Bartholomew was born at Cana in Galilee and was the son of a farmer. He was living in Bethsaida. Bartholomew is sometimes referred to as “Nathanael” in the gospel. Philip was an old friend of Nathanael’s.
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 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.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 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.”
Bartholomew preaching the Gospel
The Apostle Bartholomew by Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1308-11
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy
In fulfilling The Great Commission, Bartholomew preached the Gospel in India. Then he preached in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia and Lycaonia. Finally he went to Greater Armenia. Both Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century.
Bartholomew was flayed (skinned alive) and beheaded at the command of King Astyages at Albanopolis (Armenia), for converting his brother Polumius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity.
Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Jusepe de Ribera, c. 1639
Tomb of Saint Bartholomew
Bartholomew’s body was first carried to the island of Lipara, then to Benevento, and finally brought to Rome by the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III, to the Island of the Tiber.
Saint Bartholomew’s remains were installed in St. Bartholomew Basilica within the red porphyry basin that supports the main altar.
Tomb of St. Bartholomew in the red porphyry basin supporting the altar on Isola Tiberina in Rome
Statue of St. Bartholomew holding his own skin
Statue of St. Bartholomew by Marco D’Agrate, Milan Cathedral, photo by Andrzej Otrebski (2010)
Saint Bartholomew’s feast day is August 24.