Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy disciple of Jesus, who, according to the book of Matthew 27:57-60, asked Pontius Pilate for permission to take Jesus' dead body in order to prepare it for burial. He also provided the tomb where the crucified Lord was laid until his Resurrection.  Joseph is mentioned in parallel passages in the gospels of Mark, Luke and John, but nothing further is heard about his later activities.

English legend claims that Joseph of Arimathea accompanied the Apostle Philip, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and others on a preaching mission to Gaul.  Lazarus and Mary stayed in Marseilles, while the others travelled north.  At the English Channel, St.Philip sent Joseph, with twelve disciples, to establish Christianity in the most far-flung corner of the Roman Empire: the Island of Britain.  It was said that Joseph was a man of great wealth and had achieved his wealth in the metals trade, and in the course of conducting his business, he probably had traveled to Britain in the past where there was an abundance of high-quality lead and tin mines.

It was only logical, then, that Joseph of Arimathea should have been chosen for the first mission to Britain. Local legend has it that Joseph sailed around Land's End and headed for his old lead mining haunts.  Here his boat ran ashore in the Glastonbury Marshes and, together with his followers, he climbed a nearby hill to survey the surrounding land.  Having brought with him a staff grown from Christ's Holy Crown of Thorns, he thrust it into the ground and announced that he and his twelve companions were "Weary All". The thorn staff immediately took miraculous root, and it can be seen there still on Wearyall Hill. Joseph met with the local ruler, Arviragus, and secured land where he built the first Christian monastery in Britain,

The holy Joseph of Arimathea continued preaching the gospel until the day of his death; and so venerable was his person then held, that six kings honored his corpse by carrying him on royal shoulders to the grave; which was made in the sanctuary of Glastonbury-abbey, and had a most stately tomb erected over him, with the following inscription: "HERE LIES THE BODY OF THAT MOST NOBLE DISCIPLE, RECORDED IN SCRIPTURE BY THE NAME OF JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, AND NOTED BY THE FOUR EVANGELISTS, ST. MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, AND JOHN, FOR HIS BEGGING THE BODY OF OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR WHEN CRUCIFIED TO REDEEM LOST MEN FROM ETERNAL DESTRUCTION, AND BURYING IT IN A TOMB OF HIS OWN MAKING. HE DIED A.D. 45, AGED 86".

Credit: University of Rochester: The Camelot Project