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Pilgrimage to Cyprus: Saint Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum (In Turkish)

Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Turkish, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish and Thai.

It is one of the most important churches of the island. And it’s believed that the wishes you made here will come true. And there is some sand. That sand… after they light a candle, they made their wish. And they put those wishing candles on that sand. Especially after 2003, a lot of tourists and native people started to come here from Southern Cyprus. And this is a joyful thing for us.

Smiling viewers, welcome to today's The World Around Us. Situated in the ancient walled city of Famagusta on the east coast of Cyprus, the Monastery of Saint Barnabas is of crucial importance to the Orthodox Church and the history of Christianity in the Mediterranean. Now join us for a pilgrimage to this holy Orthodox Monastery in Cyprus with the experienced Cypriot tour guide Ms. Zehra Akpinarlar.

Saint Barnabas Church is located in the west corner of Salamis. It consists of a church and a monastery. And at present, from 1992 until today, the church department is an icon museum. The archeology department has been on exhibit in the monastery rooms.

As its name says, the monastery was built to commemorate Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of Cyprus and a peacemaking apostle, who fully devoted his life to the spread of the Christian message in the years immediately following the passing of Christ.

He was the son of a Jewish family. He was born in Salamis city. And in 45 AC, he went to Jerusalem for education. After Jesus Christ was born, there were intense workings to spread Christianity. Although he was a Jew, he was impressed and he accepted being a Christian. Later in the year 47, he completed his education, and before he came back to the island, he took up the missionary duty. He got back to Cyprus and here with Saint Paul he worked to spread Christianity.

After many years of his Christian mission, Saint Barnabas separated with Saint Paul and returned to Cyprus with his kinsman John Mark and evangelized here. Legend says that he was martyred in the year 61.

And his body was hidden in a marsh in Tuzla village here. The next day, the students saw that incident, and they followed them secretly. And they went and took out the body from that marsh. And they brought it and buried under a locust tree on the corner of Salamis. Before they buried him, they put the Matta Bible, which was written by Saint Matthew and which he always carried with him, on his chest. Saint Barnabas was buried with the Bible here.

According to the history of the Cyprus Church, in 478, Saint Barnabas appeared in visions on three nights in a row to Archbishop Anthemios of Constantia, today’s Salamis. Barnabas revealed the location of his sepulcher beneath a carob-tree. Today, a small plain domed mausoleum is built on the spot about 100 yards from the monastery door. There are 14 steps which take you down to the cave under the building where the remains of Saint Barnabas and his Gospel of Saint Matthew were found.

Now we are inside the cave, by the tomb where Saint Barnabas was originally buried by his disciples in the first century. Today, this tomb is just a symbolic sepulcher, because in the 5th century, Archbishop Anthemios had a dream, and after that dream, he ordered the bones of Barnabas to be taken to Istanbul. However, there is no further information on the whereabouts of the bones taken away from here.

Today, many Orthodox Greeks visit this place and pray, make wishes here. They believe that all wishes made here come true. Believers of the Orthodox faith wanting to express their love and sincerity to follow the teachings of Saint Barnabas bring flowers and put them here. Also, they bring olive oil as an offering and make wishes. Here, they light candles. That is their ritual to present the wishes they want to come true.

It was a significant event in the history of Christianity as well as that of Cyprus when Archbishop Anthemios presented the manuscript of Matthew’s Gospel to the Byzantine Emperor Zeno at Constantinople.

Of course, that was a joyful event for the Christian world. Because Saint Barnabas was the first missionary on the island. He died for his religion and Cyprus Island was one of the first countries that accepted Christianity. Therefore, discovering the tomb and Bible was welcomed with a great joy. And as a result of that event, Byzantine Emperor Zeno wanted to give a present, a gift to Cypriot churches, and that was the self-government of the Cypriot churches.

So, in the 5th century, Cypriot churches had a right of self-governing after the tomb of Saint Barnabas was found. From that moment on, Cypriot churches got authorization to wear a maroon robe, to sign with their own signature. Emperor Zeno didn’t do only that. He donated a lot of money in order to build a church, a monastery there where the grave was found. And here, in the 5th century, a Byzantine church was built.

