Sacred Connections Scotland

The Christ Mission in Britain
Barry Dunford

There have been a number of inferences from various ecclesiastical sources, together with many localised legends, encompassing the past two millennia, to the effect that during the 1st century A. D, an Apostolic mission in the British Isles was at the root of the development of the Church of Christ in Britain. Several contemporary historians, including Tertullianus (c. 160-240), the first of the Latin Church Fathers, and later such authorities as the Roman Catholic Cardinal Baronius (1538-1607) in his Annales Ecclesiastici and Sir Henry Spelman (1562-1641), an English antiquary, in his Concila, may be cited in support of this historical contention. Legends trace the origins of this British Church of Christ, at least in part, to the presence of Joseph of Arimathea, a great uncle of Jesus, in ancient Britain and at Glastonbury in particular.

This theme is also supported by the Rev. Richard Warner in his work An History of the Abbey of Glaston, published in 1826, who says: “The strong probability, that the first body of christian worshippers in England, who formed themselves into a church, is to be looked for on the Isle of Avalon. That such a religious society was constituted at Glaston, before the conclusion of the first century, is equally the assertion of tradition. It has, indeed, in a similar way, been involved in the grossest fictions, but there is reasonable cause to believe, that the naked fact is far from dubious; and that this sacred spot was illuminated by the glorious sun of revelation, soon after the Roman conquests, under Claudius, had offered an opportunity to the first preachers of the gospel, to promulgate its glad tidings to the inhabitants of Britain. That our country was thus early evangelized, is admitted by a crowd of our most learned writers; nor do those among them, who consider the Great Apostle of the Gentiles as the instrument of this happy communication of light and truth to our benighted forefathers, appear to want arguments, of a very satisfactory nature, to support their hypothesis. The character of St. Paul, and the circumstances of his life, are certainly much in favour of it….

“Clemens Romanus, who was contemporary with the Apostle [St. Paul], expressly tells us, that he preached righteousness through the whole world; and in so doing, went to the utmost bounds of the west, implying (as Stillingfleet has sufficiently proved) the British seas and islands. Jerome, in the fourth century, an illustrious christian writer, delivers it as a point of ecclesiastical history, ‘that St. Paul having been in Spain, went from one ocean to another; and that his diligence in preaching extended as far as the earth itself’; and observes, in another place, that, ‘after his imprisonment,’ he ‘preached the gospel in the western parts’; by which, says Stillingfleet, as before, the British islands were especially understood. And, finally, Theodoret, in the fifth century, profound in ecclesiastical antiquities and church history, says, that ‘St. Paul, after his release at Rome, went to Spain, and from thence carried the light of the gospel to other nations‘; an expression, which (when coupled with another passage, wherein he particularly mentions the Britons as converted by the Apostles) seems to admit of no other interpretation than the British islands…. Eusebius Pamphilus, in the fourth century, a man of immense erudition and equal industry, gives it as a fact, that some of the Apostles passed over the ocean to those which are called the British Isles.”

Why was the apostolic mission of Christ apparently brought to Britain as early as the 1st century A. D. with the spread of the Christ message? According to strong British tradition this mission was spearheaded by Joseph of Arimathea, traditionally said to be a great uncle of Jesus himself. Moreover, why was a leading apostle, St. Andrew, charged by Jesus to bring the Christ message to north Britain (i. e. Scotland), which presupposes that Jesus knew of the existence of this scoto-gaelic region of Britain and considered it to be of some importance and significance? This is confirmed by ecclesiastical research of the Middle Ages which is recorded in The Declaration of Arbroath (1320 A. D), a document sent by Scottish nobles to Pope John XXII declaring Scottish independence from the Roman papacy.

