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BBC Sherlock, Reichenbach Falls Theory, & St. Bartholomew

Did anybody notice that the last agonizing cliff-hanger episode of BBC's Sherlock included a significant reference to a saint? The following is my, uniquely Catholic, contribution to the Reichenbach Falls theories.


Sherlock jumps to his "death" from the rooftop of St. Bart's Hospital in London. Not just any hospital, Saint Bart's hospital. Why was St. Bart's chosen?

So who is St. Bart? That is, who is St. Bartholomew? There's two--that I know of--culturally significant reasons for knowing about St. Bartholomew: (1) His martyrdom, as depicted by Michelangelo, and (2) the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

Michelangelo's Depiction of St. Bart's Martyrdom:

My guess is that the writers of Sherlock, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, were most familiar with St. Bartholomew for this image:

File:Last judgement.jpg

This is from Michelangelo's Last Judgment, which stands behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel--where, by the way, the Cardinals will soon meet to elect the NEW POPE!! 

Notice how, well, gross this is. That muscular older man is Saint Bart holding -- what?? -- his OWN FLAYED SKIN. This is like something out of Silence of the Lambs! 

You see, the legend of Saint Bart's martyrdom included poor Bart getting flayed alive. That is, his skin was torn from his body, and he endured it for the glory of God. Whoa. That definitely beats giving up meat on Fridays. 

So, I have a couple ideas how St. Bart could apply to Sherlock and the secret behind his "death":

POSSIBILITY #1: Wearing Skin. Gross.

Many of the Reichenbach Falls theories include Sherlock wearing the skin of his presumably-dead arch-enemy Jim Moriarty, as in the aforementioned Silence of the Lambs. That all seems really unlikely. Maybe the association with St. Bart is false trail to the face wearing theory. 

POSSIBILITY #2: Martyrdom

Or, maybe, it's just St. Bart's martyrdom that's significant, and not the manner of it. Sherlock is jumping to his "death" to save his friends, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade. This is a type of martyrdom, I suppose.

POSSIBILITY #3: Shedding Skin

This is probably the most likely of the possibilities. Maybe Sherlock, like Saint Bart, is just shedding his skin--not anthropomorphically, like a snake--but the public's perception of him: his fame. Sherlock didn't like the extra attention, anyway. It interfered with his work. 

Or, Sherlock is just wearing the "skin" of death.   

POSSIBILITY #4 : The Coolest One

This is the coolest (i.e. mysterious) possibility, I think, and the one that actually explains (sorta) something--the separation between the appearance, the skin of the body, and the body, itself. Sherlock is only wearing the skin of death, so to speak. Only, I'm not sure how it fits in. 

Most of the Reichenbach Falls theories center around Molly, Sherlock's mortician friend, who may actually work at St. Bart's, I'm not sure. She would've been the one to secure another dead body to take the place of Sherlock's, to sign off on his death certificate, to basically legitimize his death, legally. Watson legitimizes Sherlock's death in a public way as a grieving friend. 

We know this from the film: (1) Sherlock did jump from St. Bart's, (2) a body did land on the ground, which later greatly resembled Sherlock, and (3) Watson was convinced Sherlock had no pulse. Sherlock's rubber ball under the arm explains #3 the apparent lack of a pulse. There was also a garbarge truck--er, lorry--on the street that Sherlock may have landed in, and that conveniently pulled away as a crowd gathered around Sherlock's body. Also, the lorry blocked, I think, Watson's view of the landing body. 

If Sherlock had a few pedestrians act like the body on the ground had just fallen a few stories, people would believe it had. So, Sherlock could land softly in the garbage truck, hop out, smear blood on his face, and lay down on the sidewalk, all dead looking. There's enough time for this since one of Sherlock's homeless network buddies may have stalled Watson by running into him on his bike.  

POSSIBILITY #5: The Last Judgment

Maybe it's just about Sherlock facing his "Last Judgment," as in the title of Michelangelo's fresco behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story in which Sherlock and Moriarty originally went over the Reichenbach Falls together was titled "The Final Problem." That sounds pretty similar to the Last Judgment, right? And, in both, it all hinges on a single choice with everlasting consequences. 

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

The other reason that Moffat and Gatiss may be alluding to St. Bart's is the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of  1572 during the wars between the Catholics and the Huguenots (Protestants) in France. Catherine de' Medici, the mother of King Charles IX, planned to assassinate prominent Huguenots, starting with their leader, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. This was to be a series of coordinated assassinations--sound familiar?? Remember, Moriarty had snipers strategically placed around town to kill three of Sherlock's friends if Sherlock didn't take the plunge--just like the historic massacre! 

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  1. I love Sherlock, or should i say sherlocks, cumberbatch and downey are decent actors. Really looking forward to seeing them interact in the MCU