stone that is part of the south wall at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
is a remarkable piece of history. Given to the congregation by Lady
Bird Johnson, the stone once occupied a place in the wall of the
historic St. Barnabas Church on the island of Cyprus.
St. Barnabas, the man, became one of the giants of early Christianity.
Most sources list Cyprus as his home. Born into the Jewish faith,
St. Barnabas (known then as Joseph the Levite) converted to Christianity
as a young man.
A gifted and passionate speaker, St. Barnabas met the Apostle Paul,
and together they preached in Judea and Asia Minor. John Mark, believed
to be the writer of the Gospel of Mark, sometimes traveled with
Around the year 61, St. Barnabas returned to Cyprus. Not long after
beginning his ministry there, legend says an angry mob stoned him
to death. Several centuries later the Byzantine Emperor financed
a church at Salamis, Cyprus over the tomb that, according to legend,
holds the Christian martyr's remains.
forward to 1962. The Cold War is raging. The Eastern Mediterranean
is in turmoil. There is tension between Israel and its neighbors.
The Greeks and the Turks on the island of Cyprus didn't get along
In August of 1962, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, accompanied by
his wife Lady Bird, boarded Air Force 2 for a state-sponsored good-will
trip to Europe and the Middle East.
After visiting Greece, Lebanon and Turkey, the Johnsons made a 24-hour
stop at the beautiful city of Nicosia, Cyprus. In a private conversation
with Cyprian President Makarios, Mrs. Johnson expressed a special
interest in St. Barnabas, the country's Patron Saint.
Mrs. Johnson told President Makarios, an archbishop in the Cypriot
Orthodox Church, about a special place called St. Barnabas Episcopal
Church in Fredericksburg,
As a gesture of friendship, President Makarios gave Mrs. Johnson
a stone from the ruins of the church built over the tomb of St.
Barnabas. Mrs. Johnson had the stone shipped to Texas.
At about the same time the congregation at St. Barnabas Episcopal
Church in Fredericksburg began making plans to build a new church
at the corner of Creek and Bowie Streets. Workers broke ground in
| Lady Bird Johnson
at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
1964 the church planned a ceremony to lay the cornerstone. President
and Mrs. Johnson attended the ceremony. The local newspaper reported
that President Johnson drove himself and Mrs. Johnson from the LBJ
Ranch to Fredericksburg
in a white limousine.
A small army of aides and journalists followed the Johnsons from
the ranch to Fredericksburg including Mrs. Johnson's Secretary Liz
Carpenter, Jesse Kellama Johnson family friend and manager
of KTBC radio and television in Austin
and 2 chartered busloads of the white House Press Corps.
After the cornerstone ceremony, the attendees went inside the church
where President and Mrs. Johnson helped place the stone, given to
Mrs. Johnson by President Malkarios, in the south wall.
| "From Saint
Barnabas Church in Cyprus." rock
by Michael Barr, June 2023
measures 16 in. by 18 in. by 9 in. The inscription reads "From Saint
Barnabas Church in Cyprus."
Mrs. Johnson addressed the group inside the church. "I am deeply
moved," she said, "to present this stone to our own St. Barnabas
Church in the Hill
Country of Texas."
Mrs. Johnson and the President attended the first Sunday service
in the new worship center at St. Barnabas. Mrs. Johnson donated
money for landscaping. For the rest of her life she attended church
there whenever she could, with family members and secret service
Occasionally Mrs. Johnson would bring a surprise guest to church.
The actor George Hamilton attended a Sunday service at St. Barnabas
with the Johnson family. He dated First Daughter Lynda Johnson at
It is easy to understand Mrs. Johnson's attachment to St. Barnabas
Episcopal Church. The buildings on the property are a blend of old
and new, historic and contemporary. The grounds are beautiful. The
location, away from traffic and the business district, is peaceful
and quiet. The church, made of rock, wood and glass, is simple but
statelypart country church and part cathedral.