In his book Enchanted Britain (1981), Marc Alexander comments: “Probably most people who sing Jerusalem are not aware that its author, William Blake, was referring to an old belief that Jesus Christ really was ‘On England’s pleasant pastures seen’. The story is that as a boy he visited these shores with a metal merchant, seeking tin in Cornwall and lead and copper from the Somerset hills, whose name was Joseph of Arimathea, said in the legend to be the Virgin’s uncle. The tradition has been an oral one in Somerset, Gloucestershire and the West of Ireland.” And, in New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury (1990), the author, John Michell relates: “The legend of Glastonbury is that, shortly after the Crucifixion, twelve holy men from the East, led by St. Joseph of Arimathea, came to Glastonbury and founded there the first church in Britain – or in all Christendom. History neither confirms nor refutes this story, but it does record that Christianity was established in Britain at a very early date, compatible with the legendary date of St Joseph’s mission. In about 200 A. D., Tertullian wrote that by his time ‘parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans were conquered by Christ’, and this was confirmed by his contemporary, Origen, the early Christian Father, who made several references to an established Church among the Britons.” These “parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans” would appear to relate to the highlands and western isles of Scotland which were never brought under Roman military dominion.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

John Michell goes on to say: “The tradition of Jesus’s presence at Glastonbury is certainly ancient, for it is implied in the earliest chronicles, beginning with the Life of St. Dunstan, written at the end of the tenth century and containing the first extant reference to the Glastonbury foundation legend. Its anonymous author stated that the wattle church was not built by human hands but was the work of Christ himself, who dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. This is repeated in the legend of St. David, who proposed to rededicate the church after he had enlarged it in the sixth century. He was warned by Jesus in a dream that he himself had already dedicated it to his Mother. The church at Glastonbury could therefore have been founded by Jesus himself. That would explain the mystical epipthets applied to it in ancient ecclesiastical documents, ‘The House of God’ and ‘The Secret of the Lord’, and it would give good reason for the remarkable reputation which Glastonbury enjoyed from the earliest times throughout Christendom…. If Jesus went to the Celtic Mysteries centre on the Isle of Avalon to study the esoteric science in which he later revealed himself to be an adept, his initiators would have been the Druids. Among them at that time were the most learned men in Europe, and their colleges in Britain and Ireland were the last to offer the traditional form of mystical education, attracting pupils from all over the Continent…. If Jesus attended the Celtic college at Glastonbury, that would make sense of an otherwise inexplicable feature of early Christianity in Britain, the remarkable similarity between its rites and doctrines and those of the Druids.”

In support of this theme, Mary Caine in her work The Glastonbury Zodiac: Key to the Mysteries of Britain (1978) states: “Dr. J. W. Taylor in his book The Coming of the Saints has traced the rumours of Joseph’s journey from Palestine through Cyprus to Provence, then up the Rhone to Morlaix in Brittany, (where they still revere St. Drennalus as a follower of Joseph) and across the Channel, where they are met by corresponding folk-tales in Somerset and Cornwall. Both counties supplied metals to the Phoenicians, and the places that remember Joseph the tin-merchant are mining centres or ports. Taylor makes the penetrating comment that Phoenician trading-posts and colonies were always the first to receive Christian missionaries; not only Antioch and Tyre, but Marseilles, Alexandria, Spain and Cornwall…. For there was a founder of Christianity in Britain in the 1st century, and whether it was Joseph or another, he brought an eastern, not Roman brand of the faith. Celtic missionaries, amazingly enough, were already converting Europe from Britain at that time…. In 190 Tertullian of Carthage wrote ‘The extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the regions of Britain never penetrated by Roman arms, have received the religion of Christ.’ Sabellius the heretic said in 230 AD ‘Christianity was privately expressed elsewhere, but the first nation that proclaimed it as their religion was Britain’. Origen (185-254) Greek founding-father of the early church, said ‘The power of the Lord is with those in Britain’. In 300 Dorotheus bishop of Tyre, said that the Aristobulus of St. Paul’s epistle was bishop here – a statement confirmed by Greek martyrology and by old Welsh records who knew him as Arwystli…. these eminent theologians confirm the very early, even apostolic mission to Britain…. whoever came here brought an Asian, Gnostic brand of the faith; he used the Phoenician trade-route and was probably employed by the Romans when they annexed British metal-mines, and was on friendly business terms, perhaps even related to, the British Silurian royal family who worked them, and who certainly had Phoenician ties of blood. Joseph, the wealthy man of the Gospels, may well have been a Phoenician tin-trader. He may well have been the ‘noble decurion‘ as Jerome calls him – an officer, we are told, often put in charge of mines.”

