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The Legacy of Joseph Barnabas in Cyprus

Paul's mentor and missionary traveling companion

Sick for Days

October 31st, 2011

I have sick for five days with some sort of Cypriot crud. No travels, no research, no fun. Mostly just in bed. Nothing to report that the general public would particularly want to read. Hopefully in a few days I will be able to do some things.

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Barnabas at the Archbishopric

October 27th, 2011

Note the chair in front of this Nativity painting on a chapel wall. On the back of the chair is a painting of Barnabas.

I had an appointment this morning with a man at the Archbishopric to take photos of artwork depicting Barnabas. Although there often is a dearth of icons of Barnabas in churches around the island, he is everywhere in the Archbishopric.

Just inside the main door is a recent mosaic of Barnabas. In the archbishop’s office is a large painting of Barnabas on one of the walls (I did not yet get a photo of that one). In a chapel on the second floor, there are brand new paintings on the walls and ceiling. I noticed that the back of the chair in front of the painting depicting Jesus’ birth has an icon-like painting of Barnabas.

The bottom panel of this painting depicts Barnabas appearing to Anthemius in the late fifth century. The top panel depicts Anthemius finding Barnabas's body.

In the main assembly room where the archbishop meets with people for business, a major part of one wall is devoted to depicting the late fifth-century events where, according to tradition, Barnabas appeared in a vision to Anthemius, Bishop of Constantia—showing his burial site. These paintings have for centuries been presented using four panels. The first is the vision. The second is Anthemius finding the body of Barnabas with a copy of the Gospel of Matthew on the apostle’s chest. The third is Anthemius presenting the Gospel of Matthew to the emperor Zeno. The fourth is the emperor Zeno giving a scepter to Anthemius, indicating the special, royal privileges given to the archbishop of Cyprus.

These four panels tell visually the story of how Cyprus maintained its ecclesiastical independence. Barnabas is the saint who helped to establish Cypriot autonomy—an important religious and political symbol for the Archbishopric in Nicosia.

The man who opened the doors for me and waited while I took the photos also walked with me out through the guard’s gate to the nearby Cathedral of St. John—an older structure covered inside with frescos. Of course, one of the frescos is a four-panel depiction of Anthemius finding the body of Barnabas, etcetera.

This panel shows the Emperor Zeno presenting a scepter to Anthemius.

The fresco is weathered and faded. The church is very dim inside. And the fresco is right beside a window. Talk about a challenging set of conditions for taking photographs (without a flash, of course). So I used the HDR technique to produce an image that is semi-visible. I wish that I could have moved the chairs that block the view of the bottom two panels of the fresco. But I did not want to press my luck.

I smile sometimes when I think of how many of the significant Cypriot religious leaders I have met. Having a Fulbright and conducting research on Barnabas have opened lots of doors for me. Tonight, however, all these enriching experiences pale because of one irritating situation. For the first time since coming to Cyprus, I am sick. Miserable. I hope that it is a short-term illness and does not drag out for a week. Lynne’s mother and two sisters are flying to Cyprus on Friday, and I want to be in good shape for the visit.

This old and weathered fresco in the national cathedral shows all four panels of the Anthemius cycle. Extremely challenging light conditions for taking this HDR photo.

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October 26th, 2011

This morning, while I was emerging from my I-just-woke-up stupor, I heard Lynne making disgusted and despairing noises in our little kitchen. When I went to see what the problem was, I saw a good-sized cockroach lying dead in the sink. Being the male, it was my job to remove the carcass.

A few minutes earlier, I had been making my morning cup of tea, using a hotpot that boils water with amazing speed. I had more boiling water than I needed, so I held the pot over the sink and poured out the water—not actually looking into the sink. So, here is the question. Was the roach already dead, or did I kill it with boiling water. I will never know.

