In this post I’ve written a brief compilation of the Acts of the Apostles related to their last days, death and fate of their remains. Most of the sources are ancient tales, full of lies or not, but all of them really beautiful.
- Peter. The tradition places him in Rome when the Great Fire in the year 64, martyred by crucifixion few days later. In 1968 the Vatican announced that Peter was buried under St. Peter’s Basilica (of course. What else?). The results of the investigation reported that the body belonged to a sixty years old man. St. Peter’s hypothesis was still alive because is really possible that he were in Rome by this time, crucified and buried in a place close to the Vatican Hill (by that time a pagan graveyard). Of course, there were Christians in Rome since the first century.
- Andrew. The most traveller remains of all of them. He suffered martyrdom in Patras, Greece. The remains were brought to Constantinople, and then (scottish traditions said) part of them went to St. Andrews, Scotland (whose patron saint is, of course, St. Andrews). Due to the turkish siege in 1453, the remains stayed in the then-byzantine state of Morea until 1461 when Thomas Palaeologus gave them to the Pope. In 1964 they went back to Patras. The scottish remains are still there, while the Patras’ ones consisted on a finger, part of the skull and some fragments of the cross.
- James the Great. Beheaded in Jerusalem in the year 44, his remains are supposedly placed in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. But there are lots of doubt here, most of them based on the fact that the “leyenda compostelana” (the spanish story that relates St. James and Spain) appeared five centuries after St. James’ travel to Spain. No forensic analysis has been done to the remains placed in the Cathedral. I’m afraid to say that it looks quite unlikely that the man buried in Compostela was really Santiago (the spanish word for St. James)
- John. It is believed to die in the greek island of Patmos, because it is the place where we lost any trace of him (not later than the year 95). The burial place is unknown, but it may be in Patmos (where else?) The island was inhabited between the 7th century and the 11th, so every notice of his burial has been lost. At last, it is not clear at all that John of Patmos (author of the Book of Revelation, aka Apocalypse), the Evangelist and the Apostle were the same person. It looks like they were the same person and always we thought so, but it is really hard to show off (or refute) because successive translations of his works (Apocalypse, Gospel and Acts of Apostles) make almost impossible to examine them properly. Unfortunately, we don’t handle original documents.
- Philip. He proselytized in Greece, Syria and Phrygia and was killed in Hierapolis in the year 80, more or less. The tradition places his burial in the Martyrium, a building close to Philip’s death place. Nowadays, the place of his remains is unknown due to earthquakes that took place in Hierapolis and the persian conquest and later destruction of the city in the 7th century. Moreover, the city remain inhabited for more than one century in the Middle Ages. There are some archaeological excavations in Hierapolis now, but they haven’t find Philip’s body yet.
- Bartholomew. Along with Saint Jude he proselytized in Armenia, and later flayed alive in Azerbaijan. Both of them are the patron saints of the Armenian Church. The tradition says that his remains went to Rome at the end of the 10th century. Frankfurt says that they have a piece of Bartholomew’s skull.
- Thomas. There is a strange theory saying that Thomas and Jude are actually the same person. For those who believe it, see 10. For the others, Philip proselytized in India, where he died in the year 72. His remains stayed there until 232 when they were carried to Edessa, Turkey. In 1258 they went to the greek island of Chios, and then to Ortona, Italy. Marco Polo mentions in his books the devotion of indian Christians to Saint Thomas. One year ago there was a strange controversy between the Vatican and Saint Thomas Christians in India due to a speech of the Pope saying something about Thomas.
- Matthew. Since the very beginning of the Christianity the authorship of his gospel has not been clear. Despite of this, it was attributed to Saint Matthew. Nowadays, it looks more than unlikely. At first it was believed that it was a text originally written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek, but now is well known that it was originally written in Greek. This fact discards Matthew’s candidature because he doesn’t spoke Greek. About his death and burial there’s almost nothing to say: an ancient ethiopian tradition places his death in year 80, but other sources says Hierapolis (like Philip, so I think there’s a mislead). Matthew is supposedly buried in the city of Salerno, Italy.
- James the Small. This is the less-known apostle. It’s mentioned only once in the canonical gospels, and his figure is far from being clear. There is only one hypothesis about his death (in the year 62, probably in Jerusalem or in Egypt) that states he was beheaded and then his corpse was sawed to pieces. This is the main reason of the strange disappearance of his remains.
Jude. The armenian tradition says that he proselytized this land along with Simon. An ancient greek legend states that he is the groom at Cana’s Wedding, so he would be Christ’s Cousin. His remains were in a monastery near Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, till they were carried to Rome in the 15 th century. Nowadays his corpse lies in St. Peter’s Basilica, but it is alleged that the true one was carried to Hindu Kush.
- Simon the Zealot. There are many versions about this apostle. Somebody says that he was killed in Samaria, other people says Georgia, or Persia, or peacefully dying in Edessa, Turkey. A more recent tradition places Simon in Glastonbury, UK. Lots of hypothesis but no factual data.
- Judas Iscariot. The man who betrayed Jesus. The Gospel according to St. Matthew (or whoever wrote it) states that he hanged himself. Of course, his remains never were subject of veneration, so the place of his burial is unknown. The most likely place is a common grave in Jerusalem.
To sum up, only one apostle (Peter) is likely to be placed where the traditions says. Jude and Andrews are tied into some doubt, there is no reliable information about five more (John, Philip, James the Less, Simon and Judas Iscariot) and the other four are under strong suspicion (James, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew).
In this post I am especially grateful for the feedback.
Pics taken from Wikipedia Creative Commons.
Take a look on the spanish version of this post.