Regarding the Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea in Cornwall legends, Walter de M. Seaman writes: “There are those among the older folk of the district of St. Just-in- Roseland, near Place Manor, who used to repeat the age-old belief ‘Christ came in a ship and anchored in St. Just Creek,’ and across the waters of the Fal at Falmouth, this odd little story was brought to light: Joseph of Arimathea and the young lad Jesus from Nazareth, landed at the Strand (now the town quay), crossed the stream and went up Smithick Hill…. In the far West of Cornwall, there are or were two rich lodes (or veins) of tin. One was named Corpus Christi (the body of Christ) and the other Wheal Jesus. Wheal is the old Cornish word for mine…. It is interesting in this connection to discover that East Looe has as its coat of arms a ship bringing (so it is thought) Joseph and the young Jesus to Cornwall. This is portrayed on the front of the old Guildhall. A mile off Looe is St. George’s Island. Some of the older folk of the district were heard to say that when they were children, they’d been told by their parents and grandparents that Joseph and the young Jesus had landed on this island.” (The Dawn of Christianity in the West, 1993)

St. Just in Roseland Church

St. Just in Roseland Church

This is also supported in a locally produced booklet St. Just-in-Roseland Church which says: “There is a legend which claims that Christ came to St. Just. The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea was a tin merchant and that when he came on business to the Fal, he brought the boy Jesus with him. During his visit, Jesus came into St. Just Pool and landed at St. Just, which, it is said, was a sacred place even then and that Jesus talked to the religious leaders there. It is a persistent legend and one which crops up in several places along the Cornish coast.”

St. Anthony in Roseland Church

St. Anthony in Roseland Church

In his local history guide The Story of Place: St. Anthony in Roseland (c. 1975), Edward Harte writes of the old church there, saying: “What is now St. Anthony Church and Monastery, was the Priory and Convent of St. Mary de Valle, the Convent still being retained from Celtic times.. The Church was called St. Mary de Valle to distinguish it from other Churches dedicated to St. Mary. St. Mary in the Valley-for it nestled in a lovely valley on Percuil Creek, or on the Fal.” Harte comments on: “The design of the wonderful arch over the South Door of the Church. It is a very beautiful combination of two totally different forms of Architecture-Norman and Saxon. There are two rows of dog teeth after the Norman fashion; a Saxon Arch inside with the sign-the Lamb and the Cross on it. This is not in the centre as there is no keystone to the Arch; Saxons did not build arches with keystones. The Arch is supported by Pillars of Roman design, which gives the Arch a somewhat Romanesque appearance. The Arch was built on the instruction of King Athelstane in 933 AD, before the Norman Conquest.. What is wonderful about the Arch is not its age-its been there for over 1000 years-not its beauty, it is a very beautiful piece of work. Nor is it its perfect preservation. It is the story said to be told between the dog teeth in ancient pictographs. This is that Our Lord visited here himself with St. Joseph of Arimathea. It is one of the only ancient records there are to support the Legend of Glastonbury.”

