Growth of the Church

We can well imagine the Christians of Caerle on joyfully returning from their places of refuge and eagerly setting to work to build churches to commemorate their brother Christians who had died for the Faith. The Christian Church now began to flourish, bishops once more publicly assumed their spiritual leadership, and all set about the task of repairing the ravages of the past ten years.Caerleon was, at this time, the seat of the third metropolitan see of Britain, the others being London and York. These three bishops, while not using the title of “Archbishop”, had under their jurisdiction a number of suffragan and itinerary bishops, and are sometimes referred to by later historians as archbishops. We have a record of the Bishop of Caerleon as early as one year after the end of the Dioc le tian Persecution, for Sirmondus (Concilia Gallic.) has preserved a’ list of the bishops who attended the Council of Arles in 314, and among them is Adelfius, who was undoubtedly Bishop of Caerleon.

Book of Llandaff

There is no indication how so0n it was after their martyrdom that churches were built to the memory of  Julius and Aaron, but that the churches were in existence before the end of the fifth century is proved by a reference to them in the Liber Landavenis (The Book of Llandaff) as belonging to Dubricius, or Dyfrig, who was Bishop of Caer le.on from 490 to 521. A long detailed description in archaic Welsh of “the whole territory of the martyrs Julius and Aaron” is contained in the Book as a gift to Nud, Bishop of Llandaff’, about the year 775. Among a list of eighteen merthirs (places of martyrs) in the Liber Landavenis is the ‘Merthir Iun (orIulii) et Aaron”,

Further mention of the churches is found in the deeds of the Benedictine Priory at Goldcliff, publ ished in Dugdale’s “Monasticon” (12th C.) Robert de Chandos, Lord of Caer leon , had founded the Goldcliff Priory in 1113 as a cell of the Abbey of Be c , Normandy, and, on the advice of King Henry 1, he granted certain lands and possessions to the abbots of Bee .. “I gave also to them all the churches in my wardship … with lands and tithes belonging to them, namely, the Church of the ‘Holy Trinity (Christchurch) and the church of Julius and Aaron.”

There is no doubt that there were at least three churches in the district in those days, and possibly there were more. The Chapel of S. Julius , graced with a choir of nuns, stood ‘on the site of S. Julian’s Mansion, near Cumberland Road, off Caerleon Road. S. Aaron’s Chapel, to the east of Caerleon, near the, Avon Llwyd, was staffed by an order of canons; this church, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100 -1154), was the metropolitan church of the province, but other historians refer to three churches – one to Julius , one to Aaron and the third the seat of the Archbishop. There was also a church near Christchurch dedicated to S. Alban and this, no doubt, was also attached to the Goldcliff Benedictines, but it probably fell into disuse after 1113 when the community built the church of the Holy Trinity at the cross- roads at Christchurch, a spot holy to the Britons before the Christian era. A summary of the Christchurch endowments in the “Valor Ecclesiasticus” of 1526 contains no mention of a chapel of S.Alban. Archdeacon Coxe, who toured Monmouthshire in 1804, says that a stone coffin was found on the site – now Mount S. Alban’s on the Catsash Road – in 1785, but there was no other trace of the church.

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