The Apostles in Britain

Introduction

Who were the apostles? They were 12 men who were handpicked by Jesus each representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Not a lot was written by the apostles themselves. In a passage with Jesus and Peter talking about John, Jesus says in John 21:22-23: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" This statement by our Lord led the apostles to believe he would return during their lives so they didn’t bother with writing much down. There are only two Gospels written by Apostles. Most of the writings in the bible were by helpers, such as Mark and Luke.

To find out what the apostles did and where they went we must look elsewhere as Acts is only a beginning of what they did. By looking at the Early Church Fathers’ writings, early historians, church records (Vatican and Orthodox Churches) and oral tradition the pieces fall into the puzzle.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus gave the apostles a commission just before His accension. Mat 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

But where did they go? Eusebius says the apostles divided the world and set forth to all points of the compass. They used the roads of the Roman Empire to spread the Gospel and within the lifetime of the apostles the Gospel had been spread to Gaul and Briton to the northwest, Alexandria and Carthage on the northern coast of Africa, Scythia and Armenia to the north and Persia and India to the east or what was most of the known world at that time. But did any of the apostles minister to the Celts? There is a plethora of evidence that they did. Some of this evidence will be summarized below:

Philip

Isidore, the Archbishop of Seville (600-636) wrote that Philip came to Gaul around Marseilles with Peter and preached the Gospel. Cardinal Baronius and Bede also placed Philip in Gaul.

St. Epiphanius (315-407) bishop of Salamius says Philip came to Gaul with Joseph of Arimathea. He says Philip also preached in Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy and then into Macedonia, but that he spent most of his time in Gaul.

Cardinal Caesere Baronius records this story based on documents in the Vatican library:

(Side note: Cardinal Baronius was the curator of the Library at the Vatican in the 16th Century and twice was almost elected pope. His works, Annales Ecclesiastici, on the history of the church was greatly lauded when published as the most important historical expose’ on the church after Eusebius’ works). After Pentecost, Joseph gave up this work. He joined a team of missionaries led by the apostle Philip. They came to western Europe. Having reached Marseilles in Gaul (now France) in 35 AD and they split into two groups. One group stayed in the vicinity of Marseilles. The other, which included Joseph, traveled north. Because of his familiarity with Briton, Joseph was chosen by Philip to cross the channel and bring the gospel to these shores. With 11 or 12 associates he sailed along the north shore of Cornwall and Devon and landed on the Somerset coast. At Glastonbury Joseph established the first missionary base in the British Isles.

Peter

After establishing a church in Gaul, which Peter visited and preached there before heading on to Briton. Cornelius writes that the reason Paul doesn’t mention Peter in his letter to the Romans because he had fled to Briton after the Jews were expelled from Rome.

While in Briton he became acquainted with the two branches of the royal Silurian house of Arviragus and Caractacus. He was taken into the home of the Pudens at the Palatium Britannicum. The visit of both Paul and Peter to the Pudens are recorded in 2 Tim 4:21. Linus, who was ordained first Bishop of Rome is believed to have been a Briton and the son of Pudens and Claudia.

In 179 AD King Lucius built a church and dedicated it to St. Peter in commemoration of his evangelizing labors in Briton. it is still known as St. Peter’s of Cornhill.

But the best proof that Peter was in Briton may be found at Whithorn. A stone 4 feet high, 15 inches wide with the Latin inscription “Locvs Sancti Petri Apvstoli” (The place of Peter the Apostle) has been excavated there.

Tradition says Peter made several visits to Briton and Gaul, including one shortly before his death.

Simon

Dorotheus, the bishop of Tyre around 300 AD writes that Simon came to Briton after Joseph of Arimathea. He says simon was martyred in Briton. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople in 758 AD confirms his martyrdom there. The Greek Orthodox Church agrees and recognizes his saint day as May 10th, the date of his martyrdom.

He made at least two trips to Briton, the first in 44 AD and the second in 60 AD according to Eusebius and Cardinal Baronius.

On his last trip he went into the south of Briton, an area not protected by Roman troops and considered dangerous. He preached fiery sermons and was arrested by Catusdeciannus and put to death on May 10, 61. Cardinal Baronius in Annales Ecclesiastici confirms the date.

