Several years after the Pentecost, the apostles dispersed from Jerusalem, founding the apostolic sees, presumably following the Lord’s command to spread His teachings to “all nations”, with great success spreading the religion to Gentiles. The twelve and Paul traveled extensively establishing communities from Palestine and to the rest of the world. But, what happened to the Lord’s holy apostles?
St. Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia (Greece). There in Patros, Greece, the Governor Aegiatis was angered by the apostle’s preaching and the conversion of his own family to Christianity. He ordered St. Andrew to renounce his faith in front of a tribunal. When St. Andrew resisted, the governor ordered that Andrew be crucified. He was tied upside down to an X-shaped cross with thick, tight ropes in 60 AD but Andrew kept preaching to spectators. He was able to convince many to accept Christianity just before he died after suffering for three days. His relics were translated from Patros to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. When the Catholic hierarchy was restored in Scotland in 1878, the following year the archbishop of Amalfi presented Archbishop John Strain of Edinburgh with a large piece of St. Andrew’s shoulder bone. In 1969, Pope Paul VI presented Gordon Joseph Cardinal Gray with another relic of St. Andrew. The two relics are kept in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, in a chapel known as Scotland’s National Shrine of St. Andrew.
His acts and martyrdom were recorded in the book of Acts of Andrew.
St. Bartholomew joined St. Philip preaching the Gospel in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. When St. Philip was crucified in Hierapolis, he escaped martyrdom, when for some special reason, the magistrates caused him to be taken down from the cross and dismissed. From there, he went eastward to India and then to greater Armenia. He labored in the area around the south end of the Caspian Sea. He then joined St. Jude Thaddaeus in 60 AD preaching the Gospel in Armenia, where St. Bartholomew was martyred in Albanopolis by flaying alive, beheading and crucifying, head downward, for converting Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity. Astyages, Polymius’ brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution in 68 AD. In 809 AD, the relics of St. Bartholomew were moved from his tomb in Armenia to Lipari and then in 838 AD to Beneventum in southern Italy and then to Rome in 983, by Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. Some of Bartholomew’s skin and bones are kept in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome, a part of his skull is in Frankfurt, Germany and an arm is venerated at the Canterbury Cathedral in England.
His martyrdom was recorded in the book of the Martyrdom of Bartholomew.
ST. JAMES THE LESS, SON OF ALPHAEUS
When Festus, the governor of Judea, died, Nero replaced him with Albinus. About the same time, Herod Agrippa II replaced the Jewish high priest Joseph with Ananus. After Festus died and before Albinus had arrived in Judea to replace him, the new high priest decided to pressure James the Less to deny that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Ananus was taking advantage of a lapse in leadership at the end of Festus’ reign. The Jewish high priest asked James to stand on the Temple wall and speak against Jesus to the crowds which had gathered in preparation for the Passover. James instead spoke in favor of Jesus as the Christ; many heard him and many were converted. So the Jewish religious leaders threw James down from the Temple wall. Yet he did not die from the fall, so they began to stone him. Still he did not die from the stoning, so a man took a fuller club (used to beat out clothing) and clubbed him to death in 66 AD. James was buried on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem. In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian II moved his relics to Constantinople. At some point, a portion or perhaps all of St. James’ relics were moved to the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Rome, where today they lie in the same shrine with the relics of St. Philip.
His martyrdom was recorded by St. Hippolytus in his “On the Apostles and Disciples.”