Parts of the early building have been preserved in the more recent monastery which was built in 1756 and as it stands today. Right up until 1974, the monastery of Saint Barnabas was a favorite place for Famagustans to have their babies baptized. The ceremonies were conducted by three monks who lived there since 1917.

And when we enter in the church, the first thing we see is a fresco. A wall fresco. The fresco was made in 1922 by three brother priests who worked in the monastery. Those brother priests have worked until 1976, so after 1974, monastery has continued for two years actively. And the subject of the fresco is about the incidents that happened after Saint Barnabas passed away.

The church has been restored and has been turned into a more comprehensive icon museum. Many pilgrims come to the site.

The department we see at the back is the most important part of the church, the apse. And here, when the borders were opened, borders were opened in 2003, between Northern and Southern. And from that day on, on June 11, every year a ceremony would begin to be organized. This is a ceremony which is held via privilege that the ministry gives. And Cypriot Greeks from the Southern part, here from June 11, organize a ceremony for 2-3 days. And they often visit the church, they make their wishes, they pray.

In the ancient tradition of Christian sacred art, icons are frequently called "windows into Heaven," for through them we receive a vision of the spiritual world. The Saint Barnabas Monastery houses a rich collection of painted and gilt icons mostly dating from the 18th century. The most prominent feature of an Orthodox church is the Iconostasis.

The most typical characteristic of those icons are their eyes. Wherever you stand, the eyes follow you. God is everywhere, He sees you, watch what you do, what you say. Nothing is unreturned. There’s someone who sees, who knows. Therefore, the image of the icons were made in a three dimensional way. Wherever you stand, the eyes follow you by looking into your eyes. And on all of those icons, the hands signify the trinity, like this. And that represents the trinity of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And right here, we see one of the icons of Saint Barnabas. Saint Barnabas was illustrated while he is holding Holy Bible, and was portrayed on the throne, with a crown on his head. And that was expressed in that way because they wanted to raise the holiness, importance of him, to show the respect and love that they have for him. On that icon, Jesus was described with the title of “most high human being.” And Jesus, with a crown on his head, was described while he sits on a throne. The aim in here is that again, Jesus is the son of God, and therefore, because he is the master of the universe, the king of the universe, it’s portrayed in that way. (The Eagle and the snake)

The church of Saint Barnabas is exactly as it was when its last three monks left it in 1976. The church pulpits, wooden lectern, and pews are still in place.

And we see here the eagle and the snake. The eagle represents Cyprus, the eagle and the snake represents the Cypriot Orthodox Church. The eagle represents power, strength; the snake represents being unwanted and hatred. Why were the eagle and the snake figures used in here? The aim is that it tries to transmit to people the opinion, which is, “when you find the true path, even if you are bad, the Cypriot Orthodox Church is ready to help you, always ready to open its doors for you." Because the snake is under the feet of the eagle, so it’s under guard of the eagle.

Another tourist attraction other than the church is the archaeological museum, originally cloisters of the monastery before 1974.

The museum was opened in 1992. There is a very elegant garden inside the monastery compound, and in this garden various trees which are among the Cyprus heritage are grown. These include olive, orange, lemon, tangerine, fig trees, some cacti species, and oleander. The museum has three subsections, and in this museum, artifacts spanning a period from the Neolithic age to the Ottoman era are showcased. All artifacts are arranged in a chronological order. The period between 7000 to 3500 BC.

Those you see here are the tools and utensils used in that period. These artifacts are dated to the Neolithic Age. In this section, you can see the earthenware belonging to the Bronze Age. The red kitchenware showcased here have a polished and red surface and date back to 2300-2000 BC. Here, you can see the glazed rad pottery, with two spouts. There are some figures on this pottery, these images depict the steps of bread making. The period of Cyprus history between the 4th and 12th centuries is called the Byzantine Period, and these pieces you see here are Byzantine period potteries and utensils. These are called Grafito Potteries.

Many thanks, Saint Barnabas Monastery with its Icon and Archaeology Museum, and Ms. Zehra Akpinarlar for introducing the history of this fascinating holy site. As we reflect on the legacy of the virtuous Saint Barnabas, as well as the rich religious history of Cyprus, may all the pilgrims and people of Cyprus be blessed evermore.

Good viewers, we have enjoyed your pleasant company today on Enlightening Entertainment. Now, please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May love and peace prevail in your heart.

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