St. Barnabas Monastery is one of the most important religious buildings you can find on the island of Cyprus, together with Kykkos Monastery. When visiting this country, you should definitely put this famous monastery and the icon museum on the top of your bucket list!
This article will tell you where to find St. Barnabas Monastery and the historical background. Also, while reading this article, you will learn what sights you can discover in St. Barnabas Monastery.
A Compact Guide to the St. Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum
About St. Barnabas Monastery
The monastery is the burial place of St. Barnabas. Besides the monastery building, St. Barnabas Monastery also includes a church.
It is not only a popular tourist destination and photo motif. St. Barnabas Monastery is also a popular pilgrimage destination among many religiously convinced people.
Today, however, the monastery is visited mainly for the icon museum. Nevertheless, the tomb of the famous apostle is still located here. This church also served as a shelter for the Cypriot Christians.
In the process, however, the church of that time was destroyed. Today, there is a small chapel on this spot, only a few meters away from the monastery.
Historical Background of the St. Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum
In the early Christian period, the Apostle Barnabas was one of the most influential missionaries. After his return to Cyprus, he became the country’s first bishop.
After his death, the Cypriots declared him a national saint; where his body was found, they built the present St. Barnabas Monastery.
According to the legends, the discovery was possible only because St. Barnabas appeared to the then Archbishop of Cyprus – Anthemios – in his sleep.
According to the stories, he was found exactly as Anthemios had seen it in his visions. Saint Barnabas was holding a copy of the Gospel of Matthew, written by hand, in his hand in front of his chest.
Every year on June 11, the Cypriots celebrate Memorial Day, dedicated to this monastery. The date comes from the fact that on this day, Emperor Zeno discovered the tomb of St. Barnabas.
Where is the St. Barnabas Monastery located?
The famous burial place of the martyr Barnabas is located about 8 km from Famagusta to the north. Another renowned city nearby is Salamis, an ancient city in the east of Cyprus at the mouth of the Pediaios River.
Today’s St. Barnabas Monastery
Of course, the building you can admire today is not the original. Because in the course of the years, this Byzantine church decayed more and more. The monastery you see here today has replaced this church.
You can recognize the monastery by its two domes, but the shape is rather unusual; a basic square shape. Actually, there were supposed to be three domes, but one of them collapsed due to the lack of a foundation and the relatively soft ground under the church.
However, you can still see the walls of the original apse today.
Current use of St. Barnabas Monastery
After the last three monks died in 1976, the church became an icon museum. Since then, the monastery building has been home to the archaeological museum.
In the Archaeological Museum today, you can find numerous ceramics from the Bronze Age excavation site of Enkomi and the city of Salamis. The finds can be estimated to date between 7,000 and 1,000 BC.
The collection, which can still be found in St. Barnabas Monastery, is the most important archaeological collection in Northern Cyprus.
In an adjoining room of the church, you will find several larger-than-life murals.
On them, the legend of the foundation of the monastery of St. Barnabas is depicted in four scenes. They are the bishop’s vision, the discovery of his tomb, the meeting with Emperor Zeno, and granting of privileges. By the way, the museum used both Muslims and Christians.
Now you have the historical background of St. Barnabas Monastery near the city of Famagusta. We can only advise you to admire this beautiful architectural jewel with your own eyes and spend your next vacation in Northern Cyprus. Besides the monastery, you should visit many other places near Famagusta. One of them is the ghost town of Varosha.
We are sure you will fall in love with the sight after a frighteningly short time. And if that’s not enough, you can always check out the extensive collection of architecture.