ST. JAMES THE GREATER, BROTHER OF JOHN THE BELOVED AND SON OF ZEBEDEE
On the last journey to Jerusalem, St. James’ mother Salome came to the Lord and said to Him: “Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:21). And the two brothers, Sts. James and John, are still ignorant of the spiritual nature of the Messianic Kingdom, joined with their mother in this eager ambition (Mark 10:37). And on their assertion that they are willing to drink the chalice that He drinks of, and to be baptized with the baptism of His sufferings, Jesus assured them that they will share His sufferings (Mark 10:38-39). St. James the Greater won the crown of martyrdom fourteen years after this prophecy, 44 AD. Herod Agrippa I, son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, reigned at that time as “king” over a wider dominion than that of his grandfather. His great object was to please the Jews in every way, and he showed great regard for the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs. In pursuance of this policy, on the occasion of the Passover of 44 AD, he perpetrated cruelties upon the Church, whose rapid growth incensed the Jews. The zealous temper of James and his leading part in the Jewish Christian communities probably led Agrippa to choose him as the first victim. “He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.” (Acts 12:1-2). After his martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa, his disciples carried his body by sea to Iberia, where they landed at Padrón on the coast of Galicia, and took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
His martyrdom was recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles.
ST. JOHN THE BELOVED, BOTHER OF JAMES AND SON OF ZEBEDEE
After the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John went to Ephesus. From there he wrote the three epistles attributed to him. John was banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it, which converted the audience of Colosseum to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle. There he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was the youngest of the apostles and survived them. He went back to Ephesus and lived to an old age there until his death sometime after AD 98. His tomb is located at Selçuk, a small town in the vicinity of Ephesus.
His martyrdom was recorded by St. Hippolytus in his “On the Apostles and Disciples.”
ST. MATTHEW (also named Levi)THE TAX-COLLECTOR, SON OF ALPHEUS
St. Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, Ethiopia, Persia, and Parthia. He also came to a city of Myrna (city of man-eaters) and was able to convert the family of the local king Fulvanus to Christianity. This angered the king and ordered his soldiers to capture St. Matthew. In front of a huge crowd, they nailed him unto a bed, covered his whole body with paper, oil, brimstone, asphalt and brushwood and then they set him ablaze. St. Matthew was able to endure the torture while praising and preaching, but eventually died “a happy death” in 70 AD. Everyone who touched the burnt bed after was miraculously healed and converted into Christianity, including the king who asked for forgiveness and became the bishop of that city. His tomb is located in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy.
His acts and martyrdom were recorded in the Book of Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew.
St. Matthias was chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and death. He first preached the Gospel in Judaea, then in Aethiopia (the region of Colchis, now in modern-day Georgia) and was there stoned to death in 80 AD. He was buried in the castle of Gonio-Apsaros, Georgia and then brought by Empress Helena of Constantinople, mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great) in the Abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany.
His martyrdom was foretold in the book of Acts of Andrew and Matthias.
ST. SAUL (also named Paul)
St. Paul, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem”, the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by St. Ananias of Damascus, and St. Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles and began to preach the Gospel in the areas north of Palestine, Cyprus, Asia Minor, and Greece. He had been imprisoned in Rome after being accused by some Jews of having brought Gentiles into the Temple. He appealed to Caesar on the grounds of being a Roman citizen, and as a result was allowed to remain in Rome to be tried instead of being sent to Jerusalem. His trial is assumed to have ended in his acquittal sometime around 65 after being held for several years, at which point it seems he went to Macedonia. Upon his return to Rome, he was arrested once again and imprisoned. Because he was a Roman citizen, he received a different punishment than some other criminals of the time (who were often crucified), and was beheaded between 66-68 AD at Aquae Salviae, which is now known as Tre Fontane. His remains were interred with St. Peter ad Catacumbas by the via Appia until moved to what is now the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Venerable Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History, wrote that Pope Vitalian in 665 gave some of Paul’s relics (including a cross made from his prison chains) from the crypts of Lucina to King Oswy of Northumbria, northern Britain.
His martyrdom was recorded in the book of Acts of Paul.
ST. SIMON PETER, SON OF JOHN
St. Peter’s manner of death was fortold by the Lord in John 21:18–19:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)
St. Peter was the first to preach the Gospel in and around Jerusalem and was the leader of the first Christian community there. He then visited Antioch and served as a bishop there for seven years and having potentially left his family in the Greek city before his journey to Rome. In Rome, he established his see and spent his last years there. He died through martyrdom by crucifixion in 64 AD during the Neronian persecution. According to Origen: “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer” (In Eusebius’ Church History III.1). The Cross of St. Peter inverts the Latin cross based on his refusal, and claim of unworthiness, to die the same way as his Saviour. His remains were buried underneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
His acts and martyrdom were recorded in the book of Acts of Peter.
