Of all the apostles, Bartholomew suffered a particularly painful martyrdom. He was flayed, skinned alive, then beheaded.

“Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.'” – John 1:48-49

Catholic pious tradition holds he was martyred in Albanapolis by King Astyages for having converted King Polymius of Armenia to the Faith.

In Catholic art and literature, Bartholomew is the most prominent flayed martyr. In the 16th century, depictions of the flayed apostle himself became the most common symbol for the saint.

Bartholomew was often depicted with a knife, signifying the one used to flay the saint, holding his own skin. Not only was he used as a subject in a religious context, but also to represent anatomical descriptions of the human body in a medical and academic setting.

Perhaps the most macabre, morbid, and realistic depiction is Saint Bartholomew Flayed by Italian sculptor Marco d’Agrate in 1562. The sculpture shows the martyr holding his own skin, each muscle, bone, and tendon articulated in stone. Today, it resides in the Duomo di Milano in Lombardy.

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