St Barnabas, Apostle from Jerusalem, brought Christianity to Milan as the first Bishop of Milan, just a few decades after the death of Jesus - and left his mark on an ancient pagan Celtic stone: Milan's Tredesin de Mars, celebrated every 13th of March - Milan's prominent place in the History of Early Christianity (part 2 of 3)

The most famous disciple and founder of the young Christian church is Peter, commonly accepted as the first Pope in Rome (which was still the capital of the empire, over 200 years before Christianity was officially accepted and allowed in the Roman Empire with the issue of the Edict of Milan at Mediolanum, which then became the new capital of the Western Roman Empire). Perhaps the second most famous founder of the young Christian church in the ancient world was Paul. The third, less famous, but also very important member of the developers of the young church, was Barnabas. Barnabas, at least at the beginning, had more standing than Paul, as it is written:
"When Saul the persecutor, later Paul the Apostle, made his first visit (dated variously from A.D. 33 to 38) to Jerusalem... Barnabas stood sponsor for him and had him received by the Apostles... (Saul) tried to attach himself to the disciples; but they could not believe he was a true disciple, and all avoided his company. Whereupon Barnabas took him by the hand and brought him in to the apostles..." (
At any rate, these three knew and were very familiar with each other, as they went about spreading the religion around the ancient world.

The senior St Barnabas with the younger St Paul preaching on their mission
A depiction of the senior Barnabas together with the younger Paul, on their mission, preaching and doing the work of God. Image Credit: "A Christian Pilgrimage"

While Peter is known as the first bishop of Rome, Barnabas is said to have traveled on his missions, most famously to his native Cyprus, but also:
... the Laudatio includes, before the missionary work with Paul in Antioch - between Acts 11:24 and 11:25, as it were - a visit by Barnabas to Rome and Alexandria (Laudatio 20.365–21.386) and... portrays Barnabas as the first preacher of the Gospel in Rome and founder of the city's Christian congregation. (Kollman, p.58)

Furthermore, Edmundson makes implications from evidence about Barnabas in Corinth, Greece, and Rome, Italy:
... the natural interpretation of certain passages of the First Epistle to the Corinthians implies that both Peter and Barnabas were in Corinth and working there in the autumn of 54 A.D., it may well be asked is it not strange that these two Apostolic men of all others should have thus gone apparently out of their way to visit a Church so recently founded by the efforts of St. Paul, and which should have been regarded as in his special charge? ... It is, I believe, that Peter on hearing of the death of Claudius on October 13, 54 A.D., had thought the time opportune for revisiting his Roman converts and had asked Barnabas to accompany him. They had stopped at Corinth simply as a convenient halting-place, being the half-way house between Syria and Italy. And now let us turn to tradition. There are many traditions which associate Barnabas with Rome and Italy... The earliest reference to Barnabas is that found in the 'Clementine Recognitions.' This work, an Ebionite romance of a much later age than Clement the supposed writer, is prefaced by an account of Clement's early life at Rome... The traditions represent Barnabas as having preceded Peter as a preacher at Rome, and it is quite possible that he may now have left Corinth some weeks or months before Peter followed him, and that one of the first-fruits of his ministry in the Imperial City was the conversion of the man who was to occupy so important a place in the history of the Church in Rome [as Pope Clement I, fourth Bishop of Rome]... (Edmundson, p.80 ff)

Not only said to be active in that most important centre of Rome (even though Peter is nowadays accepted as the first Bishop of Rome), Barnabas is often said to be the first Bishop of Milan.

Here are two versions of the story of Barnabas's groundbreaking evangelization of Milan: "Tradition has it that on March 13, 52 AD St. Barnabas refused to enter Milan through the main gate in order not to bow before the statue of the Roman emperor or pay respects to the statues of pagan gods that adorned the city gates. For this reason, he walked around the city walls, and entering through Porta Venezia, saw a stone with a hole in which he inserted a cross. This act symbolized the evangelization of Milan. Saint Ambrose [revered 4th century bishop], to guard the base of the first cross erected in Milan, built the Church of St. Denis (San Dionigi), and when in 1783 the church was demolished to make way for the public gardens of Porta Venezia, the stone was saved, and from the seventeenth century, Tredesin has been in its present location." 

Antica Credenza di Sant'Ambrogio: "According to legend, on March 13 of the year 52 AD St. Barnabas preached the gospel of Christ in a clearing just outside Milan: a place where Celtic tradition was still alive and where some citizens had gathered, it seems, for a celebration around a perforated stone engraved with thirteen rays... St. Barnabas lifted the cross, on the perforated round stone..."

That stone which St Barnabas used, which may have been a Celtic tombstone, eventually found its way to the church of Santa Maria al Paradiso in the Milan locality of Porta Romana.

Tredesin de Mars round Celtic stone, base of the cross of St Barnabas, in the Church of Santa Maria al Paradiso, Porta Romana, Milan, Italy
The Tredesin de Mars round stone preserved in the floor of the Chiesa di Santa Maria al Paradiso, in the Porta Romana district of Milan - believed to be of Celtic origin, and used by St Barnabas as the base for his cross that marked the beginning of the Christianization of Milan. Image Credit:

map location pin of the church of Santa maria al Paradiso on the interactive map of Milan - home of the Tredesin de Mars stone of St Barnabas
The church containing the ancient pagan Celtic stone upon which Milan's first cross was raised by St Barnabas (who in this way founded Christianity in Milan and became its first bishop) - Chiesa Santa Maria al Paradiso in the Porta Romana district - location pin in the interactive Milanfinally Google Map of Miilan.

Thus to this day, the celebration of Tredesin de Mars (13th of March in the local dialect) is observed in Milan, with the thirteen rays of the stone reminding citizens of the 13th day of March, with a street fair of springtime plants and flowers in the Porta Romana district, which is the district where the church of Santa Maria al Paradiso, which holds the Tredesin de Mars stone, is situated:
So, the Tredesin de Mars festival "... is celebrated even today; some for the Christianization of the citizens of Milan, others for celebrating just as did our Celtic Insubri ancestor, the rebirth of the Sun, and the renewal of Spring." (
parade of St Barnabas marching with pagan Celts during Tredesin de Mars festival 2008 in Porta Romana, Milan, Italy
St Barnabas and his cross, evangelizing the accompanying native pagan Celts of Mediolanum, on a parade for the 2008 Tredesin de Mars festival in Porta Romana, Milan. Image Credit:

Peter and Paul both ended up martyred in Rome around the same time, under the reign of Emperor Nero (54-64 AD). Barnabas was also martyred in the same era; not under the authority of the Roman Emperor, but instigated by enraged Jews, at Salamis of his native Cyprus.

It was also under the reign of Nero, only a few decades after the death of Jesus Christ, that there were other early Christians martyred in Mediolanum (now Milan).

Read more - Article series on Milan's prominent place in the History of Early Christianity:

Part 1 of 3 - The Edict of Milan changed the history of Christianity and Europe forever, written in the capital of the Western Roman Empire 313 AD, by the eventual first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great

Part 2 of 3 (article in this post) - St Barnabas, Apostle from Jerusalem, brought Christianity to Milan as the first Bishop of Milan, just a few decades after the death of Jesus - and left his mark on an ancient pagan Celtic stone: Milan's Tredesin de Mars

Part 3 of 3The First Christians in Milan Martyred Under Nero's Rule, just decades after the crucifixion of Jesus: a whole family of four, and one old man with a boy

(Click for ALL articles on Milan history)


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