But when I tell the story, I will indicate my prowess at killing my foe with skill and cunning, using only what I had available. My sons will embellish the story, and my grandchildren will add further details. We shall become known as the Roach Killer Clan (RKC) and have an honorable place in our village. Over the years, those who tell the story of my bravery will provide more and more details about the event, making it more worthy of its place in my culture’s lore.

Thus, through all generations, I shall be known as Roach Killer, and my descendants shall proudly bear the name of RKC and bask in the honor it brings to them.

Perhaps I have been studying oral traditions too much lately.

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Opposite Perspectives

October 23rd, 2011

I used Photoshop to merge four photos of the theater in ancient Salamis. Then I used the Content Aware Fill function to supply the missing section of sky produced by the photo stitch. I don't understand the computer's perspective on why it filled in the sky with theater seating. Am I having a vision?

On Saturday, we drove east and found our way (finally) to the border crossing. You have to want to find the crossings. They are not marked with road signs. But we finally made our way to Famagusta. Oh, wait. The Turks renamed it Gazimağusa.

One of the many things that infuriate Greek Cypriots is the way Turkish Cypriots have renamed most towns of the island. We consider the person to whom we are speaking before we select which name of a town to use. One person’s hero is another person’s terrorist.

The Mustafa Pasha Mosque, formerly known as the Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Greek Cypriots use many disparaging terms to describe the invasion of north Cyprus by the Turkish army in 1974. Turkish Cypriots refer to the same operation as a peace-keeping mission. If you read Greek publications, 1974 was a murderous conquest and a grotesque perversion of justice. Turkish publications focus on the murderous actions of Greek nationalists and use words like ethnic cleansing to describe activities leading up to 1974. You can see such language on web sites posted by the different sides. Here, for example, is one by a Turkish tourism organization.

The TRNC flag is a modified version of the Turkish flag. Here is what a Greek website says about it.

Selective Memories

People have selective memories and typically fail to consider or to mention offensive behavior by their own side. We listen sensitively to the stories, mostly from Greek Cypriots, because we primarily interact with them. But last Wednesday, while we were having lunch in Kyrenia (or is it Girne?), a large-screen TV continuously broadcast news of 18 Turkish soldiers murdered by Kurdish “terrorists” in eastern Turkey. The café employees were glued to the news and had much to say about the Kurds. Since then, Turkey has invaded western Iraq and killed over 40 of the “terrorists.” I have not heard the Kurdish version of events. I think I know approximately what they would say about the long history of Turkish oppression of the Kurds. Perspectives differ. Read the rest of this entry »

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Castle of St. Hilarion (aka Sir Laughs a Lot)

October 20th, 2011

My camera lens could not get all of the castle in one shot, so I took three photos and merged them together in Photoshop to produce a panorama view.

Actually, if you read anything about the life of St. Hilarion, you wonder how in the world he ever got that name. He seems to have been a tormented soul.

We drove through the checkpoint into the Turkish occupied north to see the Castle of Hilarion. I had to pay 30 euros for insurance for our rental car for a month to drive in the north. Interestingly, the man at the insurance sales booth insisted on euros instead of Turkish currency.

Some of the views of the surrounding area were spectacular from the Castle of Hilarion.

St. Hilarion’s castle perches high on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Originally, the site was a monastery named after Hilarion, but later the Byzantines recognized the strategic importance of the location and fortified it. During the Lusignan rule over Cyprus in the 12th century, the castle was expanded. It must have been a splendid structure. The Venetians, however, dismantled much of the castle in the 15th century as part of their cost cutting measures.

Walking to the top of the castle requires some effort, but the remains of the once-glorious structure are worth investigating. The view from the top is worth the climb. Some of the steps were obviously made for people who were much smaller than I am. The modern addition of handrails makes the ascent and descent fairly safe. I could not help but wonder how many workers fell down the steps over the centuries.

