This beautiful Orthodox church is dedicated to St Paul’s good friend Varnavas (Barnabas), who was born in Cyprus and carried out his missionary work here. Although his name and work are listed in the Bible’s ‘Acts of the Apostles’, he was never officially one of them.
Today the church is an icon museum with a wide selection of Greek Orthodox icons and some frescos on display, but its the stunningly well-preserved architecture of the building that is the true star.
Three monks (who were also brothers) called Barnabas, Stefanos and Khariton governed the church from 1917. They attempted to remain after 1974 but ultimately left in 1976, following constant searches of the premises and travel restrictions imposed by the Turkish authorities. They lived out their days at Stavrovouni Monastery.
The church was spared from the destruction and looting that befell many churches in the North when Turkish authorities turned it into a museum. Although many Greek Cypriots have objected to the site’s use for monetary gain and not for worship, they are pleased the church has survived.
The original church was built in AD 477, beside the site of Varnavas’ tomb. It was discovered by Anthemios, the bishop of Constantia (Salamis), following a revelation in a dream. The current structure was built by Archbishop Philotheos in 1756 and incorporates much of the original church.
In the courtyard there is also a small archaeological museum, which contains some excellent finds from Salamis and nearby Enkomi. Some of its contents may have been moved from the now defunct Archaeological Museum in Varosia.
The artefacts and the rooms are not well signed. Clockwise from the entrance, the first room houses Bronze Age objects, the next has exhibits from the Venetian period, and there’s a mixture of Ottoman and Classical periods in the final room. The most interesting exhibit is the statue of a woman holding a poppy, believed to be the goddess Demeter.
Slightly apart from the main church compound, down a trail just off the car park, is the little chapel said to contain Varnavas' tomb.
The church is 9km northwest of Famagusta, 2km down the well-signposted turn-off just south of Salamis.