Saint Barthélemy l'Apôtre : Histoire et Légende-RELICS

Saint Bartholomew the Apostle: History and Legend

Saint Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael in the Gospels, is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Its history is intertwined with legends and religious stories that have spanned the centuries, shaping the perception of the faithful across the world. In this article, we will explore the life, martyrdom and legacy of Saint Bartholomew.

Life and Ministry

The life and ministry of Saint Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael in the Gospels, is steeped in mystery and faith. Mentioned in the lists of the apostles, Bartholomew is often associated with Philip, another apostle of Jesus, and his role in major events in Jesus' life is significant, although details of his life before meeting Jesus remain obscure.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the name Bartholomew does not appear explicitly, but he is generally identified with Nathanael, mentioned in the Gospel of John. Nathanael is described as a man sincere in his faith, probably a scholar of the Scriptures, for he is astonished when Philip tells him that he has found "the one of whom Moses wrote in the law, and the prophets also: Jesus, son of Joseph, of Nazareth ". It is in this context that Nathanael expresses his skepticism about the origin of Jesus, asking: "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

The meeting between Nathanael and Jesus is described as a transcendent moment in the Gospel of John. Philip invites Nathanael to meet Jesus, and when Jesus sees him approaching, he greets him saying, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” This divine recognition astonishes Nathanael, who asks Jesus how he knows him. Jesus responds by alluding to a time when he saw Nathanael under the fig tree, even before Philip invited him to meet him. This revelation convinces Nathanael of the divine nature of Jesus, and he proclaims: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel!”

This initial meeting with Jesus marks the beginning of Bartholomew's ministry. He becomes a disciple and apostle of Christ, testifying to his faith in him and sharing his message with others. Although the Gospels do not provide specific details of his subsequent actions or role, he is often considered to have been present during many major events in Jesus' life, participating in his teachings, miracles, and his crucifixion.

Thus, the life and ministry of Saint Bartholomew, marked by his initial encounter with Jesus and his commitment as a disciple, are an example of sincere faith and dedication to Christ. Her recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and her willingness to follow him illustrate the importance of personally encountering the divine and responding to that call with an open heart and unwavering faith.

The martyr

After Pentecost, Saint Bartholomew undertook ardent missionary work, spreading the Gospel to various regions, including Armenia, Mesopotamia, and India, according to Christian tradition. He is considered one of the first missionaries to bring the message of Christianity to Armenia, a feat that is said to have resulted in the conversion of King Polemon and many others to the Christian faith. His zeal for sharing the word of God and his desire to implant the Christian faith in distant lands marked his ministry and forged his destiny.

However, Bartholomew's commitment to evangelism did not come without opposition. His missionary work aroused hostility from local authorities and defenders of pagan cults. Faced with fierce resistance, Bartholomew continued to preach the Gospel with determination, refusing to renounce his faith despite the dangers that awaited him.

Christian tradition records that Bartholomew was eventually arrested by the authorities. His arrest was followed by brutal and inhumane torture inflicted because of his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. Accounts differ on the precise details of his martyrdom, but one particularly poignant tradition relates that he was skinned alive. This form of extreme torture, attributed to Albanopolis, in present-day Turkey, symbolizes the cruelty of the persecutions suffered by many early Christians.

The image of Saint Bartholomew holding his own skin has become iconic, depicting his martyrdom in a striking and poignant way. This brutal act, carried out in the 1st century CE, highlights the violence and persecution that early Christians faced in their commitment to their faith.

Despite the suffering endured, the martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew testifies to his unwavering fidelity to Christ and his dedication to spreading the Gospel until the ultimate sacrifice of his life. His example still inspires believers around the world today to persevere in their faith and to bear witness to God's love, even in the face of the most extreme adversity.

Legacy and Veneration

The memory of Saint Bartholomew, despite his brutal martyrdom, has spanned the centuries, enduring throughout Christian traditions and arousing deep veneration throughout the world. As a saint and martyr, he is honored in many Christian Churches, his feast day being celebrated on August 24 in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. This date marks a time of commemoration and reflection on his life, his sacrifice and his spiritual legacy.

Beyond his recognition as a universal saint, Saint Bartholomew became the patron saint of various groups and professions, including oxhiders and tanners. This association stems from his alleged martyrdom, where he was allegedly skinned alive, making him a symbol of courage and resilience in the face of adversity. Tanners, who work with animal skins, see him as a protector and intercessor in their trade, invoking his example to find strength and protection in their work.

Additionally, Saint Bartholomew is also revered as the patron saint of certain regions, including Georgia and Armenia. His close connection to Armenia, where he is considered one of the first missionaries to bring Christianity, reinforces his status as that nation's patron saint. His presence in the traditions and piety of these regions testifies to his lasting impact and spiritual importance to the faithful who revere him.

Saint Bartholomew's legacy transcends geographic and cultural boundaries, inspiring believers throughout the ages. His life, his martyrdom and his veneration continue to nourish the faith of the faithful and remind us of the importance of Christian witness, even in the darkest moments. As a patron saint and martyr, Saint Bartholomew remains an iconic spiritual figure, providing inspiration and protection to those who seek light and strength in their walk of faith.


The figure of Saint Bartholomew embodies dedication and fidelity to the Christian faith, as well as the ultimate sacrifice for one's beliefs. His story, although strewn with legends, continues to inspire believers around the world, reminding us of the importance of persevering in faith despite adversities. As an apostle and martyr, Saint Bartholomew remains an example of courage and determination for future generations.

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