Discover the Sculpture of Saint Bartholomew, an Early Christian Martyr Believed to Have Been Skinned Alive

If you look closely, that’s his dissected skin hanging around him. This stunning statue by Marco d’ Agrate from 1562 CE is currently on display at Duomo di Milano

Saint Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. After the Ascension, it’s said that the saint traveled to the East and then onto Greater Armenia. According to traditional hagiography, he was flayed and beheaded there for converting the king to Christianity. Some accounts attest that instead of being flayed alive, Bartholomew was crucified upside down like Saint Peter.

Due to this grisly tale, Saint Bartholomew is often depicted holding aloft his flayed skin (or severed head) in art, including “The Last Judgment” by Michelangelo. However, sixteenth-century Italian sculptor Marco d’Agrate, however, depicted him in a much more graceful manner.

Commonly referred to as “Saint Bartholomew Flayed,” the sculpture was originally crafted in 1562. It stands at the altar of Duomo di Milano and is considered the most notable piece of art in the cathedral. At first glance, the saint appears to be just a skeletal man wearing a stole, but upon closer look, visitors may notice that it’s actually his flayed skin he is holding. All of Bartholomew’s muscles, veins, and tendons are exposed across the statue.

The sculpture was likely less of a piece of Christian faith and rather an artistic essay on human anatomy, offering a stunning Renaissance-era depiction of muscles and bodily structures.

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