Hippolytus, bishop of Rome, writes that Simon was the first bishop in Briton.

Those Who Were Not Apostles:

Paul

In his letter to the Romans Paul indicated an intention to visit Rome on his way to Spain (Rom 15:28: “So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way”). But he was imprisoned (a house arrest) and prevented from visiting Spain at that time.

The question arises why Spain? Because there were colonies of Jews living there, some were slaves and others had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas.

Bede and other early historians say Paul was sent to Rome in 56 AD and at some point spent two years under house arrest. The years from 61 AD to 65 AD that are unaccounted for in his life.

Clement, the third bishop of Rome and a disciple of Paul, wrote that he went to the extremeties of the west of the Roman empire and preached the gospel there just before his martyrdom.

Muratori’s Canon of the New Testament written in 170 AD plainly says that Paul went into Spain.

Eusebius, Chrysostom and Jerome all write Paul went to Spain after being released from his house arrest. Jerome wrote it this way: “Paul was dismissed by Nero, that he might preach Christ’s gospels in the west. Jerome went on to say that at this time Nero’s wickedness had not yet broken forth”. Tradition says in the 14th year of Nero Paul was put to death.

Then came St. Paul to Briton. Theodoretus (writing in AD 435) says “Paul preached the Gospel to the Britons and others in the West” (De Curandis Graecorum Affectionibus Lib.IX). After investigation of the subject Capellus states, “I scarcely know of one author, from the time of the Fathers downward, who does not maintain that St. Paul, after his liberation, preached in every country in western Europe, Briton included” (History of the Apostles). Bishop Burgess writes “Of St. Paul’s journey to Briton we have as satisfactory proof as any historical question can demand.” (Independence of the British Church).

Tradition says he resided in Siluria, South Wales and preached as far north as the banks of the River Clyde according to the“Triads of Paul the Apostle” handed down in ancient Welsh.

The "Sonnini Document", is a manuscript written in Greek and discovered by D.S. Sonnini, in Constantinople in the time of Louis XVI and published in London in 1801. The part that deals with Paul’s visit reads as follows:

"And having departed out of Spain, Paul and his company found a ship in Armorica [i.e. Brittany] sailing to Briton, and went therein, and passing along the south coast they reached a port called Raphinus. [the Roman name for Sandwich in Kent.] Now when it was noised abroad that the apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Paul courteously and he entered in at the east gate of their city [i.e. London] and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own nation. And on the morrow he came and stood on Mount Lud [i.e. what is now Ludgate Hill, upon which stands St. Paul's Cathedral] and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Christ unto them, and many believed the word and the testimony of Jesus. " The manuscript also records a meeting with some of the druid priests who showed him some of their rites which they maintained were descended from the Jews.

The names of a British prince and princess who had become Christians, are mentioned in the New Testament by Paul in Timothy 4:21. “Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers”.

Pudens was a Roman Noble and son of a Roman Senator and Claudia was his wife according to Tacitus. At the time that verse was written all three of them were living in Rome. Pudens has the distinction of being the only name mentioned in the Bible known to be from Briton. Their son, Linus, was subsequently installed by Paul as the first bishop of Rome (according to Eusebius and Iraeneus, Linus, not Peter was the first bishop of Rome).

There are a couple of interesting inscriptions on stones that have been found.

The first was a stone found among Roman remains at Chichester in 1723. The stone is on exhibit outside the Council House at Chichester. Pudens is mentioned in connection with the erection of a Roman Temple. He had been stationed there while a Roman soldier and this was before his coversion to Christianity. He married Claudia, daughter of Claudius Cogidunus (or Caractacus) a British King in 53 AD in Rome. The names Pudens, Claudia and Cogidunus are also all mentioned in an epigram written at Rome by Marital. Martial writes of his friend Pudens the following. “Oh Rufus, my friend Pudens marries the foreigner Claudia” and “ Claudia Rufina has sprung from the azure Britons. He also says Linus was their son, the same Linus that was installed as the first bishop of Rome by Paul.

