June 30 – The Twelve Apostles; Theobald of Provins

The Twelve Apostles (I Cent.) celebrate their Synaxis* today, or at least we do. “Synaxis” comes from the Greek words “syn” meaning “together” and “axis” meaning “an imaginary line passing through the center of a symmetrical solid.” Also “gathering.”

Our Lord chose the Twelve in either Mark 3 or Luke 6 after praying all night on a mountain. Later he sent them out two by two to preach, cast out demons, and provide material for the second verse of the song “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” The Twelve show up in all four Gospels, and are present at the Last Supper, where Judas Iscariot was famously pointed out by Christ as the one who would betray Him. The Twelve are also implicated in the post-resurrection appearance of Christ at which Thomas (Oct 6) was not present, and following which he earned his sobriquet, “Doubting Thomas.” According to ancient tradition (which I am in no position to refute), Thomas went and preached the Gospel in India and died for his faith, stabbed with five spears, but not doubting a bit.

In fact all of the twelve except John (Sep 26) (and maybe Matthew (Sep 21)) died as martyrs, some in more interesting ways than others. Peter (Jun 29) was crucified upside-down. Andrew (Nov 30) was crucified on an X-shaped cross (“saltire”), which is commemorated on the national flag of Scotland, due to a Milvian-Bridge-style vision that led a Pictish king to victory. James (Apr 30), brother of John, was stabbed with a sword by Herod Agrippa, or maybe beheaded. Philip (May 3) was stoned to death while tied to a cross upside-down, which rather seems like over-egging the pudding on the part of his executioners. Bartholomew (Aug 24) was flayed alive, which in all seriousness strikes me as possibly the most horrible way to be martyred. James (the other one, often called “the Lesser” although we have no proof he ever leased anything) (oh wait that’s “lessor”) was beaten to death, as was his brother Jude (Oct 28) (about whom the Beatles most emphatically did not sing a song). Unless of course they were crucified. (Sources! Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.)

Simon Zealotes was either crucified in Samaria or sawn in half in Persia. I’m going to go out on a limb and say “but probably not both.” Matthias, chosen to replace Judas because twelve is a magic number, was stoned. And Matthew was either killed by the sword, by a spear, or by voluntarily giving up his spirit after two unsuccessful immolation attempts; or he died peacefully in old age. Sources are all over the map, as are the suggested sites of his demise, although the majority suggest Ethiopia. John of course was exiled to Patmos after a decidedly non-fatal bath in hot oil, and lived to a ripe old age. Paul (see Jun 29), who is sometimes included among the twelve for reasons that will ever remain unconvincing, was beheaded.

Theobald of Provins (1033–1066), (aka Thibault[1]) son of a well-placed count and and a great fan of various desert dwellers (John the Baptist (Jan 7), Paul the Hermit, Anthony the Great (Jan 17), etc.), was an early refusenik. Theobald refused to get married, refused to go to court, refused a commission in the army, and refused to help his cousin win the Burgundian crown. Eventually all that refusing convinced his father to let him be a hermit, which of course was his plan all along. He and a friend named Walter hermitted a bit near Suxy, worked as a day laborers, went on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain (see Apr 30), and then went to Rome in preparation for a trip to the Holy Land. When Walter fell ill they decided to stay in Italy, and when he died Theobald became something of a leader of a group of hermits. The bishop priested him, and his parents came and visited. At the end of his life Theobald became a Camaldolese monk (not that that’s why he died, mind).


[1] Which is also the name of a minor character in Charles Shulz’s comic strip Peanuts. In case you thought you weren’t going to learn any new trivia today.