1 Saint Batholomew in the skin
19 May 2008
Saint Bartholomew in the skin
The statement flung out
was met with astonishment;
a young woman stood holding it,
hanging limply from her hands.
as she looked at the distorted smile
on the loose face
of Michelangelo’s flayed skin
in her bloodied hands.
Bartholomew was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. Bartholomew (Greek: Βαρθολομαίος, transliterated “Bartholomaios”) comes from the Aramaic bar-Tôlmay (תולמי-בר), meaning son of Tolmay (Ptolemy) or son of the furrows (perhaps a ploughman). Many have, based on this meaning, assumed it was not a given name, but a family name.
The festival of St. Bartholomew is celebrated on August 24 in the western Church and on June 11 in the Eastern churches. The Armenian Apostolic Church honours Saint Bartholomew, along with Saint Thaddeus as their patron saint. The Coptic Church remembers him on January 1. The festival in August has been a traditional occasion for markets and fairs; such a fair serves as the scene for Bartholomew Fair, a play by Ben Jonson.
The fresco of The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Clement VII, who died shortly after assigning the commission. Paul III was instrumental in seeing that Michelangelo began and completed the project. Michelangelo labored on the project from 1534 to October 1541. The work is massive and spans the entire wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The Last Judgment is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse; where the souls of humanity rise and are assigned to their various fates, as judged by Christ, surrounded by the Saints.