University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E01317: Painted Greek inscriptions from a cistern-chapel in Salamis/Constantia (Cyprus) with an acclamation of *Barnabas (apostle and companion of Paul the Apostle, 00786), just possibly an acclamation of *Epiphanios (bishop of Salamis, ob. 403, S00215), and with an invocation of *Constantine (emperor, ob. 337, S00186), and the Holy Cross. Probably 6th c.

online resource
posted on 2016-04-28, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription C:

+ φωνὴ Κυρίου ἐπὶ τõν ὑδάτον
Βαρνάβας ὁ ἀπόστολος στίρηγμα ἡμõν

'+ The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. Barnabas the apostle is our support!'

Inscription D:

+ Κύριος ἐπὶ ὑδά̣τ[ων] πολλõν
Ἐπιφάνιος ὁ μέγας [ἔπ]̣α̣ρχος ἡμõν

(πρόμα)χος Sacopoulo

'+ The Lord is upon many waters. Epiphanios is our great [governor (?)]!'

Inscription E:

+ β(οήθησ)ον ο῏ Κο<ν>σταν+τῖνε κ(ὲ) τὸ σίγνον σο(υ) +

'+ O, Constan+tine and your sign, help! +'

Text: Salamine de Chypre XIII, no. 238 C, D, and E.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Barnabas, 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 Source

Βαρνάβας Ἐπιφάνιος Κοσταντῖνος

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Salamis Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Water basins


Inscription 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.


Inscription 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).


Edition: 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. Further reading: 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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager