Saint Bartholomew

Of S. Bartholomew the Apostle

S. Bartholomew, the apostle, went into India, which is in the end of the world. And therein he entered into a temple where an idol was which was named Astaroth, and he, as a pilgrim, abode there. In that idol dwelt a fiend that said that he could heal all manner sicknesses, but he lied, for he could not make them whole, but might better them but for a while. And the temple was full of sick people, and could have no answer of that idol, wherefore they went in to another city whereas another idol was worshipped named Berith, and they demanded him wherefore Astaroth gave to them no answer. And Berith said: Your god is bound with chains of fire that he neither dare draw breath ne speak after that Bartholomew, the apostle of God, entered into the temple. And they said to him: Who is that Bartholomew? And the devil said: He is the friend of God Almighty, and he is come into this province for to avoid all the gods of India. And then they said: Tell us some tokens and signs that we may know him and find him. And the devil said to them: He hath his hairs black and crisp, his skin white, eyes great, his nostrils even and straipht, his beard long and hoar a little, and of a straight and seemly stature. He is clad in a white coat, and a white mantle, which in every corner hath gems of purple and precious stones therein. And it is sith twenty-six years that his clothes never waxed old ne foul. He prayeth and worshippeth God on his knees a hundred times a day, and a hundred times by night. The angels go with him, which never suffer him to be weary ne to be an hungered, he is always of like semblant, glad and joyous. He seeth all things tofore, he knoweth all things, he speaketh all manner languages, and understandeth them, and he knoweth well what I say to you. And when ye seek him, if he will he may show himself to you, and if him list not, not shall ye find him. And I pray you, when ye find him, that ye pray him that he come not hither, that his angels do not to me as they have done to my fellow. Then they went and sought him diligently and busily two days, and found him not.

On a day, one that was beset with a devil cried, and said: Apostle of God, Bartholomew, thy prayers burn me. And the apostle said: Hold thou thy peace and come thence. And anon he was delivered. And when Polemius, king of that region, heard this thing, which had a daughter lunatic, he sent to the apostle, praying that he would come to him and heal his daughter. And when the apostle was come to him and saw that she was bound with chains, and bit all them that went to her, he commanded to unbind her. And the ministers durst not go to her. And he said: I hold the devil fast bound that was in her, and therefore be not afeard; and then anon she was unbound and delivered. And then would have presented to the apostle camels charged with gold and silver and precious stones, but he could not be found in no manner. And on the morrow following, the apostle appeared to the king, alone in his chamber, and said to him: Wherefore soughtest thou me yesterday with gold and silver and precious stones? Those things be necessary to them that covet things worldly, but I desire no things terrien ne carnal. Then S. Bartholomew began to say many things, and inform the king of our redemption, and among other things how Jesu Christ vanquished the devil by marvellous and convenable puissance, justice, and wisdom. For it was convenable that he that overcame the son made of the earth, that was Adam, while he was yet a virgin, should be overcome of the son of the virgin. He overcame him then mightily, when he threw him puissantly out of his lordship which had thrown out by force our forefather. And thus, as he that overcometh some tyrant, sendeth his fellows tofore for to set up his sign over all, and to cast out tyrants, in like wise Jesu Christ sent his messengers over all for to take away the honour and the worshipping of the devil righteously. For it is right that he that vanquished man by eating, and held him, that he should be overcome by a man fasting, and hold man no longer. For it is rightful that he which by the art of the devil was despised, that by the art of Jesu Christ he should be vanquished. And like as the falcon taketh the bird, right so took he Jesu Christ in desert because he fasted, and would assay if he had hunger; and if he had hunger, that he might have deceived him by meat, and if he had no hunger, then knew he well without doubt that he was God. But he might not know him, for he had hunger, and consented nothing to him ne to his temptations.

