Images of Medieval Art and Architecture
Text from Sacred and Legendary Art
Third Editon: London, 1911
In Italian, San Bartolomeo
French, St. Barthélemi
Saint's Day- August 24
As St. Bartholomew is nowhere mentioned in the canonical books except
by name in enumerating the apostles, there been large scope for legendary
story, but in works of Art he is not a popular saint. According to one
tradition, he was the son of a husbandman; according to another, lie was
the son of prince Ptolomeus. After the ascension of Christ, traveled into
India, even to the confines of the habitable world, carrying with him the
Gospel of St. Matthew; returning thence, he preached in Armenia and
Cilicia; and coming to the city of Albanopolis, he was condemned to death
as a Christian: lie was first flayed and then crucified.
In single figures and devotional pictures
sometimes carries in one hand a book, the Gospel of St. Matthew but his
peculiar attribute is a large knife the instrument of his martyrdom.
The legends describe him as having a quantity of strong black hair and a
bushy grizzled beard; and this portrait being followed very literally by
the old German and Flemish painters gives him, with his large knife, the
look of a butcher.
In Italian pictures, though of a milder and more dignified appearance, he
has frequently black hair; and sometimes dark and resolute features; yet
the same legend describes him as of a cheerful countenance, wearing a
purple robe and attended by angels. Sometimes St. Bartholomew has his own
skin hanging over his arm, as among the saints in Michaelangelo's Last
Judgment, where he is holding forth his skin in one hand, and grasping his knife in the other....
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Updated by Jane Vadnal, February, 1998