Friday, August 24, 2012

Saint Bartholomew

St Bartholomew statue at St John Lateran, Rome

All that is known of St Bartholomew with certainty is that he is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts as one of the twelve apostles. His name means "son of Tolomai" (or Ptolemy) and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John’s Gospel, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an "Israelite...incapable of deceit, a person in whom there is no guile." He was a close friend of St Philip, because they are always mentioned together.
After the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India. Other traditions record him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Along with St Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the st century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. However, it is in Greater Armenia that Bartholomew saw his end where he was flayed or skinned and beheaded by King Astyages. The famous Last Judgment painting by Michelangelo shows St Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is recognizable as Michelangelo's, as if the artist wanted to show how much he suffered under Pope Julius, who wanted the Last Judgment finished sooner.

Michelangelo's Last Judgment - St Bartholomew
Of the many miracles performed by St. Bartholomew before and after his death, two very popular ones are known by the townsfolk of the small island of Lipari, off the coast of Italy. When St. Bartholomew's body was found off the shore, the Bishop ordered many men to take the body to the Cathedral. When this failed due to its extreme weight, the Bishop then sent out the children. The children easily brought the body ashore.
The people of the island of Lipari celebrate his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town during a procession, it suddenly got very heavy and had to be set down. They managed to lift it but had to put it down a few more times. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all of the townspeople would have been killed.
During World War II, the Italian Fascist regime looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of the Saint and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only several ounces. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many pounds of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down.

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