The second is an inscription on a memorial on the church of St. Pudens in Briton. It was written following the execution of Praxedes in the 2nd century, who was the last surviving member of the original Christian family of Claudia and Pudens. “In this sacred and most ancient of churches, known as that of Pastor (Hermas), dedicated by St. Paul, formerly the house of Sancus Pudens, the Senator, and the home of the holy apostles, repose the remains of three thousand blessed martyrs which Pudentiana and Praxedes, virgins of Christ, with their own hands interred”. Interred here was the last surviving child of Pudens and Claudia.

It is believed that Paul spent his last house arrest in the house of Pudens in Rome (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

Several prominent Roman Catholic historians have admitted Paul was in Spain and Briton, including Cardinal Baronius and historian Mary Sharp who writes that Paul’s ministry was recorded by Luke in Acts, except for his ministry to Spain, which is alluded to by Clement and recorded in Muratori’s. She goes on to record his martrydom shortly after his return to Rome outside the Ostian Gate on the same day Peter was martryed.

But perhaps the one of the most compelling evidences that Paul was in Briton comes from a pope. Pope Pius XI said in a speech to English Catholics that it was not Pope Gregory, but the St. Paul himself who first introduced Christianity into Briton (now the Daily Telegraph) on. This statement was recorded in London by the Morning Post of March 27th 1931. Here is an excerpt from that article: “The Mayors of Bath, Colchester, and Dorchester, and the 150 visiting members of the Friends of Italy Society, were today received in special audience by the Pope. His holiness, in a specially prepared address, advanced the theory that it was St. Paul himself and not Pope Gregory, who first introduced Christianity into Briton.”

Aristobulus

Aristibule (Aristobulus) was one of the seventy Apostles (Luke 10:10) sent out to preach, according to Eusebius, Hippolytus and Strong’s. He is mentioned by St. Paul in Romans 16:10 and is identified with Zebedee, the father of St’s. James and John and the brother of Barnabus. He later became a bishop to the Celts of northern Spain and Briton and is known as the Apostle of Briton. Hippolytus (who had heard the lectures of Irenaeus who was a pupil of Polycarp the pupil of St. John) writing in AD 160, in the Martyrologies of the Greek Church, (and others) states that he was chosen by Paul to take the gospel to Briton. He ministered in what is today Wales, building several churches and ordaining priests and deacons before being martyred.

The Eastern Orthodox Church regards him as the first bishop of Briton and honors him as the Saint of the British Isles. His feast day is on March 16 in some churches and on October 31st in others. St. Dorotheus of Tyre wrote in 303 A.D. that Aristobulus preached in Briton.

Ado, archbishop of Vienne (800-874 A.D.), states in the Adonis Martyrologia, Bishop of Briton, brother of St. Barnabas the apostle, by whom he was ordained Bishop. He was sent to Briton, where after preaching the truth of Christ, and forming a church, he received martyrdom on March 17th.

The Celtic Saint Prydain in his Genealogies of the Saints of Briton writes Aristobulus was Paul's forerunner in Briton, sent by the apostle to the Gentiles to prepare the way for his own particular mission, which was to follow later and to be separate from Joseph of Arimathea's work at Avalon (Glastonbury). In the early stages Aristobulus was associated with Joseph but never attached to the group at Glastonbury. He labored in the part of Briton now known as Wales; and the district of Arwystli in Montgomeryshire on the Severn river.

Joseph of Arimathaea

Joseph was a merchant by trade, specialising in metal. In the first century tin and lead mining were thriving industries in the English West Country. Joseph used to conduct business by sea with the Cornish miners.

After Pentecost, Joseph gave up this work. He joined a team of missionaries led by the apostle Philip. They came to western Europe. Having reached Gaul (now France) they split into two groups.

One group stayed in the vicinity of Marseilles. The other, which included Joseph, travelled north. Because of his familiarity with Britain, Joseph was chosen by Philip to cross the channel and bring the gospel to these shores.

With 11 or 12 associates he sailed along the north shore of Cornwall and Devon and landed on the Somerset coast. At Glastonbury Joseph established the first missionary base in the British Isles.