The castle walls seem to grow out of the rock on the mountain. Hauling water and supplies up to the top must have been a lot of work. And I find it hard to imagine how much effort it took to construct the castle. The thought of setting blocks of stone in place on the various walls, with hundreds of feet of nothing but air below, makes me thankful that I am a professor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Agia Napa and Cape Gkreko

October 18th, 2011

Sea caves just east of Agai Napa

Tuesday, I spent headache time in the archbishopric library, learning how little I know about important aspects of my research. Monday, however, we went to Agai Napa, a beach resort in the SE corner of Cyprus. We wanted to see an old church, check on good places for snorkeling, and mainly just explore an area we had not yet seen.

Agai Napa is too touristy for our taste. But east of town is Cape Gkreko and a national park, so development there is nil. We hiked to the top of the hill overlooking the cape and enjoyed a nice view of the coast. Then we went to an area where there are caves carved into the soft rock of the coast. The water is clear but seemed a bit rough for us to go snorkeling. Maybe next time.

Lynne and her rather hollow new friend at an old monastery in Agai Napa

Some Germans were leaping from the cliff into the water below and having a great time. I took several short videos of them plunging into the sea. And, no, I did not try it myself. Maybe next time.

No matter where we go in Cyprus, we manage to get lost. The signs are worse than those in PA, plus they are in Greek (imagine that). Going through towns always gets us. We cannot read the signs fast enough to take the correct turn. Then we have to drive around streets that are never straight, trying to find our way back. In the late afternoon, when I am tired, I don’t deal as well with such circumstances. But, in the end, we find our destination. So it was with our loop north to see more of the coastline and then west and south to find a fishing village that is the most picturesque in the entire island—according to the guidebook. What we wonder is how much the two seafood restaurant owners in the village paid the author of the guidebook to publish such misinformation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Barnabas and Politics in Cyprus

October 16th, 2011

Painting of warrior Saints on a church wall

This morning, I could not help but notice the number of paintings of warrior saints on the walls of a large Orthodox Church. They provide a vivid reminder of the strong connection between politics and religion in Cyprus. Actually, in Cyprus, virtually everything has political implications. The first president of Cyprus was also the archbishop of the island.

Barnabas and Occupied Northern Cyprus

When I came to Cyprus in August on a Fulbright Research Grant to gather all available information on Joseph Barnabas, I simply could not come as a detached observer from the West. The identity of Barnabas as the founder of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus has many political implications. He is not merely a religious figure from the past. He is a living presence for many Cypriots who look to him to restore freedom to north Cyprus and let his spiritual children once again live in their ancestral villages and rebuild their lives and their churches. Read the rest of this entry »

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MEN ONLY! Stavrovouni Monastery

October 15th, 2011

Stavrovouni Monastery emerges from the rock at the top of the hill. Women can go no farther than the gate with the cross on it.

Stavrovouni is the only monastery in Cyprus that allows no women on the premises. So Lynne had to stay in the parking lot while I walked up to the monastery. Perched on top of a hill, the setting provides a great view of a large part of the island. In modern Cypriot Greek, stavros (Greek Σταυρός) means cross, and vouno (Greek βουνό) means mountain. So the name means mountain of the cross.

According to tradition/legend, in the fourth century, St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, discovered the crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. She was bringing them via ship from Palestine to Constantinople, but she encountered bad weather and was forced to stop in Cyprus. Miraculously, that night the holy cross was transported to the top of a nearby hill. St. Helena saw a light shining from the top of the hill, so she climbed the hill the next day and found the cross there.

Closer view of the monastery.

As the story goes, the cross resisted being moved, so Helena decided to leave a piece of it there and construct a chapel on top of the hill. She also left the cross of the good thief and a nail from the cross. Today, a large silver cross houses a piece of wood that the monks believe to be the piece of the cross, which is the main relic in the monastery. I did not see it. But I did see an icon of Barnabas, which I could not photograph. No cameras allowed.

Painting of Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena, standing by the cross.

