This is the story of two 4th century martyrs and the 20th century church that bears their names. There is little written about our two patrons, Julius and Aaron beyond a few footnotes in history. However, their example has inspired an active worshipping community through the centuries and culminated in the parish church here standing – an act that in itself was down to a number of inspirational and visionary people through the last 100 years. For those of us who have custody of this building today, it is an immense privilege – but we remain conscious that we have a great responsibility to ensure that both its history and its living witness continue to be heard within and beyond our generation. This Church History is a part of the continued telling of that story – we hope you find it as interesting and inspiring as we do.
The text of this History is based on Basil Reeve’s “St Julius and Aaron Parish Church History and Guide”, published by the Vicar and Churchwardens in 1997. This work in its own right made use of some material from a 1947 publication by Gordon Southcard, revised in 1981, titled “A Parish History”. For reasons of space and economy, some of the historical detail of the 1981 edition did not make it to the 1997 version and this website now allows the fruits of both works to be available for posterity. Both recognised the assistance of others in their production and to that end the foreword and acknowledgements from this source material are reproduced, along with Dr Rowan William’s preface (then Bishop of Monmouth).
Foreword to the 1997 Edition
In this History and Guide of the Parish and Parish Church of SS Julius and Aaron, the compiler has only touched on past Roman history without going into any great depth and detail. This publication is intended to focus more on the actual history leading up to the founding and building of the Parish Church,from the latter years of the 1800’s
There is ample provision for the reader to learn more about any relevant past Roman history and the Roman martyrs mentioned in this booklet in the local library. Roman artefacts of a religious nature can also be seen in the Caerleon museum.
Further useful reading on the subject can be found in the following publications:
- The Monmouthshire Antiquary. Edited by David H Williams. (Various Volumes)
- St Julians Newport Gwent (A Parish History). by Gordon Southheard.
Copies of these publications are available in the reading room of the Newport Borough Library.
Thanks are due to the following who have helped in some way or other in this compilation either in the work involved or in the supply of information and subject matter used:
- Mr Trevor Warren who supplied all the photographs for inclusion [Current web editors note – the inspiration of these pictures remains on this site but colour photos have been re-taken for web purposes].
- Miss Betty Sage who supplied factual historical information.
- Mrs P Williams (Pru) who meticulously proof read the manuscript for errors and deserves not only my thanks but the readers gratitude for having done so much work to ensure any inaccuracies were eliminated.
Thanks are also due to the Vicar and Churchwardens for allowing me access to some church records and the inventory.
Basil Reeve Compiler 1997
Preface to the 1997 Edition
Although this beautiful church is only just over seventy years old, it speaks eloquently of a long and varied history. Julius and Aaron, we are told, were among the first to be executed for their Christian faith by the Roman military government, probably at the beginning of the fourth century, and the site of their martyrdom at Caerleon was a spot of enormous significance to local Christians. So we are at once taken back to the earliest days of Christianity in this country. We know too that the present parish was rich in ancient places of worship and dedication up to the Reformation.
Early in this century, the parish was one of those that pioneered the recov- ery of beauty and dignity in Anglican worship; and it was highly appropriate that it became the resting-place of the stone alter and reredos from what had been the monastic church at Capel-y-Ffin, where, in the nineteenth century, Father Ignatius had attempted to revive the Benedictine life in the Anglican church.
In its fabric as in its worship, the church of St Julius and St Aaron reminds us of the absolute and primary importance for all Christians of witness to the faith, whatever the cost, and of selfish dedication to prayer. Basil Reeve has given us a full and lively account of this much -loved building; and I hope and pray that it will help bring alive to all who read it a sense of the glory and the challenge of the faith that is taught here, a faith as new and as transforming as it was in those early ages of the Church.
With best wishes and prayers,
Dr Rowan Williams
Bishop of Monmouth