Friday, June 06, 2008

A Touch of St. Paul

In the Bible, [Acts Ch.13], St. Paul's travels through Cyprus are outlined. He landed at Salamis, the ancient city just north of modern Famagusta and journeyed across the island, presumably passing through Lefkosia, modern Nicosia the present capital until he, along with St. Barnabas, a Cypriot [Acts Ch4], arrives in Paphos, the island's capital at the time. It was here that he blinded Elymas the sorcerer in front of the Roman prefect Sergius Paulus and thereby converted this Roman governor to Christianity. These ruins are the site of that meeting. Despite the obvious Ionic column in the foreground, I have been reliably informed a basilica to St. Paul stood here until the Saracen invasions of the 12 - 14th Centuries. However the basilica was built to mark the site.
In subsequent centuries a new Greek Orthodox church rose phoenix like from the ashes as can be seen in the background. In the foreground is the smooth stump of a pillar dubbed "St.Paul's Pillar" where legend has it that St. Paul was flogged for stirring up a riot. After the flogging he told the Governor he was a Roman citizen and therefore entitled to a proper trial. The Governor said the Latin equivalent of "Oops!" and arranged this. It was at this trial, the chief witness for the prosecution [Elymas] was blinded.
There is no biblical evidence to support the story of Paul's flogging or if it really happened but the faithful do make a point of touching that pillar,or kissing it in some cases.
The church building still belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church but is on permanent loan to the Western Catholic Church. So now the Roman Catholics and Anglicans share it. On the day I was in Paphos the Anglicans were having a flower festival along with bring and buy stalls etc. "A little corner that is forever England." The open air garden party had only one element missing other wise it could have been England; - there was no rain and the 28 degree sunshine was most UN-English.
The flower Festival was taking place during the Orthodox Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The Orthodox Easter was a full month later than the Catholic one this year so I have had two Easters. "Καλω Παχσά!"

St. Paul's Pillar with inscription saying so.

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