I was surprised at how many of the paintings on the walls of the monastery chapel depicted warrior saints and emperors dressed in their battle gear. I will need to ask some questions about these paintings.

Barnabas and Paul, founders of the church of Cyprus.

The small chapel in the small parking lot had a painting of Barnabas and Paul holding a church, depicting their role in establishing the church in Cyprus. It also had a painting of Emperor Constantine and Helena, his mother. One aspect of Cypriot life that intrigues me is the absence of separation of church and state. But that is a subject for another blog posting.

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Paul’s Pillar at Paphos

October 12th, 2011

Cleaning pottery sherds with brushes in the afternoon under the shade of an awning.

On Tuesday, October 11, we went with a group from CAARI to visit several archaeological sites in Nea Paphos on the west side of the island. A group of Australian archaeologists and student assistants are developing one site. we had a guided tour of the site, and later we ate a late lunch with the team.

A lot of archaeology is grunt work. They go to work early in the morning, at first light, in order to beat the heat. In the afternoon, they work in the shade on projects like washing pieces of pottery. A photographer explained to Lynne and me how he takes thousands of photographs of pieces of pottery and other artifacts found at the site. He has a nice setup with his camera on a stand. He places the pottery piece on a glass plate so that there will be no shadow from the flash. He also varies the background color by placing large sheets of paper several feet below the glass. Some editors prefer white background and others prefer blue or reddish when they publish books and articles. Depending on the color of the pottery piece, different background colors enhance the photo.

Lynne watching as archaeologists discuss pottery sherds

His camera is directly connected to a laptop computer, so that at soon as he photographs a piece, the photo appears on the computer screen. A program catalogues the information about the sherd. He photographs the same piece from multiple angles. The process is exacting and tedious. I asked the photographer what he does to keep from getting a terribly stiff neck. He told me that he goes swimming in the Mediterranean every afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Translation Mix-up, Terrible Traffic, and a Crusader Castle

October 10th, 2011

Crusader castle at Kolossi

On Friday, Oct. 7, we drove south to visit Athanasios, the Metropolitan of Limassol. We were anticipating the audience, because Athanasios is Fr. Maximos, the main character in The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality, by Kyriacos Markides. We read the book as part of our preparation for coming to Cyprus.

The bishopric is in the old part of the city, where narrow streets made before the advent of cars, and the driving habits of Cypriots, made for some close calls. We emerged shaken but safe. Driving in Cyprus is an adventure. Police pretty much just let things happen. I read before we came that Cyprus ranks among the worst countries in Europe for driving safety. I believe it. Of course, non-European countries like Egypt are worse.

Castle has thick walls

We finally found a place to park in a dirt lot. Lynne wanted me to park on a sidewalk like Cypriots do, but I am not yet sure when that common practice is okay. We made our way to the bishop’s office and waited. When he finally arrived, he began speaking to us in Greek. We stared at him. It was embarrassing. Somehow, when the lady at the Fulbright office made the appointment, the little detail of our not speaking Greek got lost.

After a bit, a disheveled man in a T-shirt, shorts and a ponytail appeared; and he haltingly translated for us. Athanasios, who is immensely popular with the Cypriot people, spent years on Mt. Athos and is a mystic. He told me that we know little about Barnabas. But then we don’t really know all that much about Jesus or Mary or Paul from the New Testament. For him, it is fine that I do my historical research; but it will not change anything for him. What is most important is the mystical experience of faith. He had no particular advice for me.

Castle has low doorways.

Kolossi Castle

When we got out of Limassol in one piece (after getting lost and having to navigate alleys that were made for donkeys, not automobiles), we headed west to a castle built by Crusaders about 1454. The walls are thick, the interior is dark, and the spiral staircase up to the top of the castle is an adventure in itself. I worried about Lynne, but she made the ascent and descent without incident. Things get interesting when folks going up are trying to pass folks going down. The spiral steps taper to nothing on the inside and are not that wide on the outside. Read the rest of this entry »

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