Vatican records confirm Joseph’s ministry to Britain with evidence existing that Glastonbury (in Somersetshire) was the first Christian Church building in the world and that it was built by Joseph of Arimathaea and his associates. The famous Vatican Librarian, Cardinal Baronius, discovered an ancient MS in the Vatican telling of Joseph of Arimathaea, Lazarus, Martha and Mary landing at Marseilles in A.D. 35. This is in agreement with the early records of English historian William of Malmesbury, who states that Joseph of Arimathaea (who took care of our Lord’s body after the Crucifixion) accompanied by eleven missionaries under his charge came to Britain from France, having been sent by Phillip the Apostle, and that the British King gave them Ynys- vitrin or Glastonbury and twelve Hides of land. Confirmatory of this the Doomsday Book contains the following entry:

“The Church of Glastonbury has in its own yule twelve Hides of Land, which have never paid tax.” (Doomsday Survey, folio p.249b).

The old Glastonbury Chronicle gives the following quaint record of the meeting of Joseph of Arimathaea and Arviragus, the British King:

“Joseph then counselled the King to believe in Christ: King Arviragus refused this, nor did he believe in Him. Arviragus the King gave him twice six hides at Glastonia. Joseph left the rights with those companions in the XXXI year after the Passion of Christ. These men, with praises built a church of wattles.”

In J.W Taylor’s work, The Coming of the Saints, the journey of Joseph of Arimathaea is followed place to place from Palestine through Gaul, via Marseilles evidence also goes to show that Glastonbury (in Somersetshire) was the first Christian Church building in the world and that it was built by Joseph of Arimathaea and his associates. The famous Vatican Librarian, Cardinal Baronius, discovered an ancient MS in the Vatican telling of Joseph of Arimathaea, Lazarus, Martha and Mary landing at Marseilles in A.D. 35. This is in agreement with the early records of English historian William of Malmesbury, who states that Joseph of Arimathaea (who took care of our Lord’s body after the Crucifixion) accompanied by eleven missionaries under his charge came to Britain from France, having been sent by Phillip the Apostle, and that the British King gave them Ynys- vitrin or Glastonbury and twelve Hides of land. Confirmatory of this the Doomsday Book contains the following entry:

“The Church of Glastonbury has in its own yule twelve Hides of Land, which have never paid tax.” (Doomsday Survey, folio p.249b).

The old Glastonbury Chronicle gives the following quaint record of the meeting of Joseph of Arimathaea and Arviragus, the British King:

“Joseph then counselled the King to believe in Christ: King Arviragus refused this, nor did he believe in Him. Arviragus the King gave him twice six hides at Glastonia. Joseph left the rights with those companions in the XXXI year after the Passion of Christ. These men, with praises built a church of wattles.”

In J.W Taylor’s work, The Coming of the Saints, the journey of Joseph of Arimathaea is followed place to place from Palestine through Gaul, via Marseilles into Britain (The Early British Church, p.9, by Rev. L.G.A. Roberts). Furthermore the early Welsh writer, Maelgwyn of Llandaff (circ. A.D. 450) informs us that Joseph of Arimathaea is buried at Glastonbury

(Avalon). That Joseph of Arimathaea was the first to preach the Gospel in Britain is also confirmed by foreign writers, e.g, St. Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks, and Haleca, Archbishop of Saragossa in his Fragments.

For a long time Glastonbury (“Isle” of Avalon) was regarded as the most sacred spot in all Britain. The original Church erected by Joseph of Arimathaea and his companions was built of wattles. At the present day, the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey stand on the site of the old wattle Church. That spot has thus been a place of Christian worship from Christ’s day to the present time. Regarding its antiquity as such, note the following extracts from the various authorities:

Sir Henry Spelman: “It is certain Britain received the faith in the first age from the first sowers of the Word. Of all the Churches whose origin I have investigated in Britain, the Church at Glastonbury is the most ancient”.

Archbishop Ussher: “The British National Church was founded A.D. 36, 160 years before heathen Rome confessed Christianity. The Mother Church of the British Isles is the Church in Insula Avallonia, called by the Saxons, Glaston”.

Fuller: “If credit be given to ancient authors, this church at Glastonbury is the senior church of the world”.