South door of St. Anthony in Roseland Church

South door of St. Anthony in Roseland Church

Harte continues: “It would appear to be just a legend except for two inscriptions in the almost unknown Church of St. Anthony-in-Roseland in Cornwall. On the South Door of the Church is a story in ancient Pictographs, carved in stone over 1000 years ago. It is said to read that Our Lord came with his uncle to Cornwall for tin. Their Boat got into trouble where St. Anthony Lighthouse is today – where in olden times they built a Chapel and dedicated it to St. Ann, Our Lord’s Grandmother who came from just across the waters, in Brittany…. I take many people over the Church, and in most cases do not know to whom I am talking. On one occasion it was an Archaeologist. This man was very excited when he saw the Pictographs I have mentioned. These he told me were Esoteric signs. (That is signs only known to the initiated-like Masonic Signs). He said that the last place he had seen these signs was on a doorway to an Ancient Temple at Denderah in Lower Egypt, belonging to the later Hyksos Dynasties. They are related to Cabala, an early Eastern Esoteric Doctrine. He was able to read them, and the interpretation confirmed that it was about Our Lord’s visit. Also in an obtuse way about His Birth and the dating of Easter. The Lamb and the Cross are facing the rising sun-this means that He was here in his early life-His future was before Him. Because it is on the left of the centre line-it means He was here in December. To clear the mist that surrounds these signs one has to study an early Celestial Planisphere. In those times much symbolism was used to express thoughts and this usually related to the position of the signs of the Zodiac at the time the event described took place…. Some scholars saying that the later Hyksos Dynasties were Phoenician in origin. If so, this explains why these signs are used on the Archway to the South Door.”

Edward Harte goes on to say: “In the Spry Memorial Chapel-in the North Transept-there is a panel near the window, with an inscription on it. It starts with the ancient sign of Icthus a fish. This sign was only used in very early Christian times, when to be a Christian meant persecution. The Christians used it so that one would know another.. It comes from the Greek phrase ‘Jesus Christ Saviour of Mankind’, (Literal translation: Jesus Christ, God, Son, Saviour). The first letter of each word spells Icthus, which is the Greek word for a fish.. The inscription which is dated approximately as 1st or 2nd century-so was carved before the Church was a Christian one. It is thought to have been written by someone who knew Our Lord when he came to Place as a ship’s carpenter on St. Joseph’s ships.. There is a Legend that Our Lord visited Padstow. This may well have its origin in the fact that lead was mined in the Goss Moors. The logical Port from which to ship this was Padstow. St. Joseph traded in lead as well as tin. The Arms of Padstow have a fish and a ship with its sails furled, which seems to support the legend. The inscription at Place has a Ship with its sails furled and a Fish, but also the head of Our Lord with the Crown of Thornes on it.. As the inscription is so old-there was no Christian Church here in the 1st or 2nd century. This doorway can only be the doorway to the Phoenician Temple that was here and used by the Celtic Monks as their first Church.” Harte further adds: “In Truro Cathedral they have a stone, found in a Cornish Tin Mine. It has the word ‘Jesus’ carved on it in Aramaic-the language of Palestine in those days.”

Under the heading “Did Jesus come to Cornwall?” Kay Poulton writes: “Tin was much needed by the Romans for their bronze armour, tools, ornaments and utensils. The hardest metal, wrought bronze, contains tin and ammonia, which was a hardening agent known to the High Priests of Ammon in the Egyptian Temple of Amon Ra.. It is believed that Joseph of Arimathea, the Noble Decurion-a position of authority in the Roman Empire concerned with metals-came to Priddy near Glastonbury, because of the local lead mines, and to Cornwall for tin and copper.. There are many legends about Jesus’ visits to Cornwall.. They cover most of the former tin mining centres in west Cornwall: St. Day, Redruth, Chacewater, Camborne, Nancledra, Madron, the Ding Dong Mine; along the trail from St. Ives to Penzance, and down the river Fal.. Along the south coast of Cornwall there are traces of tin export at Mousehole beyond Penzance, from the Helford River estuary south of Falmouth, and from Fowey and Looe. Jesus is believed to have stayed on Looe Island while his uncle visited silver mines near Liskeard, north of Looe. A small chapel, Lammana, was erected on the island, attached to the Abbey of Glastonbury. On the former bridge over the river at Looe there used to be a tiny chapel dedicated to St. Anne, mother of Mary. Father Paul Stacey, at one time working in Looe and later in Glastonbury, firmly believed these legends, and did much patient research into place names in Cornwall, such as Jesus Well, opposite Padstow.”

