First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

James (Iacobus), the apostle, surnamed the Just, and called the Less in deference to the Greater, (not on the score of piety, but because of his call as an apostle), was a brother of the Lord, having been born of the sister of the Lord’s mother. After the ascension of the Lord he was appointed the first bishop of the Church at Jerusalem; and he was in office for 30 years and until the seventh year of Nero. This James was holy by the body of his mother. He did not drink wine, or intoxicating drink, nor did he eat meat. Metal never came upon his head, nor was he ever anointed with ointment. He did not bathe, and he wore linen raiment. He entered the sanctum sanctorum (‘holy of holies’) alone, and constantly and industriously prayed for the welfare of the people on bonded knee. Therefore he was called the Just; and (as Ignatius states), in countenance and demeanor he was so much like the Lord as though they were twins. He was taken prisoner by Annas (Annanus), the priest of the Jews, and he was asked to deny the Lord. He was taken to the highest point of the Temple, and thrown down from there and stoned. Yet he raised his hands toward heaven as much as he could and prayed for his persecutors. While still conscious he was struck upon the head with a fuller’s club, and died. The Lord appeared to him after his ascension, and he blessed his bread, saying: My brother, eat your bread, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead; for he did not like to eat bread until he had first seen him. He was so holy, as Josephus states, that it was believed Jerusalem was destroyed because of his death.[James the Less, also called the Just, was a brother of Christ, being the son of Mary, for which reason he is styled the "Lord’s brother." Nothing in particular is related of him until after the ascension. Some regard him as the first bishop of Jerusalem, and he is venerated for his piety, wisdom and charity. These qualities are conspicuous in the pseudonymous epistle bearing his name. By the fervor of his teaching he excited the fury of the Scribes and Pharisees, and particularly the enmity of Annas, the high priest. They flung him down from the terrace of the Temple, one of the populace beating out his brains with a fuller’s club, which later became his symbol. According to tradition he closely resembled Christ in appearance and conduct. Legend says "The Holy Virgin herself, had she been capable of error, might have mistaken one for the other." This exact resemblance, it has been suggested, may have rendered necessary the kiss of Judas in order to identify the victim to the soldiers.]

Now when Peter, the holiest of men, had made a name for himself among all the people, and was highly regarded, Nero became angry and sought to slay him. Having been warned of Nero’s wrath by his friends, Peter fled from Rome; and he met Christ, whom he worshipped; and he asked him, Where are you going? And Christ answered, To Rome, to be again crucified. Therefore Peter also returned to the city, and appointed Clement as bishop. Not long after that, upon the orders of Nero, Peter and Paul were slain, after much torture. For Peter (as he wished) was nailed to a cross with his head to the earth and his feet upward. He was buried in the Vatican. He held his office for twenty-five years. Paul was beheaded on the same day and buried near the Ostian Gate thirty-seven years after the death of Christ. And when they were about to part Paul said to Peter, Peace be with you, you rock of the Church and shepherd of all the lambs of Christ. And Peter said, Go forth in peace, you preacher of the good, you intermediary and sufferer for the salvation of the righteous. Marcelius and Apuleius, their disciples, anointed them with well smelling herbs and buried them. Even today the heads of Peter and Paul are ornamented with gold, silver, and precious stones, and are shown to the people in the Church of St. John Lateran.


The Martyrdom of James the Less, as based on the traditional account, shows James in the act of falling, or being thrown from the parapet of the Temple—although he has not fallen very far! A man leaning over the parapet has just released his hold on the apostle’s garments. Another, who contrary to the traditional account is wielding an implement resembling a mace instead of a fuller’s club, is about to give the victim the deathblow. Below the parapet a number of people, apparently the Temple congregation, are seated and looking on in astonishment. And thus we see what is going on within the temple as well as without. The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Apostle James the Just (and) Lesser."


Peter is being martyred by crucifixion, his head downward, as he himself desired it, so that his death might be even more painful and ignominious than that of his Divine Master. The cross has been erected beside a brick or stone wall, beyond which is seen the open country. Peter has been placed upon the cross in a long shirt or robe modestly fastened about his ankles. Two executioners are busily engaged tightening his bonds. The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Crucifixion of the Apostle Peter."


The third woodcut shows the execution of Paul completed. His body is still in a kneeling posture before the block. His head lies on the other side, looking (perhaps) slightly peeved. A medieval executioner is deftly wiping the blood from his sword with a cloth resembling a napkin. Apparently the execution has taken place at the foot of a hill in the open country. The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Beheading of Paul."

Although accurate portraiture is a matter of indifference to the artist of the Chronicle, we may here note an observance, though slight, of the traditions. Peter is represented as bald on the top of his head (except for the forelock), the hair growing thick about his ears and in a circle somewhat resembling ‘priestly features,’ and an open undaunted countenance. His beard is short and curly; and so tradition has learned to picture him. Paul was a man of short and meager statue, high forehead, aquiline nose, and sparkling eyes. In his case the artist has not done so well.

According to tradition Peter suffered martyrdom in the Circus of Caligula, at the foot of the Vatican, and was crucified between two goals or terminals, around which the chariots turned in the races. According to another tradition his death occurred in the courtyard or military station on the summit of Mons Janicula, the eminence above the site of the Circus.