The untold story of Easter and what became of the 12 Apostles


Warren Manger Correspondent
JUDAS betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver, Peter denied knowing Him three times, and Thomas doubted He had risen from the dead after the crucifixion. The Easter story tells us what happened to Jesus Christ but what happened to his disciples, who became the 12 Apostles? So little is known about their later lives apart from the Acts of the Apostles that writer Tom Bissell spent four years travelling the world, unearthing the stories, myths and legend about their later lives for his new book, “Apostle”.

He found a melting pot of historical fact and religious fiction made very colourful tales:

After the resurrection Peter began preaching in Jerusalem but was arrested by King Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great who famously met the three wise men. He escaped with angelic assistance then travelled as far as Britain, where it is said he had a holy vision on the site of what was later Westminster Abbey. After founding the Catholic Church in Rome he confronted the evil magician Simon the Magus and performed several miracles, including bringing a smoked fish back to life. He was martyred in Rome in 64AD, crucified upside down on Vatican Hill.


Preached Christianity to India, some saying having got that far after being sold into slavery. He built a palace for King Gondaphorus in modern day Pakistan and secretly spent the king’s money helping the poor.

Thomas then founded one of the earliest Christian communities in India, which survived until the Portuguese arrived in 1498. Thomas died after being stabbed with a spear in Chennai in India, though many of his bones were taken from his tomb and spread across Italy, Greece and Turkey.


Shared his house in Jerusalem with the Virgin Mary before going on to preach Christianity in modern day Turkey. He was arrested and taken to Rome, where the Emperor Domitian tried to kill him. He cheated death twice by turning a poisoned chalice into a snake and emerging unscathed from a vat of boiling oil, before being exiled to the Greek island of Patmos. Some believe John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus and was buried there before his bones were hidden and lost during the Turkish invasion in the 14th century.


Supposedly learned cosmic secrets that could destroy the world from the Virgin Mary, met a talking goat and leopard who took Communion together, and even encountered a werewolf. He was killed in Armenia, his skin flayed and his body dismembered, before his bones were dumped at sea in a lead coffin and washed up on Sicily. After the Saracens invaded in the 9th century a monk took Bartholomew’s bones to Rome, where they rest on an island in the River Tiber.

James the greater

The first of the Apostles to become a martyr, James supposedly preached in modern day Spain before returning to Jerusalem, where he was arrested by Herod Agrippa and beheaded. His bones were taken back to Spain but forgotten about until in the ninth century stories circulated of his appearance at Battle of Clavijo fighting the Arabs, earning him the nickname “the Moor-Slayer”. Historians now agree the battle never actually took place. His remains were rediscovered in the following decades and the city of Santiago de Compostela – which means “burial ground of St James” founded there.


Founded the Christian Church in Ethiopia after converting the pagan king Aeglippus and driving out his serpent-wielding wizards Zaroes and Arfaxat. There are several conflicting accounts of his death. One suggests he was stabbed in the back after forbidding the king’s brother to marry a nun.

Another, has Matthew burned alive by flames that turned into a dragon. Matthew’s bones were taken to Kyrgyzstan by Armenian monks in the 6th century, but are now buried in a tomb in Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy.

Simon and Thaddaeus

Simon “the zealot” and Thaddaeus (sometimes identified as St Jude, the patron saint of lost causes) travelled widely, preaching together and performing miracles. They helped Matthew drive the wizards Zaroes and Arfaxat out of Ethiopia, but encountered them again in Iran and were forced to choose between destroying every heathen in sight or martyrdom. They chose the latter. Simon endured one of the most gruesome deaths of the Apostles, being hacked to death with a huge two-man saw. Their bones and relics are said to be divided between St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Cathedral of Toulouse in France.


One of the only Apostles known to have children, Philip preached in Greece, Syria and modern-day Iran. He supposedly defeated a pagan dragon god and raised the dragon’s victims from the dead.

Philip then travelled to Hierapolis in Greece, where he miraculously healed the wife of the city’s leader, the pro-consul, but enraged him in the process. He was tortured and crucified upside down, but continued to preach from his cross until he died after refusing to let the crowd cut him down. His bones are now in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome.


The most widely travelled Apostle visited Turkey, Greece, eastern Europe and Asia. He planted a cross in the Ukranian capital Kiev, where his church stands today, and supposedly founded the churches of the Byzantine Empire and modern-day Russia. Andrew died in Patras, Greece, in 60AD, crucified on an X-shaped cross that inspired his symbol, the Saltire. Legends claim his holy relics were brought to Scotland, where the city of St Andrews stands today, but it is widely believed his bones were returned to Patras in a gold casket shaped like a face.

James the lesser

Some say he was the cousin of Jesus, others believe he was Christ’s brother as both had mothers named Mary. If he was Christ’s brother he was the same James who became leader of the Church in Jerusalem. James is believed to have been crucified in the ancient city of Ostracena in nothern Egypt after being arrested by the new Roman governor in AD62.

His bones now rest alongside those of Philip in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome.

Judas Iscariot

The Gospels agree Judas had a short, unhappy life after he betrayed Jesus, but disagree on the details of his death. Matthew says he was overwhelmed by guilt and hanged himself. Luke claims Judas bought a field with his ill-gotten silver, but collapsed dead and burst open, creating a putrid smell that made the land uninhabitable. The spot is now known as the Field of Blood, an unused patch of stony land outside Jerusalem that just a handful of pilgrims ever visit.

Apostle: Travels Among The Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell is published by Pantheon Books on April 7, RRP £20.

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