Cressy, the Benedictine Monk and historian, tells us that St Joseph of Arimathea died at Glastonbury on July 27th, A.D. 82, and on his tombstone was written, in Latin, "After I had buried the Christ, I came to the Isles of the West; I taught; I entered into my rest."

Publius Disciplius: “The church of Avalon in Britain had no other hands than those of the disciples of the Lord themselves built”.

Theodore Martin (Lovar), in A.D. 1517 states; “It is not too much to say that the site of St. Mary’s church in the abbey grounds at Glastonbury is the site of the first known above-ground church in the world”.

Glastonbury has been called the Bethlethem of Britain.

The study of the circumstances which led up to Joseph of Arimathaea choosing Britain as his final place of residence is interesting. There exists a number of entirely independent traditions both in France and Britain that Joseph of Arimathaea was a well-to-do tin merchant. The richest tin mines in the world at that time were in Comwall. Whilst in the Mendip Hills in Somerset nearby were rich deposits of copper and lead, which form useful alloys with tin. It is of course well known that a metal trade between Britain and the near East existed for many centuries and that merchants from Phoenicia and Palestine came regularly to

Cornwall and Somerset for tin lead and copper. This is mentioned by such classical writers as Herodotus, Homer, Pytheas and Polybius, whilst Diodorus Siculus gives the details of the trade route. After the tin was mined it was shaped into slabs or blocks, taken to a small island, Ictis, which at low tide was connected to the mainland by a narrow path. This little island is now known as St. Michael’s Mount (near Marazion, Cornwall). The tin and other metals were taken by boat from the Isle of Ictis to Morlaix, thence transported across France to Massilia, (now Marseilles) and then shipped to Tyre, close to the Palestine border. Stories of Joseph of Arimathaea exist at separate places all along this ancient trade route.

The story is still told “at Marazion in Cornwall of St. Joseph coming there to trade with tin miners” (Glastonbury - Her Saints, page 66 by the Rev. Lionel Smithett Lewis, MA). In the Guide to Penzance (Ward, Locke and Co.) it is stated; “There is a tradition that Joseph of Arimathaea was connected with Marazion when he and other Jews traded with the ancient tin miners in Cornwall”. Marazion means ‘bitter Zion’. It’s other name is still Market Jew. The origin is said to be

derived from the fact that it was a colony of Jews, who traded in tin. “‘Jew’s houses’, ‘Jew’s tin’, ‘Jew’s leavings’, ‘Jew’s pieces’ are still common terms in the Cornish tin mines. The oldest pits containing smelted tin are called “Jew’s houses”. (Glastonbury Her Saints, page 66). “Amongst the old tin workers, who have always observed a certain mystery in their rites, there was a moment when they ceased their work and started signing a quaint song beginning ‘Joseph was a tin Merchant;.” (Joseph of Arimathaea at Glastonbury, pp 23-24)

It is agreed by most authorities that the Virgin Mary was widowed while Jesus was just a youth. It is also generally considered that Joseph of Arimathaea was the uncle of Mary, and took special care over Jesus. Naturally Jesus would be interested in the accounts which his uncle would give of Britain - a land free from the oppression of Rome, and free from ecclesiastical fanatacism such as was prevalent in his own country. It is not altogether surprising therefore to find in different parts of Somerset and Cornwall four independent ancient traditions that on one of his visits Joseph of Arimathaea brought the boy Jesus with him to Britain. These are summarised as follows in the Revd C.C. Dobson’s wonderful little book, Did Jesus Visit Britain as they say in Cornwall and Somerset?.

1) The first is found in Cornwall and is recorded in Baring Gould’s “Book of Cornwall” where he writes;

“Another Cornish story to the effect that Joseph of Arimathaea came in a boat to Cornwall, and brought the boy Jesus with him ...“.

2) The second is found in Somerset of the coming of Christ and Joseph in a ship of Tarshish, and how they came to the Summerland (Somerset) and sojourned in a place called Paradise.

3) The third tradition is to be found in the little village of Priddy on the top of the Mendip Hills to the effect that Jesus and Joseph stayed there.

4) Finally, traditions associate Jesus with Glastonbury.