And when he had preached the sacraments of the faith, he said to the king that, if he would receive baptism, he would show him his god bounden with chains. And the day following, when the bishops sacrificed within the palace of the king, the devils began to cry and say: Cease, ye cursed wretches, to do sacrifice to us, lest ye suffer worse than I that am bounden with chains of fire by the angels of Jesu Christ, whom the Jews crucified and supposed to have brought to death. Which death, that is our queen, he hath imprisoned, and hath bound our prince in chains of fire. And anon then they set cords on the image for to pull down and overthrow the idol, but they might not. The apostle then commanded the devil that he should issue and go out and break the idol all to pieces, and he issued out and destroyed and brake all the idols of the temple. And anon the apostle made his prayer, saying: O God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, which hast given to us such power that we enlumine the blind, and cleanse the lepers, I desire and require that this multitude might be healed, and they all answered, Amen. And forthwith all the sick people were cured and healed. And then the apostle did do hallow and dedicate that temple, and commanded the devil to go in to the desert. Then the angel of our Lord appeared there, and flew round about the temple, and ensigned and graved with his finger the sign of the cross in four corners of the temple, saying: Our Lord saith this: Like as I have you cured and made you clean of all your sickness, so let this temple be made clean of all filth and ordure. but I shall show him of all filth and ordure. But I shall show him to you that dwelleth therein tofore, to whom the apostle hath commanded to go in to desert. And doubt ye not to see him, but make in your forehead such a sign as I have graven in these stones. And then he showed to them an Ethiopian more black than thunder, the face sharp, the beard long, his hairs hanging unto his feet, his eyes flaming as hot fire, and cast out sparkles of fire, and casting out of his mouth flames of sulphur, and his hands bound with chains of fire behind his back. And then the angel said to him: Because that thou hast heard that the apostle hath commanded, and hast broken all the idols of the temple, I shall unbind thee; go in to such a place whereas dwelleth no man, and be thou there unto the day of judgment. And when he was unbound he went his way with a great braying and howling, and the angel of our Lord mounted up to heaven in the sight of them all. And then was the king baptized, with his wife and his children and all his people, and left his realm and was made disciple of the apostle.

Then all the bishops of the idols assembled them together and went to Astrages the king, and brother to Polemius, and complained of the loss of their gods and of the destruction of their temples, and of the conversion of his brother made by art magic. Astrages was wroth and sent a thousand men armed to take the apostle, and when he was brought tofore him, the king said to him: Art thou not he that hast perverted my brother? And the apostle answered to him: I have not perverted him, but I have converted him; and the king said to him: Like as thou hast made my brother forsake his god and believe in thy God, so shall I make thee forsake thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice to my god. And the apostle said : I have bound the god that thy brother adored, and showed him bound, and constrained him to break his false image, and if thou mayst do so to my God, thou mayst well draw me to thine idol, and if not, I shall all to-break thy gods, and then believe thou in my God. And as he said these words, it was told the king that his god Baldach was overthrown and all to-broken, and when the king heard that, he brake and all to-rent his purple in which he was clad, and commanded that the apostle should be beaten with staves, and that he should be flayed quick, and so it was done. Then the christians took away the body and buried it honourably. Then the king Astrages and the bishops of the temples were ravished with fiends and died, and the king Polemius was ordained bishop, and accomplished the oflfice of a bishop twenty-two years much louably, and after that rested in peace full of virtues.

There be divers opinions of the manner of his passion. For the blessed Dorotheus saith that he was crucified, and saith also: Bartholomew preached to men of India, and delivered to them the gospel after Matthew in their proper tongue. He died in Alban, a city of great Armenia, crucified the head downward. S. Theoderus saith that he was flayed, and it is read in many books that he was beheaded only. And this contrariety may be assoiled in this manner, that some say that he was crucified and was taken down ere he died, and for to have greater torment he was flayed and at the last beheaded.

Text taken from Medieval Sourcebook: The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) - Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275 - Englished by William Caxton, 1483.