fair which was held in Smithfield, London, from the Middle Ages,[52] and which served as the scene for Ben Jonson's 1614 homonymous comedy.

St Bartholomew's Street Fair is held in Crewkerne, Somerset, annually at the start of September.[53] The fair dates back to Saxon times and the major traders' market was recorded in the Domesday Book. St Bartholomew's Street Fair, Crewkerne is reputed to have been granted its charter in the time of Henry III (1207–1272). The earliest surviving court record was made in 1280, which can be found in the British Library.[citation needed]

In Islam

The Qur'anic account of the disciples of Jesus does not include their names, numbers, or any detailed accounts of their lives. Muslim exegesis, however, more or less agrees with the New Testament list and holds that the disciples included Peter, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, Andrew, James, Jude, James the Less, John and Simon the Zealot.[54]

See also



  1. ^ Aramaic: ܒܪ ܬܘܠܡܝ; Ancient Greek: Βαρθολομαῖος, romanizedBartholomaîos; Latin: Bartholomaeus; Armenian: Բարթողիմէոս; Coptic: ⲃⲁⲣⲑⲟⲗⲟⲙⲉⲟⲥ; Hebrew: בר-תולמי, romanizedbar-Tôlmay; Arabic: بَرثُولَماوُس, romanizedBarthulmāwus


  1. ^ "Saint Bartholomew | Christian Apostle | Britannica". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  2. ^ Sacred Lives, Batholomew
  3. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck ,2000,page 152: "... Bartholomew preached to the Indians and died at Albanopolis in Armenia). It was condemned in the Gelasian decree, referred ..."
  4. ^ The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament by Frank Viola,page 170: "... one of the Twelve, is beaten and crucified in Albanopolis, Armenia. ..."
  5. ^ Curtin, D. P. (July 2015). Jacobite Arab Synaxarium- Volume I. Dalcassian Publishing Company. ISBN 9781088061237.
  6. ^ Green, McKnight & Marshall 1992, p. 180.
  7. ^ What Do We Know about Nathanael – the Disciple without Deceit? - Bible Study Tools
  8. ^ Meet Nathanael in the Bible, the 'True Israelite' - Learn Religions
  9. ^ Raymond F. Collins, "Nathanael 3," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4 (New York: Doubleday), p. 1031.
  10. ^ a b c Butler & Burns 1998, p. 232.
  11. ^ 10:1–4
  12. ^ 3:13–19
  13. ^ 6:12–16
  14. ^ 1:13
  15. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Micropædia. vol. 1, p. 924. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-85229-633-9.
  16. ^ a b "Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India". Nasranis. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  17. ^ Gilman, Ian; Klimkeit, Hans-Joachim (11 January 2013). Christians in Asia before 1500. Routledge. ISBN 9781136109782.
  18. ^ In the Life of the Apostle Bartholomew Baku is identified as Alban. Some historians assume that Baku during the existence of Caucasian Albania was called Albanopolis.
  19. ^ Teunis 2003, p. 306.
  20. ^ Curtin, D. P. (January 2014). The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew: Greek, Arabic, and Armenian Versions. Dalcassian Publishing Company. ISBN 9798868951473.
  21. ^ "The Condition of the Armenian Historical Monuments in Turkey". Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  22. ^ "Bakıda məzarı tapılan İsa peyğəmbərin apostolu Varfolomey". Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Проповедь Святого Апостола Варфоломея". Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  24. ^ "Apostle Bartholomew of the Twelve". Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 11 June 2023. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  25. ^ "Return of the Relics of the Apostle Bartholomew from Anastasiopolis to Lipari". Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 21 July 2023. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  26. ^ "Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praised Twelve Apostles". Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 30 June 2023. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  27. ^ "24 iyun – Bakı şəhərinin səmavi qoruyucusu Həvari Varfolomeyin Xatirə Günü".
  28. ^ "Azərbaycanda yaşayan pravoslavlar Müqəddəs Varfolomeyi anıblar".
  30. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  31. ^ Damo-Santiago 2014.
  32. ^ Smith & Cheetham 1875, p. 179.
  33. ^ Gregory, De Gloria Martyrum, i.33.
  34. ^ Attwater & John 1995.
  36. ^ "Golden Legend: Life of St. Bartholomew the Apostle". Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  37. ^ a b Crane 2014, p. 5.
  38. ^ a b c d Giorgi 2003, p. 51.
  39. ^ a b Mittman & Sciacca 2017, pp. viii, 141.
  40. ^ Post 2018, p. 12.
  41. ^ a b Kay 2006, pp. 35–74.
  42. ^ Mittman & Sciacca 2017, pp. 42.
  43. ^ Bissell 2016.
  44. ^ Decker & Kirkland-Ives 2017, p. ii.
  45. ^ West 1996.
  46. ^ "The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew". Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  47. ^ DeGrazia & Garberson 1996, p. 410.
  48. ^ "The statue of St Bartholomew in the Milan Duomo". Duomo di Milano. 29 June 2018. Archived from the original on 31 October 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  49. ^ "Philosophy". Body Worlds. Archived from the original on 9 June 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  50. ^ Dorkin 2003.
  51. ^ Bacon 1942.
  52. ^ Cavendish 2005.
  53. ^ "About the Fair". Crewkerne Charter Fair, Somerset – (Formerly St.Bartholomew's Street Fair). Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  54. ^ Noegel & Wheeler 2002, p. 86: Muslim exegesis identifies the disciples of Jesus as Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon


Further reading