The accompanying map shows the route taken by Jesus and Joseph of Arimathaea, as indicated by the coordination of all available data. In connection with Paradise mentioned above, and shown on the map, it is illuminating to observe that on an old ordinance survey maps the district around Burnham in Somerset was still called Paradise. Even at Burnham today there is a Paradise Farm. The old well close to the shore of the fine natural harbour at the mouth of the Camel (in Cornwall) at which the boat conveying Jesus called, is still known as Jesus Well. In bygone days it was regarded as a holy well, and traces of the Chapel erected over it remain to the present day.

There is however, evidence that Jesus came to Britain twice by the same route. On the second occasion he came not as a boy but as a young man, and not as a mere visitor, but as a resident at Glastonbury in the Isle of Avalon for a considerable period. That Jesus built for himself a little wattle house for prayer and meditation, near a well at the foot of the hill known as Glastonbury Tor, and that it was subsequently used by Joseph of Arimathaea and his associates as a private chapel (as distinct from the church they erected beside it for public worship) is confirmed by the following extract from the report which Augustine sent to Pope Gregory during the mission to Britain at the end of the sixth century:

“In the western confines of Britain there is a certain royal island of large extent surrounded by water,

abounding in all the beauties of Nature and necessaries of life.” Regarding this, the Revd C.C. Dobson, MA has

beautifully commented; “Having been taken as a boy by Joseph on this voyage and visited Glastonbury, Jesus noticed the beauty and quiet of this island. Seeking a quiet retreat in which to spend years alone before his ministry he returned here as a young man, erected his own small abode ... and then in prayer and meditation prepared for his work”. (Did Jesus Visit Britain? pages 26-27). This absence of Christ from Palestine no doubt explains the Bible’s silence regarding the early manhood of Jesus.

In that great authority, The Doomsday Book (A.D.1088) there is recorded “The House of God in the great Monastery of Glastonbury, called the Secret of the Lord”. But even many centuries before the Doomsday Book was compiled Taliesin, the Prince-Bard and Druid, wrote “Christ, the Word from the beginning our Teacher and we never lost His Teaching.” To quote C.C. Dobson again;

“Here is an island unconquered by the Romans, and remote from Roman influence and authority. The attempt to conquer it by Julius Caesar had proved abortive. Here was a faith propagated by profound oral teaching, enshrining the truth of the coming Christ, under the very name Jesu, and the principle of the Atonement. Do we wonder that Jesus came to reside in a land ripe to receive his truth?” In Britain He would be free from the tyranny of Roman oppression, the superstition of Rabbinical misinterpretation and the grossness of pagan idolatory, and its bestial, immoral customs. In Britain He would live among people dominated by the highest purest ideals, the very ideals He had come to proclaim. This forcefully brings to our mind the words of Jesus near the very end of His Ministry, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you (in Judaea) and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,” - (MATTHEW 21:43)

So when Arimathaea subsequently came to Britain to proclaim the Saviour under the very name Yesu or Jesu familiar to every Druid, and as having fulfilled in the Atonement their basic principle, we do not wonder that he received a welcome at the hands of the Druids. It is a remarkable fact the Druidism never opposed Christianity, and eventually became voluntarily merged in it.

In view of the above facts, we can understand why, after his expulsion from Palestine in A.D. 35, Joseph of Arimathaea was eager to bring the Gospel to Britain and take up residence at Glastonbury already hallowed by the home of Jesus there. Here Joseph lived for the remainder of his life. The Welsh poet, Maelgwyn of Llandaff (A.D. 450) records that on Joseph of Arimathaea’s grave at Glastonbury the epitaph reads as follows:

(Translation) “I came to Britain after I buried Christ. I taught. I rest.”

Maelgwyn also describes the exact position of the grave with meticulous care.

