Art Spotlight: Bartholomew the Flayed


St. Bartholomew Rob Castro/Moment Open/Getty

Here at STBYM, we've discussed martyrs, cenobites and torture -- and yet I've yet to feature Marco d'Agrate's striking 1562 depiction of St. Bartholomew stoically draped in his own flayed skin.

(Wikimedia Commons)

One of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, Bartholomew allegedly met his martyred end in Albanopolis, Armenia during the first century C.E. By some accounts, he was merely beheaded, but popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified upside-down.

You'll also spot his flayed skin in Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, pictured to the right. Interestingly enough, depictions of the saint often echo that of the Greek hero Hercules, who often holds the skin of the Nemean Lion.

You'll find this statue of St. Bartholomew within the Duomo Cathedral of Milan. The photo below reveals the face and scalp slung behind him. It's quite a stunning statue -- one that repulsed and fascinated author Mark Twain during his travels. There's something perfectly inhuman about the depiction of his impossible body.

St. Bartholomew
Rob Castro/Moment Open/Getty

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.