PHOTO: Icons at Saint Barnabas Monastery on Cyprus

Icons of St. Barnabus, patron saint of Cyprus, are displayed inside the Saint Barnabus Monastery and Icon Museum near Salamis, Cyprus

Saint Barnabas was born in Salamis, the ancient capital of Cyprus, to a Jewish family that had emigrated from Syria. As a young man he witnessed some of the miracles of Jesus while pursuing a religious education in Jerusalem. Barnabas became a follower of Jesus and was appointed Archbishop of Salamis. In 45 AD he returned to Cyprus with the apostle Paul, where he preached in the Jewish temples. With the exception of the Roman governor of the island, he was famously unsuccessful in converting the Jewish populace to Christianity. During his second visit he was so reviled that he was stoned to death by a mob of Syrians, who threw his body into the sea.The body was rescued by a small group of converted Christians, who secretly placed it in a crypt near the city of Salamis. Pursued by their Jewish enemies, they fled to Nicosia, taking the secret with them. The tomb was not rediscovered until 477 AD, well after the island had converted to Christianity. Saint Barnabas Monastery, constructed adjacent to the tomb during the 1750’s, became the center of the Orthodox Christian church on Cyprus for the next two centuries.

The monastery went into decline at the end of the 19th century. By 1917, only three priests – three actual brothers – were in residence. They devoted themselves to painting many of the icons that are today on display inside Saint Barnabas Monastery. The trio of brother-monks finally retired in 1976. Because it continued to draw visitors, the monastery remained open until 1991, when it was restored and turned into a museum. The icons in the above photo are both of St. Barnabas. They draw pilgrims from all over the world, who believe that praying before them can bring about miraculous healings. The beeswax limb that hangs next to the right-hand icon is a sign that a miracle of healing occurred as a result of such prayers.

Leave a Comment