In the instructive little work “Did Jesus visit Britain” pp 31-32, Revd C.C. Dobson gives the following interesting account of Joseph’s body: “The Vicar of Glastonbury tells us that Joseph’s body remained buried here until A.D. 1345, when Edward III gave his licence to John Bloom of London to dig for it, and the Abbot and Monks consented. There is the statement of a Lincolnshire Monk in 1367 that his body was found. They placed it in a silver casket let into a stone sarcophagus, which was placed in the east end of Joseph’s Chapel, and it became a place of pilgrimage. There is a written record of the sarcophagus being still in position in 1662 when the Chapel had become partially ruined. Owing to fear of Puritan fanaticism prevalent at the time it was secretly removed by night into the Parish Church Churchyard, and its identity was concealed by the pretence that the initials on it, J.A., stood for John Allen. In 1928 the present Vicar of Glastonbury found it half buried in the soil, and had it removed into the Church, and its construction bears out the accounts of a silver casket which could be raised and lowered, and shows other marks of identity.”

After Joseph of Arimathaea, the next well known missionary to Britain was Simon Zelotes, one of the twelve apostles. Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (A.D. 303) informs us that Simon Zelotes preached Christ all along the North Coast of Africa and then crossed to Britain. (Synopsis de Apostol 9, Simon Zelotes) Next came Aristobulus. The historian Alford (Regia Fides, Vol 1, p.&3) states, “It is perfectly certain that before St. Paul had come to Rome, Aristobulus was absent in Britain”.

Haleca, Bishop of Augusta also informs us as follows: “The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples”. “Aristobulus, Cyndav and his son, Mawan, men of Israel, came from Rome with Bran the Blessed to teach the faith of Christ to the race of the Cymry. (lola MSS.) Again, Dorotheus of the fourth century says, ‘Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:10 was made Bishop in Britain’.”

The famous Vatican Librarian, Cardinal Baronius, discovered an ancient MS in the Vatican telling of Joseph of Arimathaea, Lazarus, Martha and Mary landing at Marseilles in A.D. 35. This is in agreement with the early records of English historian William of Malmesbury, who states that Joseph of Arimathaea (who took care of our Lord’s body after the Crucifixion) accompanied by eleven missionaries under his charge came to Britain from France, having been sent by Phillip the Apostle, and that the British King gave them Ynys- vitrin or Glastonbury and twelve Hides of land. Confirmatory of this the Doomsday Book contains the following entry:

“The Church of Glastonbury has in its own yule twelve Hides of Land, which have never paid tax.” (Doomsday Survey, folio p.249b).

The old Glastonbury Chronicle gives the following quaint record of the meeting of Joseph of Arimathaea and Arviragus, the British King:

“Joseph then counselled the King to believe in Christ: King Arviragus refused this, nor did he believe in Him. Arviragus the King gave him twice six hides at Glastonia. Joseph left the rights with those companions in the XXXI year after the Passion of Christ. These men, with praises built a church of wattles.”

In J.W Taylor’s work, The Coming of the Saints, the journey of Joseph of Arimathaea is followed place to place from Palestine through Gaul, via Marseilles into Britain (The Early British Church, p.9, by Rev. L.G.A. Roberts). Furthermore the early Welsh writer, Maelgwyn of Llandaff (circ. A.D. 450) informs us that Joseph of Arimathaea is buried at Glastonbury

(Avalon). That Joseph of Arimathaea was the first to preach the Gospel in Britain is also confirmed by foreign writers, e.g, St. Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks, and Haleca, Archbishop of Saragossa in his Fragments.

Sir Henry Spelman: “It is certain Britain received the faith in the first age from the first sowers of the Word. Of all the Churches whose origin I have investigated in Britain, the Church at Glastonbury is the most ancient”.

Archbishop Ussher: “The British National Church was founded A.D. 36, 160 years before heathen Rome confessed Christianity. The Mother Church of the British Isles is the Church in Insula Avallonia, called by the Saxons, Glaston”.

Fuller: “If credit be given to ancient authors, this church at Glastonbury is the senior church of the world”.

Publius Disciplius: “The church of Avalon in Britain had no other hands than those of the disciples of the Lord themselves built”.

Theodore Martin (Lovar), in A.D. 1517 states; “It is not too much to say that the site of St. Mary’s church in the abbey grounds at Glastonbury is the site of the first known above-ground church in the world”.

Prepared and Researched By Mitred Archpriest Dmitri Ross.

© 2017 St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church - Santa Monica, CA