GLASTONBURY ABBEY occupies what is believed to be the site of the first Christian Church building in the world. The original church was built of wattles, and its 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 after the sacred Canon closed, says: "The Apostles passed beyond the Ocean to, the Isles called the Britannic Isles."
Gildas, the British historian (A.D. 516-570) says: "Meanwhile, these islands received the beams of light - that is, the Holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun - at the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar." 'As we know' seems to refer to a generally accepted knowledge. This date would be at the latest A.D. 37, some four years after the Crucifixion. This fits in with the decision of the Councils of Basle, Pisa and Constance that the British Bishops took precedence of the French and Spanish because Our Church was founded immediately after the Passion of Christ.
There is an ancient MS. in the Vatican which states that St Joseph, Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and others were put into a boat off the Levant and that they landed at Marseilles in A.D. 35.
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."
Another point about the British Church, it was one throughout the Kingdom - no schisms, no divisions, throughout its history, till Augustine came to England round about A.D. 597.
Aristobulus, the fellow worker of St Paul, was associated with Glastonbury; there is testimony from the Eastern Church that Aristobulus was the first Bishop of the Britons, and that St Paul chose him as such.
St Paul appointed Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10) one of the 70 disciples, father-in-law of St Peter, as first Bishop of Britain. St Paul chose him as such.
He also made Linus first Bishop of Rome; Linus was the son of Caractacus, the British King, who was taken prisoner to Rome. And it must have been Linus and Gladys (who changed her name to Claudia on being adopted by Claudius the Emperor) who founded the Church in Rome, as we know that neither St Peter nor St Paul did so.
When St Paul went to Rome as a prisoner he found Linus and Claudia there, both of them Christians from Britain, where they had been 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 his Second Epistle to 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, and he himself promised to go to the "uttermost bounds of the West," and St Barnabas, Simon Zelotes, Aristobulus, Joseph of Arirnathea, and that these last two died at Glastonbury.
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; Joseph of Arimathea being the Uncle of the Virgin Mary.
Obviously, William Blake had heard this tradition, and immortalised it in his ...
'And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
In England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills.
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! 0 clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariots of Fire!
1 will not cease from mental fight!
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till 1 have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.'