“And did those feet in ancient times walk on the green mountains of England?” To many, this evocative opening line to England’s unofficial national anthem, Jerusalem, alludes to the idea that during the visit, Jesus briefly created paradise in this country.
Indeed, William Blake’s 1804 mystical poem, set to music by Hubert Parry, leaves an intriguing mystery that has been hotly debated over the years – not least at Easter.
The idea that the Son of God made the journey of thousands of miles across treacherous seas and landed in Cornwall after a shipwreck has long been a matter of folklore.
Throughout the ages, there have been claims in the West that Jesus visited the area with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.
This suggestion has been derided as a wildly improbable myth.
concluded Glenn S Lewis, author of Did Jesus Come to Britain?
But people from the eastern Mediterranean had visited Cornwall to trade in tin for at least 1,000 years at the time of Christ’s birth.
concluded Glenn S Lewis, author of Did Jesus Come to Britain? , after a lifelong search, concluded that Christ came to our shores twice, visiting Cornwall and Somerset.
Dr. Gordon Strachan, a former Church of Scotland minister and Oxford history graduate, went further, pointing out that Jesus came here as part of his childhood education and studied sacred geometry and spiritual matters with the priests of ancient Britain at Glastonbury.
‘The legend that Jesus came here is very strong,’ Lewis told The Mail on Sunday. It is a historical fact that Christianity came to Cornwall very early on.
Pope Gregory sent Saint Augustine here in the sixth century to convert to the English, but when he reached the western part of Britain he found people already worshiping Christ.
The link between Jesus and the ancient Celtic-speaking Britons in Cornwall, Lewis asserts, is Joseph of Arimathea – who the Gospels say was a prominent and wealthy man and a secret disciple of Jesus.
He recovered the body of the crucified Jesus for burial on Good Friday.
Some ancient texts indicate that Joseph was the uncle of the Virgin Mary and made his fortune as a merchant dealing in metals. It is said that it was this that brought him to Cornwall, which since the Bronze Age has been Europe’s best source of tin – so much desirable that it is mixed with copper to make bronze.
Ancient historians such as Herodotus recorded that the Phoenicians sailed from the ports of Tire and Sidon – just over 50 miles from Nazareth – to the islands off the western coast of Europe across the Straits of Gibraltar.
However, the Phoenicians jealously guarded the secret of the source of their tin, and ancient Greek and Roman accounts are vague as to the location of the islands.
…and the evidence to prove it?
On the North Cornwall coast, across the River Camel from Padstow, is a parish church built on an ancient Celtic Christian site in memory of Saint Enodocus the Hermit – who in the sixth century baptized converts in the nearby Well of Jesus.
The sandstone well house, above, is Grade II listed and now sits on a golf course.
St. Anthony’s Church
The village church of St Anthony’s, above, near Truro, is set apart from other parish churches by its 1,000-year-old arch, below, above its door, inscribed with hieroglyphs said to commemorate the birth of Jesus and his visit to Cornwall.
Rising high in the Penwith Moors, near the tip of Cornwall, is the home of the pumping engine above, which once served what is reputed to be the oldest tin mine in Britain.
It is said that it was supplied with the raw materials used in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Ding Dong owes its name to the church in nearby Madron – where a bell tolled to signal the end of the miners’ shifts.
Arthurian legend claims that Christ visited Glastonbury with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea.
Christians believe that Joseph returned to Medina after the crucifixion to bury the Holy Grail and found the first church in Britain.
In the 8th century, the above Glastonbury Abbey became a site of pilgrimage but in 1184 it was destroyed by fire. Its ruins are open to the public and are Grade I listed.
In 2019, scientific analysis of pure tin ingots recovered from Bronze Age shipwrecks off the coast of Israel established that the metal had been mined in Cornwall.
Traditionally, Christians have assumed that the young Jesus was a carpenter in Nazareth, along with his father Joseph, and have rejected claims that he traveled outside of what is now the Holy Land.
But Lewis and Dr. Strachan disagreed. They claimed that Jesus traveled to Britain – an experience that helped him develop his extraordinary wisdom.
Both men combed the western country looking for ancient legends depicting Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea, who in Arthurian legends was the original bearer of the Holy Grail—the vessel that held Christ’s blood—and brought it to Glastonbury.
For Lewis, one of the key clues is an intricately carved stone arch above the door of the now disused St Anthony’s Church on Cornwall’s beautiful Roseland peninsula.
“The building bore signs of being something other than a Phoenician-era church,” he said. “The church was originally a center for the tin trade.”
The 1,000-year-old arch contains a series of carved images that are said to have been copied from Phoenician wood carvings.
Lewis said the carvings were first interpreted by an archaeologist in the 1970s, who claimed that they told of Jesus’ birth and visit to Cornwall, and that they are the first documented evidence of the local legend in which Jesus visited Cornwall with Joseph. It is said that their ship sank on the rocks of Cape St. Anthony and they were rescued by Phoenician sailors who were trading with the locals.
‘The Phoenicians carved an account of the incident into wood with the date,’ said Lewis. This was the one copied on the stone bow.
He added that the uncle and his traveling nephew had probably gone to find fresh water at Padstow.
Lewis explained: ‘If you follow the little white signs by the golf course, you’ll find Jesus well. There’s no other place called Jesus’ Well in Britain. People in the Middle Ages took their children there to recover from disease.’
Local legend has it that Joseph and Jesus also went to Ding Dong Mine near Madron which, until then, had been in operation for centuries.
Lewis believes that on a later visit, Joseph and Jesus went north, up the coast of Devon and Somerset to Burnham and Weston-super-Mare, then by log boat through the flooded Somerset Levels, exchanging Baltic beads and amber for tin.
When Joseph was deliberating, Jesus had enough time. It is believed that he went to Glastonbury to a Druidic school. The Druids believed in atonement and the death of a person for sin. Christ’s death on the cross as an atonement for sin was readily accepted by them.
“There is no record of the Druids opposing Christianity, and, in fact, being assimilated into it because of the doctrine of atonement, which is what Easter is about.”
It is widely known that in the 13th century, medieval monks at Glastonbury played on the legend of Joseph’s “visit” of Arimathea to raise the prestige of their monastery and promote the lucrative pilgrimage trade.
But the legend long predates the monastery. Historical accounts indicate that there was a church on the site in the 10th century. And research by archaeologists at the University of Reading found fragments of high-prestige Roman pottery dating back to AD 450 – showing that buildings with trade links to the Mediterranean had existed on the site for at least half a millennium before the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon monastery.
Undoubtedly, it will not be proven whether Jesus visited southwest England. There will be endless discussions about the mysterious hieroglyphs and ancient place names said to be clues. But few experts took seriously the local legend in County Antrim that a Spanish Armada had been wrecked on their shores until the late 1960s, when divers discovered treasure from the Girona Armada at a site that locals had known for 400 years as the ‘Spanish Rocks’. “.
Lewis insists that the legends are rooted in truth. “There’s a conflict between people who say ‘If it’s not in the Bible, I can’t really accept it’ and those who say, ‘Well, where was he for 18 years when he was growing up?'” “”
But there is no doubt that Christianity originated in Cornwall. Churches arose in the south-west much earlier than in any other part of Britain, and by the time Saint Augustine arrived in AD 597 there was a thriving church community.
Whatever the truth, whenever anyone sings the first two stanzas from Jerusalem, they are expressing their patriotic belief that Jesus Christ traveled to England – where he built the Holy Land.