Sacred Skin: The Legend of St. Bartholomew in Spanish Art and Literature


Sacred Skin offers the first systematic evaluation of the dissemination and development of the cult of St. Bartholomew in Spain. Exploring the paradoxes of hagiographic representation and their ambivalent effect on the observer, the book focuses on literary and visual testimonies produced from the emergence of a distinctive vernacular voice through to the formalization of Bartholomew’s saintly identity and his transformation into a key expression of Iberian consciousness. Drawing on and extending advances in cultural criticism, particularly theories of selfhood and the complex ontology of the human body, its five chapters probe the evolution of hagiographic conventions, demonstrating how flaying poses a unique challenge to our understanding of the nature and meaning of identity.

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Andrew M. Beresford is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Durham. He has published widely on Spanish hagiography and devotional topics, including books on Agnes (2007), Thaïs and Pelagia (2007), and Agatha and Lucy (2010).
"Beresford’s richly detailed study proves that Bartholomew is much more than his skin, and that carefully woven, historically grounded interdisciplinary studies can underpin theoretical contributions (and vice versa). At once an extraordinarily deep dive into a very particular case of martyr cult in a particular region and also a wide-ranging study that covers over a dozen centuries of narrative and art alongside insights from contemporary theories of embodiment, Beresford’s Sacred Skin will reward both the specialist in medieval Iberia and any historian of art, body, or religion who seeks a model for how technical reconstruction of the evolution of a saint (or any influential figure) can address crucially broad questions such as identity, inter-religious conflict, or global historiography. [...] the true achievement of this text is to model the extraordinary range of methodologies, theories, and historical contexts it requires to fully probe a cultic devotion and its expression over centuries in a particular region. Beresford’s work is breathtaking in its methodological scope and profoundly comprehensive in its historical precision. No careful reader can end up anything less than an expert in the skin of the saint."
Jessica A. Boon, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in La Corónica, 49.3 (2021)

List of Figures
1Hagiographic Tradition and the Transformation of Identity: The Origin and Evolution of the Cult of St. Bartholomew
 1Bartholomew and the Classical Inheritance
 2Bartholomew in Iberian Literature and Culture
 3Bartholomew’s Hagiographic Legacy
2The Infant on the Mountainside: The Abduction of St. Bartholomew in Early Iberian Art
 1The Legend of the Infant in Early Iberian Art
 2Bartholomew and the Diabolical Double
 3Prelapsarian Providence and the Infant on the Mountainside
 4The Cult of the Infant
3St. Bartholomew’s Evangelical Ministry and the Cosmic Drama of Conversion
 1Bartholomew’s Threefold Ministry
 2Bartholomew’s Exorcistic Drama
 3Idolatry and Iconoclash: Bartholomew as Double-Edged Sword
 4Holy Water: Bartholomew as Baptizer
4The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew in Early Iberian Art
 1From Ministry to Martyrdom
 2Flaying in Early Iberian Art
 3Flayed Skin and the Fragmented Self: Bartholomew as Dermaphore
 4Flaying, Decapitation, and Bartholomew as Devotional Icon
5St. Bartholomew and the Formalization of Hagiographic Identity: Spanish Art in the Seventeenth Century
 1Bartholomew and the Early Iberian Legacy
 2Bartholomew: Portraits and Apostolates
 3Flaying as Narrative Representation
 4Colophon: Beyond Ribera, Tradition and Innovation


Texts and Sources
Appendix 1: A Fourteenth-Century Castilian Reworking of Pseudo-Abdias’s Acta fabulosa
Appendix 2: The Gran flos sanctorum (Compilation A)
Appendix 3: The Leyenda de los santos (Compilation B)
Appendix 4: Flos sanctorum from Fundación Casa de Alba MS 30 (Alternative Reading Related to Compilation B)
Appendix 5: Locations in Spain with Bartholomew as Patron
Works Cited
Hispanists, particularly those with interests in the medieval and early modern periods, as well as readers of hagiography, devotional literature, art history, theology, philosophy, and literary/critical theory.
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