Matthias the Apostle
St Matthias by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1611
Apostle and Martyr
Born1st century AD
Judaea, Roman Empire
Diedc. AD 80
Jerusalem, Judaea
Venerated in
AttributesAxe, Christian martyrdom
PatronageAlcoholics; carpenters; tailors; Great Falls-Billings, Montana; Trier; smallpox; hope; perseverance

Matthias (/məˈθəs/; Koine Greek: Μαθθίας, Maththías [maθˈθ], from Hebrew מַתִּתְיָהוּ Mattiṯyāhū; Coptic: ⲙⲁⲑⲓⲁⲥ; died c. AD 80) was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, chosen by God through the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following the latter's betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent death.[1] His calling as an apostle is unique, in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus (who had already ascended into heaven), and it came before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church.


There is no mention of a Matthias among the lists of disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels, but according to Acts, he had been with Jesus from his baptism by John until his Ascension. In the days following, Peter proposed that the assembled disciples, who numbered about 120, nominate two men to replace Judas. They chose Joseph called Barsabas (whose surname was Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all [men], shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."[2] Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was numbered with the eleven apostles.[3]

No further information about Matthias is to be found in the canonical New Testament. Even his name is variable: the Syriac version of Eusebius calls him throughout not Matthias but "Tolmai", not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai), who was one of the twelve original Apostles; Clement of Alexandria refers once to Zacchaeus in a way which could be read as suggesting that some identified him with Matthias;[4] the Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas; Adolf Bernhard Christoph Hilgenfeld thinks he is the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John.


The tradition of the Greeks says that St. Matthias spread Christianity around Cappadocia and on the coasts of the Caspian Sea, residing chiefly near the port Issus.[5]

According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judaea, then in Aethiopia (by the region of Colchis, now in modern-day Georgia) and was crucified.[3] An extant Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Aethiopia.[a][6] A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in the modern Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at that site.

The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition: "Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun."[7]

Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the local populace, and then beheaded (cf. Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclesiastique des six premiers siècles, I, 406–7).[7] According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.

Clement of Alexandria observed (Stromateis vi.13.):

Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them. But they were capable of becoming apostles on being chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues. Matthias, accordingly, who was not chosen along with them, on showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle, is substituted for Judas.


Surviving fragments of the lost Gospel of Matthias[8] attribute it to Matthias, but Early Church Fathers attributed it to heretical writings in the 2nd century.

Saint Matthias (Good Friday processions in Baliwag, 1863)


His reliquary in Padua.
Statue of Saint Matthias by Hermann Schievelbein at the roof of the Helsinki Cathedral.

The feast of Saint Matthias was included in the Roman Calendar in the 11th century and celebrated on the sixth day to the Calends of March (24 February usually, but 25 February in leap years). In the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, his feast was transferred to 14 May, so as not to celebrate it in Lent but instead in Eastertide close to the Solemnity of the Ascension,[9] the event after which the Acts of the Apostles recounts that Matthias was selected to be ranked with the Twelve Apostles.

The Eastern Rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrate his feast on 9 August. Yet the Western Rite parishes of the Orthodox Church continues the old Roman Rite of 24 and 25 February in leap years.[citation needed]

The Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, as well as other older common prayer books in the Anglican Communion,[10] celebrates Matthias on 24 February. According to the newer Common Worship liturgy, Matthias is remembered in the Church of England with a Festival on 14 May,[11] although he may be celebrated on 24 February, if desired.[12] In the Episcopal Church as well as some in the Lutheran Church, including the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church–Canada, his feast remains on 24 February.[13] In Evangelical Lutheran Worship, used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the feast date for Matthias is on 14 May.[14]

It is claimed that St Matthias the Apostle's remains were brought to Italy through Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great); part of these relics were interred in the Abbey of Santa Giustina, Padua, and the remaining in the Abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany. According to Greek sources, the remains of the apostle are buried in the castle of Gonio-Apsaros, Georgia.[citation needed][15]


  1. ^ The Ethiopia/Aethiopia mentioned here as well as in the quote from the "Synopsis of Dorotheus" is that region identified with an ancient Egyptian military colony in the Caucasus mountains on the river Alazani.

See also

Further reading



  1. ^ Acts 1
  2. ^ Acts 1:24–25
  3. ^ a b Jacque Eugène. Jacquier, "St. Matthias." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 August 2014
  4. ^ Stromata Book 4 Ch 6 The New Advent Translation says "It is said, therefore, that Zaccheus, or, according to some, Matthew, the chief of the publicans, on hearing that the Lord had deigned to come to him, said, Lord, and if I have taken anything by false accusation, I restore him fourfold;" but the Greek has Ζακχαῖον τοίνυν, οἳ δὲ Ματθίαν φασίν, ἀρχιτελώνην, ἀκηκοότα τοῦ κυρίου καταξιώσαντος πρὸς αὐτὸν γενέσθαι, ἰδοὺ τὰ ἡμίση τῶν ὑπαρχόντων μου δίδωμι ἐλεημοσύνην φάναι, κύριε, καὶ εἴ τινός τι ἐσυκοφάντησα, τετραπλοῦν ἀποδίδωμι. ἐφ' οὗ καὶ ὁ σωτὴρ εἶπεν· can just about be read as "by some said to be Matthias")
  5. ^ Butler, Alban. "Saint Matthias, Apostle", The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, D. & J. Sadlier, & Company, 1864
  6. ^ See "Egyptian Colony and Language in the Caucasus and its Anthropological Relations," by Hyde Clarke, 1874,
  7. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJacquier, Jacque Eugène (1911). "St. Matthias". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  8. ^ "The Traditions of Matthias". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 92; cf. p. 117
  10. ^ "The Prayer Book Society of Canada " The Calendar". The Prayer Book Society of Canada. 16 October 2013.
  11. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  12. ^ "web site". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Misc. Info. on Minor Festivals – The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod". Archived from the original on 6 January 2011.
  14. ^ Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2007), 15
  15. ^ Kakhidze, Emzar (2008). "Apsaros: A Roman Fort in Southwestern Georgia". In Bilde, Pia Guldager; Petersen, Jane Hjarl (eds.). Meetings of Cultures – Between Conflicts and Coexistence. Black Sea Studies. 8. Aarhus University Press. pp. 303–332..