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St. Barnabas Monastery - the founder of the Church of Cyprus

(From the book "Holy Monasteries of Cyprus." Nicosia: «Yianel», 2013 - 196 with.

On the western outskirts of Salamis, which was built in the XI century BC after known in the history of the Trojan War and remained so throughout the centuries 15 capital of the island, located monastery built in honor of St. Barnabas, whose name is connected whole history of origin and development of Christianity in Cyprus. That of St. Barnabas Church of Cyprus is obliged to and the right to be called one of the first of the apostles, and their status Autocephalous (Independent) Church adopted at the Third Ecumenical Council in 431 year.


Monastery of St. Barnabas

The book of Acts of the Apostles, written by the Evangelist Luke, states that the Holy Spirit himself chose Barnabas and his friend Paul for a preaching mission in Cyprus. Perhaps this choice was determined by the fact that the apostle was born into a family of Jewish Levites (priests) and was a descendant of the Jewish community of Cyprus. While studying in Jerusalem, Barnabas witnessed the miracle performed by Christ, and was amazed by what he saw, declared himself to be his follower. When the Bright Resurrection took place, Barnabas, selling his possessions, went around the world to preach the teaching of Jesus. The speeches of the apostle were so appealing that people accepted him as a person endowed with the Holy Spirit. The fate of Barnabas, whose name means "son of consolation," is in many respects closely interwoven with the earthly life of the Savior himself. Many theologians believe that the Last Supper and the Descent of the Holy Spirit took place at the house of his sister Mary, and the apostle John's nephew, later named Mark, became not only an assistant in the spread of the Christian faith, but also the author of one of the four Gospels. Perhaps God's blessing was bestowed upon Barnabas and Paul also because their personal path to Christ's faith was thorny, which means that faith was also stronger. And if Saul (Paul), once despised Christians, himself was imbued with the justice of the Savior's teaching, then his preaching, combined with the preaching of Barnabas, became the most convincing even for the enemies of faith. Be that as it may, the Lord Himself determined the path of Barnabas and Paul to Cyprus. In 45, when they landed at Salamis, they passed the whole island from Salamis to Pafa with the word of evangelism, where they found some "false prophet, a Jew named Varisus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a sensible husband. This man, having recognized Barnabas and Paul, desired to hear the word of God. " The Jewish Magus Elim (Varisusa) tried in every possible way to prevent the apostles, then Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, had to "blind him before the time". What happened was so amazing to the Roman that he immediately "believed, marveling at the teaching of the Lord." So Cyprus became the first province of the Roman Empire, where the ruler was a Christian. And this would have been enough for the name of Barnabas to always be among the most revered saints in Cyprus.


St. Barnabas church icon (left), Icon of John the Baptist. 1762 y (right)

However, the role of the apostle Barnabas in the history of the Church of Cyprus was not exhausted by this. Returning to the island in 50, now accompanied by Mark Barnabas, overcoming the fierce resistance of the Jewish communities, preached the Word of God in the synagogues for seven years and converted the faith of many inhabitants of the island to the faith of Christ. But one day, the wizard of Elim, who had not once been able to resist the sermons of Barnabas and Paul, decided to take revenge on the apostle. The crowd of fanatics that he set up seized the saint and threw him in the dungeon, and in the evening brought him outside the city line and threw stones. Waiting for the night, Mark pulled Barnabas's body out of the fire, on which the Jews tried to burn the apostle, so that no one could ever worship his ashes, and secretly buried the slain on the western outskirts of Salamis, putting Matthew on his chest. It so happened that even after his death, Barnabas was able to protect the Church of Cyprus, which Patriarch Petro Knafei tried to annex to the throne on the rights of the diocese in the 5th century. The basis for such actions was the assertion that both Churches had a single evangelist of the Word of God - the Apostle Barnabas, and after the division of the Roman Empire, Cyprus, which became its eastern province, was territorially subordinated to the Stratigus of Antioch. It was then that Saint Barnabas came to the rescue. Having appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Cyprus, Anfemia, he showed him the place of his burial, which by that time was considered lost. Opening the tomb of the apostle, Anthemius took the relics of the saint and the Gospel of Matthew lying in it, and went to Constantinople to seek protection. The legendary gospel brought to them as a gift fell into the palace temple of the Byzantine emperor Zeno, who ordered Constantinople Patriarch Akaky to convene the Holy Synod in order to resolve the dispute between the two Churches. The Synod confirmed the decision of the Third Ecumenical Council on the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus, and Zeno not only approved it, but also granted the head of the Cyprus Church three imperial privileges, which are still preserved. The Archbishop of Cyprus was given the right to sign in red ink, wear a purple robe and an imperial scepter instead of an ordinary bishop's staff. At the same time, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus received the title of "Beatitude". Returning to the island, Archbishop Anfemius built a majestic temple in the burial place of Barnabas, placing the holy relics of the apostle in it, and laid the monastic buildings and guest rooms for the pilgrims drawn here by the sacredness of the place. English explorer George Jeffery, who for many years studied the architectural and archaeological heritage of Cyprus, believed that in the original monastery church to the right of the altar there was a small chapel adorned with silver ornamentation and marble columns intended for sacred relics. The scientist believed that the dark green marble column, decorated with fine twisted carving, inscribed today in the northern wall of the southern parabema belongs to that early church, built in 477 by Archbishop Anfemius.


