Thursday, 2 December 2010

Did Jesus visit Cornwall?

Down the estuary from Padstow is a sacred spring dedicated to St George. The flow of water never fails, no matter how dry the summer, and the waters have long been rumoured to have curative powers. They are also, if local legend is to be believed, touched by the divine.

One day, many centuries ago, a ship passing off shore came into the mouth of the Camel. A group of men came ashore looking for water. One of the men touched the ground and a spring of sweet, pure water burst forth. The sailors filled their kegs, then went back to sea and sailed away. That man, the story says, was Jesus Christ.

It is a simple tale, almost stark. By itself it is almost nonsensical, but it forms part of a wider cycle of stories about a visit by Jesus Christ to the southwest of Britain. Most of these stories relate to sites in Devon or Somerset, the story about Padstow being the only one with a direct link to Cornwall. Taken together the stories do make some sort of sense, though that does not mean that they are true.

The key figure in the stories is Joseph of Arimathea. In the Bible, Joseph of Arimathea makes only a fairly brief appearance in the Gospels, though all four do agree on his actions and background. According to the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious council of the Jews at the time. He is described as being a secret follower of Jesus during the time when Jesus was preaching in Jerusalem. After the crucifixion, Joseph went to see Pontius Pilate and asked permission to take the body of Jesus away for burial. This was usually a duty of the next of kin, though the Gospels say that Joseph acted as he did because he was worried that some of the Jews might desecrate the body. Working with a man named Nicodemus who was a Pharisee, or learned theologian, Joseph washed the body, treated it with myrrh and aloes and then buried it in a new tomb that he had acquired.



This is an extract from Mysterious Cornwall by Rupert Matthews

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