The Island's Early Christian History

Cyprus played an integral part in early Christian History, although the events of the first 400 years are often overlooked. Few know that The Faith reached Cyprus a decade before Barnabas and Paul arrived or that both Barnabas and Lazarus were buried here. Paul performed his first miracle and received his name in Paphos. And, not only was Eustolios of Kourion one of the first to openly dedicate his home to Christ, but one of the most ancient pieces of Christian jewelry ever worn was found here.

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The Little-Known Early Christian History of Cyprus

Christian Cyprus

Lazarus

It seems probable that Lazarus left Bethany in fear of his life sometime around the time of the crucifixion, because "...the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him."
[John 12:10-11]

But where did Lazarus go and what became of him?

He went to Cyprus where he was later ordained as the Bishop of Kition by Barnabas and Paul on their First Missionary Journey.

  Saint Lazarus Church in Larnaca
Ayios Lazaros Church
Larnaca (formerly Kition)

This much is made clear not only by Cypriot tradition, but also by the discovery of his, already ancient, sarcophagus in 890AD. Buried beneath a tiny church on the site of the present Ayios Lazaros church in Larnaca, his sarcophagus was inscribed with:

"Lazarus, four days dead and friend of Christ."

Read more about LAZARUS IN CYPRUS

St Paul's Pillar at Ayios Pavlos in Paphos
The Pillar of St Paul
St Paul's Church, Paphos

 

Barnabas and Paul

After the Holy Spirit commanded Barnabas and Paul to go forth from Antioch and spread the Faith, they set sail for Cyprus. There they landed at Salamis and began to proclaim the Word of God, preaching the Good News, working wonderous signs and miracles in the island's synagogues on their way to Paphos.

There they were confronted with Elymas, a Jewish civic leader and attendant to the Proconsul Sergius Paulus, who was the island's governor, appointed by the Senate of Rome.

Elymas actively tried to prevent the pair from reaching the Proconsul. According to a strong local tradition, he even had Saul dragged to the synagogue, tied to a pillar, and whipped. If this tradition is true, then the two pillars seen to the right mark the entrance to the ancient synagogue of Paphos.

"Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one."
[Corinthians 2 11:24]

Arial Photo of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Paphos

Nevertheless, the Proconsul, 'a man of intelligence', insisted on a meeting with Barnabas and Saul to hear the Word of the Lord. It was during this meeting, in the Proconsul's audience chambers that Saul struck Elymas blind, converted Sergius Paulus to the Faith and received the name 'Paul' never to be called 'Saul' again.

An in-depth view of the FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY

Eustolios of Kourion

The House of Eustolios is a rare example of a public building openly decorated with Christian symbols at the time when Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380AD, and ended state support for the traditional Roman cults.

  Cross Mosaic from the Houso of Eustolios in Kourion

Christianity had finally triumphed over paganism.

Less than fifteen years had passed since the cataclysmic earthquake of 365AD, and much of the Eastern Empire was still laying in ruins. It was the time of the fall of paganism and the triumph of Christianity. Where once stood mighty pagan temples, now rose majestic Christian basilicas throughout the Empire's vast reaches.

At exactly this time, Eustolios was one of the first to openly dedicate his home to Christ. What is more, this wealthy Christian also went on to take an active part in the reconstruction of Kourion by constructing and donating a massive public building to the city.

See the HOUSE OF EUSTOLIOS

The Christian Ring found at Kourion
The Father's Ring

 

The Christian Ring

In 365AD, when the father bravely wore this ring as an outward sign of his Faith, it was still a time when paganism flourished, when Christianity was barely tolerated within the Empire, and when the Followers of the Way were still ridiculed by the established cults.

As one of the oldest pieces of its kind ever unearthed, this ring, small though it may be, holds an absolutely unique place in our Early Christian History.

Read about the YOUNG FATHER'S STORY

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"Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus."
[Acts 11:20]

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Ancient Entrance to the Synagogue where Paul received the 39 Lashes
Entrance to the Ancient Synagogue of Paphos


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The Pilgrimage Rings being taken to the Proconsul's Chamber at the Paphos World Heritage Site
The Pilgrimage Rings at the Proconsul's Chamber


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The Father's Christian Ring on display at the Kourion Museum

 

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Cape Andreas, looking to wards the mainland


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