Monastic cells

According to scientists, in the 10th century a monastic cross-domed church appeared here, striking with its unusual form even today. Originally it was an impressive vaulted basilica of a triple cross and three times crossed by transepts. The intersections of the central and transverse naves were crowned by three domes. In the east, the church building was completed by three semicircular apses. Eight massive square columns, grouped by two, divided the inner space into three aisles. The imposing arches of the three transepts alternated with narrow passages under the semicircular vaults of the temple. But at some stage, the eastern part of the church building collapsed and its dome collapsed. And today the modern appearance of the temple is a three-nave vaulted basilica, crowned with only two domes, with a small apse, erected later inside the majestic arch of the central nave. Unfortunately, the history did not save any exact information about the date of the destruction of the church and its reconstruction. And only the inscription at the western portal tells that the reconstruction of the monastery, begun in 1674 year, lasted 16 years. It is also known for certain that the Russian monk Vasily Grigorovich-Barsky, who visited the holy monastery in 1735, in his sketches and descriptions of the monastery, reported that the then state of the holy monastery was depressing, and that there were two monks and an economist living in it, and the main temple The monastery was crowned with only two domes. There was no information about the alteration of monastic buildings during the reconstruction of 1756 and the beginning of the 20th century. The monastery's two-domed temple, combining the traditions of Byzantine and Gothic architecture, meets pilgrims to the right of the eastern gate today, opening an architectural ensemble of monastic buildings that form the inner courtyard of the holy monastery.


Iconostasis temple

The chronicle of the legendary events of the struggle of the Cyprus Church for Independence is recorded in monumental frescoes located in the southern parabema to the right of the entrance. Over her paintings for many years worked three brothers who lived in a monastery 50 years and received the tonsure names of Hariton, Stefan and Barnabas. The fresco stories they created tell how the apostle Barnabas himself blessed Bishop Anfemius, indicating to him the place of his burial. The following episodes tell about the relics of the holy apostle and the presentation by Bishop Anfemius of the legendary Gospel of Matthew to the Byzantine emperor Zenon, behind whom the members of the royal family bowed in prayerful obeisance and the priests who arrived from Cyprus paused in solemn silence. On the fresco painted on the southern wall of the parabema, the hand of the icon-painter captured the Byzantine emperor Zeno and Archbishop Anfemius of Cyprus, clothed in purple robes and holding one imperial scepter, symbolizing the eternal Orthodox unity of the Constantinople and Cypriot Churches. In the northern parabeme of the temple are images of saints, most revered on the island. In a strict order they appear on a huge panel that occupies almost the entire eastern wall. Opens the series by John Chrysostom - Archbishop of Constantinople, named for his eloquence "Golden lips". Next to him is the apostle Jacob the Righteous (Adelfoteos), who was present with Peter and John at the Transfiguration of the Savior and at His Feast in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He cried to the Most High that the cup of torment should pass Him. Below are the images of the holy Great Martyr Sawa, the Cypriot righteous Kendey, the holy Roman warrior Leontius and the Monk Onufrius, the Great Desert, the prince of Persia. And this iconostasis, dating back to the 18th century, is completed, the images of women-martyrs Barbara, Fekla and Marina.


Bishop Barnabas Anfemiyu phenomenon. Fresco (left) meeting with Bishop Anfemiya Byzantine Emperor Zeno. Fresco (right)

Wooden carved three-tier iconostasis of the central nave today is a collective image that absorbed the various elements of the altar barrier. These are cornices and panels, decorated with traditional colors - red, blue, green and dominant gold, floral and geometric ornament, woven vines and stylized palmettes. The holy images, placed in the local, festive and apostolic ranks, date back to the nineteenth century, although there are earlier ones among them. For example, the icon of John the Baptist refers to 1762 year.


Temploni with images of the most revered saints in Cyprus. XVIII century.

After the tragic events of 1974, which split the island into two parts, the monastic life in the holy monastery dwindled, and in its main temple there is the Museum of Icons, where the few that have been preserved in the monasteries and churches of the northern coast of Cyprus are collected. Monastic cells and offices of the holy monastery were also converted into a museum, in which archaeological finds of different eras are demonstrated. Ceramic vessels, ritual figurines, ornaments presented here are the frozen music of those ancient times, when on a potter's wheel a person already created the objects necessary for his life and life.


Dome Chapel St. Barnabas (left), an underground cave and sarcophagus St. Barnabas (right)

Near the monastery is the tomb of the apostle Barnabas, over which a small dome chapel was built. From her tiny hall a steep staircase leads down, where a sarcophagus, covered with a red shroud, rests in a small underground cave. In it, according to tradition, the imperishable relics of St. Barnabas were preserved, although the disputes of historians about the burial place of the apostle continue to this day. Some insist that the holy relics of Barnabas, taken by Bishop Anfemius to Constantinople, remained there. Others believe that they returned to the homeland of the saint, but disappeared in a whirlwind of turbulent historical events taking place on the island. While this issue remains open. But the main thing is that the spirit and truth of the apostle is undoubtedly here. And it seems that even a moment, and through the rustle of the foliage of the carob trees under which he was buried, suddenly the sermon of one of the faithful followers of Christ - the founder of the ancient Cypriot Church - the holy Apostle Barnabas - will sound.

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