St. Barnabas in Cyprus

14th-15th century
Four images painted on one wooden panel
Chapter room, Old Cathedral, Salamanca, Spain

Upper left: St. Barnabas preaches in Salamis, Cyprus. In his left hand he holds the copy of Matthew's gospel that he had taken with him when he left Antioch, according to the Golden Legend (Ryan, I, 321). It was in Cyprus that his preaching led to the arrest and martyrdom shown in the two lower panels.

Upper right: In Cyprus, St. Barnabas cures the sick. According to the Golden Legend he would hold a copy of Matthew's gospel over the sick "and thus, by the power of God, cured many" (Ryan, ibid.). In the panel the book is in his hands and the "power of God" is symbolized by the hand reaching down from the upper right.

Lower left: This panel departs from the Golden Legend and other versions in some respects. It may be influenced by some version I have not yet encountered. In it the prefect of Salamis points away as if ordering the saint's execution, but the Golden Legend follows a Greek source in saying that the Jews captured and bound Barnabas because they wanted to hail him before the prefect; but fearing that the Roman authorities would just set him free, they put a rope around his neck and took him off to his death (Ryan, ibid., Acta Sanctorum, June vol. 2, 434). There is no rope in the panel; instead, his hands are bound behind his back. This is the case in another version in the Acta Sanctorum, which however does not mention the prefect at all (ibid., 445).

Lower right: In the Golden Legend and its sources the saint was burned alive. The attending figures in this panel appear to be pious Christians, a detail not found in the sources. The expanse of dark color above the saint is hard to interpret.

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Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.