My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of Heaven and Earth
(from Psalm 121, traditionally said on Saint Bartholomew’s Day)
Bartholomew or Bar-Tolmai, son of Tolmai is often identified as Nathaniel which means “gift of God”. One of the twelve Apostles, he is believed to have made his way to Armenia where, Christian tradition holds, he converted King Polymius to Christianity. Fearing a Roman backlash, Astayages, the King’s brother captured Bartholomew as he was preaching, tortured him (which Bartholomew endured). Afterwards, he was subjected to an especially grim death; flaying and beheading. Some suggest that he was skinned alive, whilst other say he was crucified upside down.
Usually depicted with a sword (often curved) and a whip or instruments of torture, Bartholomew is the Patron Saint of Butchers and Tanners.
As far back as 1133, Smithfield, London, a great fair was held in the late summer to raise funds for St. Bartholomew’s Hospital which had been founded by Henry I’s jester. Records tell us that although there was much revelry and raucous behaviour, the fair continued until 1855 when it was finally banned as it was considered an offence against morals and public dignity!
Some of our current customs and traditions have been derived from this fair, one of which is the forerunner of toffee apples, whereupon windfall apples were skewered and dipped in honey; it isn’t surprising then that Bartholomew is also the Patron Saint of mead makers, bees and beekeeping!
The following hymn is sometimes used as a Processional Hymn on Saint Bartholomew’s Day
Saints of God! Lo, Jesu’s people,
Age to age your glory tell;
In his name for us ye laboured,
Now in bliss eternal dwell.
Twelve poor men, by Christ anointed,
Braved the rich, the wise, the great,
All the world counts dear rejecting,
Rapt in their apostolate.
Thus the earth their death-wounds purchased,
Hallowed by the blood therefrom,
On her bosom bore the nations,
Laved, illumined – Christendom.
On this feast, Almighty Father,
May we praise thee with the Son,
Evermore his love confessing,
Who from Both with Both is One.
Words: Athelstan Riley (1858—1945), an acrostic on the name Saint Bartholomew
Gott Will’s Machen “Saints of God! Lo, Jesu’s People”
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The feature image for this post is “Bartholomew the Apostle. Detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale. Ravena Italy.jpg”, Wikicommons (P.D.)