Saint NameBarnabas, apostle and companion of *Paul the Apostle, ob. c. 61 : S00786
Epiphanios, bishop of Salamis, ob. 403 : S00215
Constantine the Great, emperor, ob. 337 : S00186
Konstantinos (unspecified) : S01746
Saint Name in SourceΒαρνάβας
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionAegean islands and Cyprus
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSalamis
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Salamis
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
- Other liturgical acts and ceremonies
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)
Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult
- Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult activities - Use of Images
- Public display of an image
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsWater basins
SourceInscription C is painted in red on the left-hand section of the arched entrance to the upper corridor, connecting the cistern, converted into a chapel, with another one. Inscription D is painted in red to the right of the arch. Inscription E is painted below the arch, also in red letters. Other painted inscriptions from the cistern contain crosses, and invocations of God as the Lord/Κύριος and of Christ as the Son of God. One of the inscriptions names Nikodemos, the donor who commissioned the embellishment of the chapel. The eastern wall of the chapel is adorned by a painting with a watery scene, showing a crocodile, plants, ducks, fish, flamingos, and waters snakes (probably on the river of Nile).
The cistern is sited in the northwestern part of the city of Salamis/Constantia, among dunes to the south-east of the theatre (c. 400 m from the seashore). It was found by shepherds in the spring of 1932. They reported the find to the local Forest Department, which was followed by a survey of the site by Joan du Plat Taylor, under the auspices of the Museum of Salamis. Du Plat Taylor recorded a hole in the sand, c. 15 ft. deep and 6 ft. wide, and a narrow shaft with a chamber. These appeared to be the remnants of two ancient cisterns, connected by two corridors, positioned one above the other, c. 0.65-0.80 m wide and 1.5 m long. In 1937 the painting was cleaned and secured by Monica Bardswell (a watercolour copy), and the inscriptions were examined by Georgios Soteriou. The cisterns were revisited and photographed by Marina Sacopoulo in 1950, and her major publication followed in 1962.
DiscussionInscription C begins with an abbreviated quotation of verse 3 from Psalm 29: φωνὴ Κυρίου ἐπὶ τῶν ὑδάτων, ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης ἐβρόντησε, Κύριος ἐπὶ ὑδάτων πολλῶν / 'The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters.' In the second line is an acclamation of Barnabas, a companion of *Paul the Apostle, as an apostle himself, and 'our support' / στήριγμα ἡνῶν. Barnabas is here named 'Apostle', according to the broad meaning of this word, and not as one of the twelve disciples of Christ (μαθηταί). For the term 'apostle' was used originally with reference to all people preaching the Gospel.
Barnabas is certainly invoked as a local saint of Cyprus, thus expected to intercede for the prosperity of the island. The saint is said to have been born on Cyprus, and visited the island together with Paul, during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:4-13). The two were accompanied by a certain Mark, usually identified with John Mark, Barnabas' cousin (mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians 4:10). The description of the journey is rich in numerous 'road adventures', and includes the famous story of the clash of Paul with the Jewish magician Bar-Jesus at the court of the Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, whose name Paul adopted thereafter. Later, when Paul travelled to Galatia, Barnabas returned to Cyprus, and this journey is described in the apocryphal Acts of Barnabas (usually dated to the 5th c.), allegedly written by John Mark. The mission ended with the death of Barnabas in Salamis, where he was reportedly burned by angered Jews. For comments on the Cypriot activity of Barnabas, as described in his Acts, see: Young 2005.
Inscription D begins, likewise, with a phrase drawn from Psalm 29. Furthermore, another inscription from the site (F) contains a quotation of 4 Kings 2:21-22: τάδε λέγει Κύριος· ἴαμαι τὰ ὕδατα, οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι ἐκεῖθεν θάνατος καὶ ἀτεκνουμένη. καὶ ἰάθησαν τὰ ὕδατα ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης κατὰ τὸ ρῆμα ῾Ελισαιέ, ὃ ἐλάλησε / 'Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spoke.' According to the surveyors and editors of the inscriptions, these biblical quotations, focused on water and its use, imply that the blessing of water on the eve of Epiphany (commemorating the Baptism of Christ) was celebrated in the cistern-chapel. It is supposed that the participants were immersed in the newly blessed water or that the basin was used as a source of holy water (hagiasmos) for healings and washing over the year. Bardswell and Soteriou suppose that the cistern was refurbished for this purpose and that the water was drawn up in a bucket. On the other hand, the editors of Salamine de Chypre XIII note that the usual attention paid to the care for fresh supplies of water in late antique cities, could also have played a role.
The second line of Inscription D contains an acclamation of a certain Epiphanios. Marina Sacopoulo read his title as πρόμαχος / 'champion, protector', and identified the figure as the bishop of Salamis, Epiphanios (ob. 403), the author of Panarion, the renowned book against heretical movements, later venerated as a saint. But the editors of Salamine de Chypre XIII point out that the word should rather be read ἔπαρχος / 'governor, prefect', and that the acclamation praises a governor of the province or a Pretorian Prefect of the East.
Inscription E is an invocation of the emperor Constantine I and 'his sign', certainly the holy cross or the christogram, he was said to have seen in a vision. Constantine is not named 'saint' / ἅγιος, but the request has the form of regular invocations of holy figures.
Dating: based on the form of letters, the style of the painting and the coin finds, the decoration of the interior of the cistern-chapel was dated to the 6th c. (see: Whitehouse 2009).
Pouilloux, J., Roesch, P., Marcillet-Jaubert J. (eds.), Salamine de Chypre XIII Testimonia Salaminia 2. Corpus épigraphique (Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1987), no. 238 C and E .
Sacopoulo, M.A., “La fresque chrétienne laplus ancienne de Chypre”, Cahiers Archéologiques 13 (1962), 61-83 (after the examination of the site and photographs).
Goethert, F.W., “Archäologische Funde aus Cypern”, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 49 (1934), Beiblatt: Archäologischer Anzeiger, 102-103.
Bardswell, M., Soteriou, G., "The Byzantine paintings in the water cistern", Antiquaries Journal 19 (1939), 443-445.
Plat Taylor, J., “A Water Cistern with Byzantine Paintings, Salamis, Cyprus”, The Antiquaries Journal 13 (1933), 97-108.
Whitehouse, H., "The Nile flows underground to Cyprus: the painted water-cistern at Salamis reconsidered", in: D. Michaelides, V. Kassianidou, R.S. Merrillees, Proceedings of the International Conference Egypt and Cyprus in Antiquity, Nicosia, 3-6 April 2003 (Oxford: Oxbow Books 2009), 252-260.
Young, Ph.H., "The Cypriot Aphrodite cult: Paphos, Rantidi, and Saint Barnabas", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 64/1 (2005), 23-44.