Barnabas, St, Legend and Festival of
Barnabas, St., Legend And Festival Of.
There is a tradition that he became a believer after witnessing the miracle wrought by our Lord at the pool of Bethesda, and that he was one of the seventy disciples (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. i, 12; ii, 1). It is also said that he was the first preacher of Christianity at Rome, that he converted Clemens Romanus to the faith, and that he founded the churches of Milan and Brescia. But these and other statements are unworthy of credit. There is a general agreement of testimony about the time, place, and cause of his death. From very early times he has had the credit of martyrdom. It is believed that he was stoned to death by the Jews of Salamis in Cyprus about A.D. 64. Tradition says that his death took place on June 11, and that he was buried at a short distance from the town of Salamis. Nothing, however, seems to have been heard of his tomb until about A.D. 478.
Alexander, a monk of Cyprus, who wrote (Eulogy of St. Barnabas) about the beginning of the 6th century, gives an account of the martyrdom and burial of Barnabas, and then asserts that, in consequence of the many miraculous cures that had occurred in the neighborhood of the tomb, the spot had been called the "place of healing." But the discovery of the cause of these miracles was made in the following way. Peter the Fuller, patriarch of Antioch, was endeavoring to bring Cyprus under his episcopal, sway, on the plea that the Word of God, in the first instance was carried from Antioch to Cyprus. The Cypriots resisted this claim on the ground that their church had from the time of its founders been independent of the see of Antioch. Anthemius, the bishop of Cyprus, a timid and retiring prelate, was scarcely a match for an opponent so able and experienced as Peter. But he was encouraged by Barnabas himself, who appeared to him several times in a vision. At the saint's bidding, he searched a cave in the neighborhood of the "place of healing," and found a coffin containing the body of Barnabas and a copy of Matthew's gospel. He proceeded to Constantinople, where the dispute was heard before the emperor Zeno, and in support of his claim to remain independent he announced that the body of Barnabas had lately been discovered in his diocese. On hearing this, the emperor gave his decision in favor of Anthemius, bade him send at once to Cyprus for the copy of Matthew's gospel, and as soon as it arrived had it adorned with gold and placed in the imperial palace. After conferring great honors on Anthemius, the emperor sent him back to Cyprus with instructions to build a magnificent church in honor of Barnabas near the spot where the body was found. This order was strictly carried out; the body was placed at the right hand of the altar, and June 11 consecrated to the memory of the saint.
There is every reason to believe that in the Eastern Church these legendary events were the origin of the festival. No church, however, was built to the saint's memory at Constantinople. From early times the day was kept in the Eastern Church in honor of Bartholomew as well as of Barnabas. When the name of the former was added is quite uncertain. In A.D. 886 the day was the joint festival of the two saints. It has been asserted, but not proved,n that the festival was not kept in Eastern earlier than in Western Christendom. The day occurs as the Feast of Barnabas in the calendar of the Venerable Bede: if this was inserted by that author, the day was observed in the Western Church in the 8th century. It does not, however, occur in all the old service-books. In the Martyrologium Romanum it appears as the festival of Barnabas only.