Monday, August 22, 2011

Bartholomew: the Unknown Apostle ?

Artists have been fascinated by St Bartholomew, the unknown Apostle

He is not mentioned or described in the Synoptic Gospels. All we know about him is in the Gospel of St John

He is called "the man of no deceit" by Christ. In Scripture he was called Nathaniel:

"43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

(John 1: 43 - 50)

Bartholomew was, according to John, the first apostle who was the subject of Christ`s power. At first he is suspicious and cynical then on meeting Christ becomes his firm and faithful disciple.

His fate was that of a cruel and vicious martyrdom.

Here is his great statue in St John Lateran by the great Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666 - 1719), one of the statues of the twelve apostles which in its time was one of the great artistic wonders of its age. Here we see the hunting knife used to kill the Apostle and the Apostle`s flayed skin:

Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666 - 1719)
St Bartholomew
Height 425 cm
San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

In New York we can see a much smaller but still impressive version of this work, perhaps even of parts not readily visible to visitors to St John Lateran:

After a composition by Pierre Legros II (1666–1719)
Saint Bartholomew
after 1738
H. 34 in. (86.4 cm.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The relics of the Apostle are in the ancient Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome.

The ancient church was especially designated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2002 as a place for the memorial of the 20th century and later martyrs. In 1993 it was entrusted by him to the Community of Sant'Egidio,

Six altars commemorate the Christians who fell under the totalitarian violence of Communism, Nazism, those killed in America, Asia and Oceania, in Spain and Mexico, and in Africa,

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