Furthermore, writing about the Church of St. Anthony in Roseland, Kay Paulton says: “In dismantling the old Saxon tower to install a steeple about a hundred years ago, the old bell crashed down, smashing the tiles in front of the altar. When examined by experts, it was found that the bell was not even scratched, and was apparently made of wrought bronze, harder than tempered steel. The last people knowing the secret formula for this hardest metal were Priests of Ammon. The bell could have been brought to Cornwall by the Phoenicians. It was reinstalled in the steeple and remains there still. Its note is ‘G’, and unlike other bells it never varies, is never re-cast, and does not fade in semi-tones.” (Harvest of Light, 1968)

Commenting on this same bell, Edwart Harte remarks: “At a later date they had the Bell examined by experts-and to their amazement-found it was made of Wroth Bronze. Spelt Wroth not Wrought. It’s not a beaten metal but a cast one. Wroth bronze is a metal that is so hard that with all our modern science today we have no metal as hard as it, no metal like it-it does not corrode, but lasts forever, nor as dense. Just think how dense this metal must be-to be so small, yet so heavy. The people who made the bell probably knew more about nuclear physics than we do today. If you go to Jerusalem, to the Archaeological Museum in the Jordan Quarter, you will find a collection of articles made of Wroth Bronze and will see the stone moulds they were made in.. The Director of the Museum will tell you that the last people who knew how to make this metal, were of Phoenician origin, but lived in the middle Bronze Age-five or six thousand years ago. This can be told by the Radio Isothope test. It is a relic of a lost civilisation that perished in the flood and their secrets went with them.. This bell has never been tuned in all the thousands of years of its existence.. The Clapper has struck the same spot on the bell for 100 years. Yet when it is rung, its note rings clear and true like a tuning fork; just like a river of sound for fully half a minute afterwards, and during that period of time the note does not alter half a semi-tone, it is absolutely true-you could tune a piano by it. There is no other metal on earth but Wroth Bronze hard enough to keep the bell so true.”

Harte concludes: “Many scholars believe, and there is much evidence to support this theory, that before the flood there lived in Britain a very advanced civilization, with great practical knowledge of Science, and in Metallurgy knew more than we do today. This civilization was Phoenician in origin. They were great traders, and not only traded with the East-but with North and South America as well.. The theory that the Phoenicians came from Northern parts is supported by Professor L. A. Waddell in his book published in 1924, The Phoenician origin of Britons, Scots, and Anglo-Saxons. In it he says that the Phoenicians were the original Aryans-or their leaders. He traces them back to the British Isles, with the Shetland Isles and Northern Scotland the main centre of their power. He gets the derivation of the name Aryan from ‘ARYA’ – the Noble Ones…. If Alexander had not destroyed many thousands of ancient books; if a Caesar had not burnt 700,000 rolls at Constantinople in the eighth century, and many other conquerors done the same, we might know a lot more about those far off days than we do today.”

Finally, in Rising out of Chaos: The New Heaven and the New Earth (1996), Simon Peter Fuller observes: “It was Britain, not Rome, that was the first country to receive the faith of Christ…. The truth is that the Christ consciousness realised by Jesus was not anchored in Palestine, where it was rejected, or in Rome, where it was corrupted, but in Glastonbury, where it was secretly honoured and nurtured by the initiated over the intervening centuries…. The apostolic foundation of the Christ impulse in Britain is supported by the early Christian theologians Origen and Tertullian writing in the 2nd century. St. Gildas, in the 6th century, stated that ‘Britain was illuminated by the Light of Christ the true Sun in the later part of the reign of Tiberius who died in 37 CE.’ It is also well known that at all the great Church Councils held in the Middle Ages, the English bishops were given precedence as representing the earliest foundation…. Over five hundred years before Augustine – the envoy of Rome usually credited with Christianising ‘pagan’ Britain – Joseph with his original band of 12 followers and visiting Apostles such as Peter, Paul, James, Philip and Simon Zelotes had already created of Britain the Sacred Isle and ‘Motherland’ of the Christ consciousness, in the esoteric tradition of John.”

Extracted from Vision of Albion: The Key to the Holy Grail © copyright 2008 Barry Dunford