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E07084: Alexandros the Monk composes in Greek his Encomium of *Barnabas (Apostle, S00786), which he delivers during a festival held at the saint's shrine in Salamis-Constantia (Cyprus). It recounts the life of the apostle and the miraculous discovery of his tomb, which allowed the securing of the ecclesiastical independence of Cyprus from Antioch. It also describes the building of the shrine. Written in Salamis in 530/566.

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posted on 2018-11-12, 00:00 authored by erizos
Alexander the Monk, Encomium for Barnabas the Apostle (BHG 226 = CPG 7400 = CANT 286)


1-65. The text is a homily commissioned from the author by the ‘guardian’ (kleidouchos) (probably abbot) of Barnabas’ shrine in Salamis. For a long time, the author hesitated to give the talk, because of the greatness of Barnabas, whose story he was not worthy of narrating.

66-144. Rhetorical praise for Barnabas.

145-237. Barnabas, who used to be called Joseph, was a virtuous child who was born of the tribe of Levi and lived with his parents in Cyprus. Once he was old enough, his parents sent him to Jerusalem to be instructed by Gamaliel, who was also Paul’s teacher. In Jerusalem, he met Jesus and became his disciple. Shortly afterwards, his aunt Maria converted to Christianity. They were very close to Jesus, so much so that he used to stay at their house when he was in Jerusalem and he even celebrated Easter there. Their house was the place where he appeared to the Apostle Thomas and where Pentecost happened.

238-356. Barnabas (still called Joseph) followed Jesus to Galilee, where he changed his name to Barnabas, because he was a Son of Consolation. He was the first and chief of the Seventy Disciples. He donated his whole fortune to the poor. After Christ’s death and resurrection, he tried in vain to convert Paul, who was still persecuting Christians and had Stephen killed. Only when Paul had been converted on the road to Damascus, did he look for Barnabas and confess to him that Christ had appeared to him. Barnabas brought him to the Apostle, and Paul was sent to preach the Gospel in Tarsus.

357-570. Barnabas preached the Gospel in Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, then again back in Antioch, bringing Paul with him. In the fourteenth year after the death of Christ, they went back to Jerusalem, whence they were sent to Cyprus. They went all over the island from Paphos to Salamis preaching the Gospel and doing miracles, converting Elymas and the proconsul. Then, they went back to Jerusalem and again back to Antioch. Following an internal disagreement with the pseudo-apostles (who wanted Christians to observe the Jewish laws), Mark joined Barnabas and Paul in their journeys. However, Paul did not want to travel with Mark, so they decided to take different routes. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus together. When they were in Salamis, a group of Jews wanted to kill Barnabas. After having celebrated the mass and given a speech to fellow Christians, Barnabas entered the synagogue and preached to those who were threatening him. They stoned him and burned the body, so as not to leave any relic for the Christians to take. However, a miracle happened, and the body of Barnabas did not burn. Therefore, Mark buried him in a secret cave about five stades outside the west part of the city. Later, since a great persecution against Christians had arisen, the location of the tomb of Barnabas was lost. Mark went with Peter and Paul to Rome, where he wrote his Gospel. Later he was sent to preach the Gospel to the city of Alexandria, where he died a martyr nine years later.

571-700. Many years later, when the Roman Empire had become Christian, many miracles took place in the place where Barnabas had been buried – the sick and demoniacs were suddenly healed at the site. However, nobody knew the reason why that place, called the 'place of health', was miraculous. After Leo I [r. 457-474] became emperor, an evil monk named Peter the Fuller – a follower of Eutyches – became a friend of Zeno, the emperor’s son-in-law. After the death of Leo, Zeno was elected new emperor and made Peter patriarch of Antioch. Peter proclaimed himself a theopaschite, adding to the Trisagion hymn the formula ‘he was crucified for us’. When the other bishops heard of these events, they anathematised him, while Leo was fighting the revolt of Basiliscus. Later, Zeno re-established Peter as patriarch of Antioch. Against every ecclesiastical law, Peter wanted the emperor to subject Cyprus to the patriarchate of Antioch, because he knew that the church of Cyprus did not want to follow his heresy.

700-818. The bishop of Salamis, named Anthemius, was asked to go to Constantinople to discuss the case, but he was hesitant because, although he was a holy man, he was not a great speaker. Barnabas appeared to him three times in his sleep and revealed to him the place where he was buried, telling him to dig under the carob-tree, where he would find the cave with his body and the copy of the Gospel of Matthew he wrote with his own hands. Anthemius should use this as an argument in Constantinople, in order to demonstrate that the Church of Cyprus was an independent apostolic see, possessing the tomb of an apostle. Following Barnabas’ instructions, Anthemius found his body, and he commanded that God be praised with hymns every morning and every evening at that place. Anthemius went to Constantinople and defended the rights of Salamis. Impressed by the story, the emperor confirmed the ecclesiastical independence of Cyprus, and asked Anthemius if he could have the Gospel from Barnabas’ tomb. The book, written on panels of cedar-wood, was brought to Constantinople. The emperor kissed it; it was kept in the palace, and used every year during the service of Maundy Thursday.

818-853. The emperor and several aristocrats gave money to the bishop to build a church for Barnabas. Anthemius built a splendid church. On its south side, there was a great atrium with four porticoes, surrounded by houses for the church’s monks. There was also an aqueduct feeding a beautiful fountain in the middle of the atrium, and hostels for visitors standing nearby. The whole complex resembled a small town. The apostle’s sarcophagus was placed on the right side of the altar, adorning the shrine with abundant silver and marble. A feast was instituted to celebrate the memory of the saint on the 3rd day before the Ides of June (11 June). This corresponds to 11 of Mesori/Tenth Month in the calendar of Salamis and 19 of Plethypatos/Ninth Month in the calendar of Paphos. On that day, a service is celebrated.

854-897. The narrator says that every day miracles happen at the tomb of Barnabas. The narrator praises Barnabas, and asks for his intercessions for him, for the people, for the current bishop of Salamis and for the whole country.

Text: Van Deun 1993.
Summary: Giovanni Hermanin De Reichenfeld, Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Barnabas, apostle and companion of *Paul the Apostle, ob. c. 61 : S00786

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • 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

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism Miraculous intervention in issues of doctrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Heretics Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Handwriting of a saint Touching and kissing relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects


For the manuscript tradition of the text, see Van Deun 1993, 23-61, and:


The text was composed by Alexandros the Monk, apparently a learned cleric of the church of Salamis, at the request of the abbot of the shrine, and was probably delivered as the panegyric at the festal service presided over by the bishop of Salamis. Various details in the text indicate that it was probably written in the mid 6th century, between 530 and 566. It is the earliest surviving text which codifies the narrative, on which the ecclesiastical independence of Cyprus was founded, describing the miraculous discovery of the tomb of Barnabas, and the subsequent construction of his shrine near Salamis-Constantia.


Text and introduction: Van Deun, P., Sancti Barnabae laudatio auctore Alexandro monacho, in: Hagiographica Cypria (Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca 26; Turnhout: Brepols, 1993), 15-122. Kollmann, B., and Deuse, W., Alexander Monachus, Laudatio Barbanae - Lobrede auf Barnabas (Fontes Christiani 46; Turnhout, 2007) (text, introduction, German translation).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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