Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: August 24
Ripples of sunshine surround the name and figure of the apostle
Bartholomew, whose full name was Nathanael Bartholomew. Every crown has
at least one happy-go-lucky character, and among the Twelve this was
Bartholomew. The Lord Himself rejoiced to see this young man without
guile enter His circle. Even today the name “Nathanael” suggests to us
an agreeable and inoffensive person. Bartholomew lived on the brighter
side of life, unruffled, serene, cheerful.
Again we are confronted with the fact that we know almost nothing
about this Apostle from Scripture. However the few sentences that we do
hear is all that is needed. He was probably a fisherman by profession.
Bartholomew had black, curly hair, which covered his ears. His
complexion was fair. He had big eyes and a rather large nose. His
stature was well-balanced, not too small and not too large. He wore a
white robe trimmed in crimson, and also a white cloak, the hem of which
was embellished with red jewels. This apostle was seemingly reared in a
very wealthy atmosphere. Other passages recounted that Bartholomew kept
his costly garment and even dared to wear it when he followed Christ.
From the Master himself we learn that Bartholomew is a true Israelite
and that there is no duplicity in him. When Bartholomew asked Jesus how
He knew him, Jesus said: "I saw you under the fig tree." This statement
so stunned Bartholomew that he exclaimed "Rabbi (Teacher), you are the
Son of God; you are the King of Israel." No other Apostles by far
expressed greater belief in Jesus upon their first encounter as
Bartholomew. Jesus stated it exactly right. This apostle was devout,
holy and a true Israelite. Imagine calling someone a king and never
having seen him before! How could anyone call Jesus the Son of God
unless his mind and heart was completely enraptured by the love of God.
Jesus swept Bartholomew completely off his feet by revealing to him some
personal information that for him was truly amazing. During this brief
meeting with Bartholomew, Jesus told him that he would experience
greater things than with this first meeting.
Bartholomew did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus
appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection. In
the four lists of the Twelve in Holy Scripture this apostle was always
called Bartholomew. In the Gospels his name was mentioned in the sixth
place, immediately after his friend, Philip.
He had converted many to Christ in that region and had suffered many
toils and difficulties, he came to Great Armenia. King Polymius, was so
angered by him that he gave the gruesome order to have Bartholomew
skinned alive and then beheaded. In this martyrdom he gave his soul back
to God. The tradition concerning the flaying of this missionary in
Armenia was spread by the Greeks, Latins and Syrians. Skinning alive was
a form of Persian capital punishment, and therefore it points to Persia
as the place of the death of the apostle.
For many years the whereabouts of the relics of the apostle were
unknown. In 983, through the maneuvering of Kaiser Otto III, they
finally found their way to Rome. Here they were placed in the Church of
Bartholomew on a small island in the Tiber. As late as 1238 the skull of
this apostle was brought to Germany, to Frankfurt on the main river, and
preserved in the Cathedral of Bartholomew
In art pictures of Bartholomew with a knife as his symbol. It was
with a knife that he was flayed. Others, such as Bernini in his statue
of Bartholomew (which stands in the Lateran), portray him holding his
skin over his arm as he would carry a mantle. Michelangelo also created
a very expressive portrait of the flayed apostle.