He lived in: 1st Century AD
He died in: 100 A.D in Armenia
Feast Day: 24th August
“How do you know me?” said Bartholomew. Jesus replied: “I knew you when you were under a fig tree, even before Philip called you”.
The First Meeting
Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel of Cana was born in Palaestina during the 1st Century A.D. He was first introduced to Jesus by St Philip. Bartholomew was most sceptical about meeting Him. This was due to the fact that in Bartholomew’s opinion, Jesus’ home town of Nazareth was a back-water and had said previously that nothing great ever came out of the place, so how could this man who preaches, be anything special. However, Philip further encouraged him by saying:
“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”.
Despite his wariness, he went along and was amazed with what he saw and heard. Jesus seemed to know so much about him. They had never met before, yet He was so familiar with all aspects of his life and most astonishing of all, was able to reveal that He knew already that Bartholomew had been reluctant to come and see Him.
Nathaniel asked Him how did Jesus know him? He replied that he was able to describe not only Bartholomew’s character and in fact, the state of his soul, whilst confirming where Bartholomew lived in Cana.
The story of Ananias has been told previously in the Blog, but the meeting of Bartholomew and Christ is the same basic principle as when people encounter Him in different ways today. Part of the salvation experience is to realise that Jesus already knows who we are, what we have done, and for all the good things and bad things, He loves us anyway.
Despite being astonished about what Jesus had said, Bartholomew was not frightened. Shortly afterwards, he believed and proclaimed Him as the “Son of God” the “King of Israel” and our Saviour Jesus Christ. In turn Jesus declared that Bartholomew was a good man and was open to the word of God.
Then Christ told Bartholomew that in time he would see great things:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”.
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, which Bartholomew witnessed, he travelled as an apostle, missionary and evangelist to Iraq, Iran and the Black Sea, reaching as far as India. Tradition says that when he arrived in India he was carrying a translation of St Matthew’s Gospel.
It is recorded that Bartholomew converted the King of Armenia to Christianity. He also went into the temple and removed all the false idols that the people had been worshipping. This act so enraged the King’s older brother, he ordered Bartholomew to be arrested, beaten and executed.
There are several descriptions of how he was executed – some say he was beheaded, or had the skin removed from his body or was crucified upside down like St Peter. However he died, he died as a martyr for Christ.
Bartholomew is depicted in Christian iconography with a tanner’s knife which is used to remove the skin of animals. In Michelangelo’s painting: The Last Judgement, Bartholomew is shown with his skin draped over his arm.
According to tradition, the relics of St Bartholomew were taken from Armenia to the Isle of Lipari near Sicily in the seventh century. From there they were moved to Compania, northeast of Naples in 809 A.D. Finally, they came to rest in 983 in the Church of Saint Bartholomew-in-the-Island on the Isle of Tiber in Rome.
He is mentioned four times in the New Testament by Matthew, Mark, Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles. During his life he carried out many miracles during his life.
Above, Pope Francis prays before the altar at St Bartholomew’s Church on the Isle of Tiber in Rome.
Shortly after his martyrdom he became a Saint. There was no official canonisation process in place at the time.
As a martyr, St Bartholomew forgave his persecutors, like Jesus on the Cross. This is the strength of love.
Thank you for reading and God Bless,