Following the resurrection of Jesus, St. Philip was sent with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. Through a miraculous healing and his preaching St. Philip converted the wife of the proconsul of Hierapolis in Anatolia. This enraged the proconsul, and he had St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, and Mariamne all tortured. St. Philip and St. Bartholomew were then crucified upside-down, and Philip preached from his cross. As a result of St. Philip’s preaching, the crowd released St. Bartholomew from his cross, but St. Philip insisted that they not release him, and St. Philip died on the cross in 80 AD.
His life was recorded in the Book of Acts of Philip with an appendix, entitled “Of the Journey of Philip the Apostle: From the Fifteenth Act Until the End, and Among Them the Martyrdom.”
ST. SIMON THE ZEALOT
After evangelizing in Egypt, St. Simon was joined by St. Jude Thaddaeus preaching the Gospel in Judea, Persia, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, Libya and Lebanon, where both were martyred in Beirut around 65 AD by being axed or sawed in pieces. He is buried in the same tomb as St. Jude Thaddeus, in the left transept of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, under the altar of St. Joseph.
His act and martyrdom were recorded in the Book of Acts of Simon and Jude.
JUDAS ISCARIOT, SON OF SIMON
Judas carried the disciples’ money bag. He betrayed Jesus for a bribe of “thirty pieces of silver” by identifying him with a kiss — “the kiss of Judas” — to arresting soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas, who then turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s soldiers. He used the money to buy a field, but fell headfirst, and burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. This field is called Akeldama or Field of Blood (Acts 1:18).
His death was recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles.
ST. JUDAS THADDAEUS (also named Lebbaeus)
St. Jude Thaddaeus was a partner of St. Bartholomew in bringing Christianity to Armenia. He then joined St. Simon the Zealot in preaching and converting non-believers in Judea, Persia, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, Libya and Lebanon, where both were clubbed-to-death in Beirut and their bodies were either sawed or axed in pieces one after the other in 65 AD. His body was brought from Beirut to Rome and placed in a crypt in St. Peter’s Basilica which was visited by many devotees. Now his bones are in the left transept of St. Peter’s Basilica under the main altar of St. Joseph in one tomb with the remains of the St. Simon the Zealot.
His act and martyrdom were recorded in the book of Acts of Simon and Jude.
ST. THOMAS DIDYMUS
St. Thomas is called by most Christians as the “Doubting Thomas” for disbelieving the Lord’s Resurrection. But after his doubts were erased by touching Jesus’ wounds, he became a fearless preacher of the Gospel and builder of churches. He was one of the first apostles who preached outside the boundaries of the vast Roman Empire. He preached in Babylon (present day Iraq) and established its first Christian church. Then he went to Persia (Iran) and travelled as far as China and India. He was martyred in Mylapore, India when a local king named Misdeus condemned St. Thomas to death for converting the Queen Tertia, son Juzanes, sister-in-law princess Mygdonia (a province of Mesopotamia) and her friend Markia. The apostle angered the Brahmins (high ranked priests/scholars who served as the king’s advisers) who thought Christianity disrespected India’s Caste System. St. Thomas was brought to a nearby mountain and was stabbed-to-death with a spear in 72 AD. Syphorus was elected the first presbyter by the brethren after the death of St. Thomas while Juzanes the prince became the deacon. He was buried around the suburb of Madras in the city of Mylapore (modern Chennai). A portion of St. Thomas’ bones are venerated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Thomas in Chennai, India. Since 1258, the rest lie in a golden casket within a white marble altar in the Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle in Ortona, Italy.
His acts and martyrdom were recorded in the book of Acts of Thomas.
APOSTOLI SANCTI, ORA PRO NOBIS.