Joseph of Arimathea
GLASTONBURY ABBEY (pictured here) is the site of the first Christian Church (above ground) in the world. Originally built by Joseph of Arimathea. The original size was probably the same as the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Eusebius (A.D. 260-340), Bishop of Caesarea and the father of Church History says: "The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to, the isles called the Britannic Isles." Dem. Evangal., 3.7
Joseph of Arimathea was the virgin Mary's uncle (younger brother of her father according to the Talmud). He lived in the town of Arimathea, called Arimathaim in the Septuagint and Amartha by the historian Josephus. This is present day Ramallah which is eight miles north of Jerusalem. He was a wealthy merchant having a fleet of ships that delivered tin from the mines in Cornwall, England to Phoenicia. Because of the tin trade he was well acquainted with the British kings Beli, Lud, Llyr and Arviragus, who gave Joseph and his companions twelve 160 acre parcels of land, tax free. Arviragus would become God's "Protectorate" for Glastonbury. Caradoc, Pendragon of England, would become God's "Protectorate" of the fledgling English Church. Caradoc spent seven years under "house arrest" before returning to Britain. It was his children who were the core of the Roman church.
Joseph, with many disciples traveled from the Holy Land by Phoenician boat and landed at Marseilles (a Phoenician trading post), in the Vienoise province of the Gauls (France) in the year 35 AD. From there Joseph went on to England, to establish seminaries and send out missionaries. Cardinal Baronius, curator of the Vatican library, in his "Ecclesiastical Annals", gives this account. "In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles Joseph and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the gospel there died."
Here is Cardinal Baronius' complete list of passengers:
Formation of the church in England
St Paul appointed Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10) one of the 70 disciples, father-in-law of St Peter, as first Bishop of Britain. He also made Linus first Bishop of Rome; Linus was the son of Caractacus (also called Caradoc), the British King, who was taken prisoner to Rome.
Claudius, Emperor of Rome, gave his daughter in marriage to the British king Caractacus, and adopted his daughter Gladys, in an effort to end the war with Britain. Upon adoption Gladys' name was changed to Claudia. Caractacus was then betrayed and taken prisoner in Rome. He gave a speech before the Roman senate that wass so moving they decided not to put him to death, but to keep him prisoner in the British embassy in Rome. And this house prison became the vehicle that allowed Paul to preach, even though illegal, under "house arrest" in the British embassy for two years.
When St Paul went to Rome as a prisoner he found Linus and Claudia there, British Christians converted by Joseph of Arimathea. Hence the British church is older than the church in Rome. It is interesting to observe that Pudens, Linus and Claudia are mentioned by St Paul in 2 Timothy 4:21, which epistle the apostle wrote when he was himself a prisoner in Rome and a friend of these British Christians. Tradition has it that St Paul himself came to Britain. St Paul's Cathedral, in London, now stands on the very spot where Paul preached to the masses. Others that have witnessed in Britain were St Barnabas and Simon Zelotes. Aristobulus is said to have died at Glastonbury. 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." - Cressy, the Benedictine Monk and historian.
Perhaps the most wonderful tradition of all is that our Lord actually came as a boy, accompanying Joseph of Arimathea on one of his expeditions to seek metal, he being a rich merchant in metals, the tin and copper mines in Cornwall then being the richest in the world.
Converts literally flooded into Glastonbury for conversion, baptism, instruction and missionary assignment. Philip sent, from Gaul alone, one hundred sixty disciples to assist Joseph and his team with the crowds. One of the first to go out from Glastonbury was Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus. He headed straight back to Marseilles where he held the bishopric for seven years. Mary and Martha both lived out their lives, preaching and teaching in the south of France. Glastonbury then became the base for the Christian outreach. The Gaulic records state that for centuries the Archbishops of Treves and Rheims were all Britons supplied by the mother church at Glastonbury-Avalon. St. Cadval, a famed British missionary, going out from Glastonbury, founded the church of Tarentum, Italy, A.D. 170 four hundred years before the time of St. Augustine and at least fourteen years after King Lucius Christianized all of Britain in A.D. 156!Historians
Many famous names are recorded as having been associated with Glastonbury-Avalon:
Mansuetus was a constant visitor to Rome after Claudia had married Pudens. He was a friend of Linus, the bishop of Rome, and brother of Claudia. After the death of St. Clement, Mansuetus became the third official bishop of the British church at Rome. Thus we have three disciples of Avalon, instructed by St. Joseph, to become, in succession, bishops of Rome.