Thursday, 21 December 2017

Barnabas, the Apostle of Cyprus

Monastery Church of St Barnabas
There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). [Acts 4.36]

The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. [Acts 15.39]

Barnabas, cousin of John Mark, is remembered widely on Cyprus as their apostle, the one who brought them the good news of Jesus Christ. While we were on holiday, we were able to go to the Monastery of St Barnabas, which had three monks in residence as late as 1976.

Thomas doubts no more
The story goes that Barnabas, having returned to his home city of Salamis, was martyred there by some in the Jewish community. His body was dumped in the marshes and recovered by Christians. They buried him on the site where the monastery remains as a museum.

The tomb of the saint
In 477 Archbishop Anthemios had a remarkable dream which enabled him to find the remains of the saint with his handwritten Gospel of St Matthew in his arms. As a result, Cyprus became an autocephalous or self-governing Orthodox church, the fifth in the world.

The monastery church is now an icon museum, somewhat spoilt by being more like an art gallery than a church. The icons themselves are not particularly remarkable.

Barnabas remembered by followers of Jesus
What we found specially moving was the tomb of the saint, now in the crypt of an 18th century building somewhat apart from the museum and much less overrun by tourists. Underground is a simple tomb covered in a drape, and tapers burning in Barnabas' memory. He is after all the one who told Cyprus about Jesus!

The pictures show both the large monastery church with its icon displays, and the tomb church.

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