St Barnabas’ Monastery and Icon Museum in Famagusta

The St Barnabas monastery and Icon museum is situated close to the Royal Tombs between Tuzla and Salamis. The site consists of a church, now serving as an icon museum, the monastery, now housing an archaeological collection, and a chapel housing the remains of the saint.

St Barnabas was one of the founders of the independent Greek Orthodox church, and is the patron saint of Cyprus.   He, was born in Salamis to a Jewish family of the Levi clan, (the Levites from which the priests of the temple in Jerusalem were chosen), who had emigrated from Syria to Cyprus. He was originally called Sosis, a variant of Joseph.

While undertaking a religious education in Jerusalem, Barnabas was able to witness some of the miracles of Jesus, and in 33AD, he took up the faith of Jesus, and gave the family properties that he had inherited to the early church and the poor of Jerusalem.

While he was in Jerusalem he was appointed Archbishop of Salamis, and in 45AD he returned to Cyprus, accompanied by his cousin and follower John Mark, and by Paul of Tarsus.

The building that we see today dates from the 1750s. Once the centre of the Cyprus Orthodox church, the monastery is still in good condition. Outside the church there is a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by buildings that once housed the monks and pilgrims coming to pray at the monastery.

About 100 yards from the monastery, there is a small mausoleum built on the spot where the saint’s remains were discovered. There are 14 steps which take you down to the cave under the building where the body of St Barnabas was hidden by his friends. The tomb was renovated (which included building the steps) in 1953.

Between the mausoleum and monastery, you will see signs if a recent archaeological dig. It is thought that the area was once part of the necropolis of Salamis, but work is ongoing.