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Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. Bartholomew comes from the Aramaic bar-Tôlmay, meaning son of Tolmay or son of the furrows (perhaps a ploughman).

Tradition has it that after the ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. In works of art he is often represented with a large knife, or, as in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, with his own skin hanging over his arm, because tradition holds that in Armenia he was flayed alive and then crucified with his head upside down. This fate has led to him being adopted as the patron saint of tanners.