Julius and Aaron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Saints Aaron and Julius
Caerleon Catholic Church.JPG
Catholic Church of Ss Aaron, Julius and David, Caerleon
Died ca. 304 AD
Caerleon, Britain, Roman Empire
Honoured in
Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church
Feast 20 June, 22 June, 1 July

Saints Aaron and Julius are two British saints who were martyred at Caerleon, Wales (or possibly at Chester, England), during the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians in AD 304. Their feast day is traditionally celebrated on July 1st; on June 20th and 22nd in the Roman Catholic Church.

Textual Sources[edit]

The main textual sources for St. Aaron and St. Julius are Gildas, and Bede, though we have few details concerning their story from either source. In De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, Gildas writes that during the Diocletian persecution, "God... kindled up among us bright luminaries of holy martyrs...Such were St. Alban of Verulam, Aaron and Julius, citizens of [Caerleon] and the rest, of both sexes, who in different places stood their ground in the Christian contest."[1]

Bede, drawing on Gildas, says in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People that in the same persecution during which St. Alban was martyred, so "suffered Aaron and Julius, citizens of the City of Legions, and many others of both sexes throughout the land. After they had endured many horrible physical tortures, death brought an end to their struggles."[2]

There is some evidence to suggest that the martyrdom may have occurred not in Caerleon but in Chester. Gildas can be read as referring to Caerleon or to Chester. Archaeological excavations at an amphitheatre in Chester have uncovered a structure that may have been used for public executions in the Diocletian period, and the possible remains of an early medieval church that might be related to a Roman martyrdom site.[3]

Cult Site[edit]

There is evidence that after their martyrdom, Caerleon became a cult site for St. Julius and Aaron, which lasted from the Roman period to the high Middle Ages. A 9th century charter found in the Book of Llandaff mentions a "Merthir Iun et Aaron," or "sanctified cemetery of Julius and Aaron" at Caerleon.[4]

Around the year 1200, it appears that the mythology surrounding Julius and Aaron had been elaborated, and that there were at least three churches in Caerleon dedicated to them. In his Description of Wales, Giraldus Cambrensis explains that Caerleon was native home of Amphibalus, teacher to St. Alban. Other legends say that Julius and Aaron were Roman soldiers, and that after the martyrdom of St. Alban, Amphibalus returned to Caerleon where he converted Julius and Aaron, among others, before their persecution and death in the Roman amphitheater at Caerleon. Of the three churches, the first was dedicated to Julius the Martyr and was graced with a choir of nuns. The second belonged to his associate Aaron, and ennobled with an order of canons. The third was the metropolitan of Wales, the seat of the Welsh bishop in ancient times.[5] The metropolitan see was relocated to Menevia by St. David, the patron saint of Wales, in 519. According to the 17th century historian Francis Godwin, who wrote the Early History of Religion (De praesulibus Angliae), each of the martyrs had a church named for them in the city of Caerleon. These chapels existed on the east and west sides of Caerleon, about two miles distant from each other. St. Julias' belonged to a nunnery, and St. Aaron to a monastery of canons.

The churches are thought to have been damaged by storms and age, and were finally fully destroyed under Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500s. The ruins of the monastic chapel of St. Julius were completely destroyed in the 15th century when Sir George Herbert built a Manor on the site and gave the manor the name of “St Gillian’s” a corruption of “St Julian’s”. [6]

Modern Times[edit]

A Roman Catholic church dedicated to St Aaron, Julius, and David (see picture above) was built in Caerleon at the end of the 19th century as part of what is now the RC Archdiocese of Cardiff. A smaller church, dedicated to St Julius the Martyr, was built after the Second World War in the housing estate called St Julians, on the northern side of Newport.

A parish church honouring St. Aaron and St. Julius was re-established in modern day Newport, South Wales, in 1924. The church is an inclusive church in the Catholic Tradition of the Church in Wales, and is known for its modern Catholic liturgy, our high standard of music and our welcoming atmosphere.

The 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, recognises the martyrs, under the Latin names Iúlii and Aarónis, as being martyred after Alban during the persecution of Diocletian, by the legionaries of Brittania Minor, that is, Brittany, in a period at which many 'arrived at the glorious city (of heaven) after enduring painful tortures and severe flogging'.[7]

The Roman Martyrology indexes Aaron and Julius under 22 June, but since this is also the date when Saints John Fisher and Thomas More are celebrated, the current Roman Catholic liturgical calendar for Wales[8] commemorates them together with St Alban on 20 June.


  1. ^ Gildas. "Wikisource". The Ruin of Britain. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Bede (1990). Ecclesiastical History of the English People. London, England: Penguin Books. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-14-044565-7. 
  3. ^ Matthews, Keith (1 January 2003). "Chester’s amphitheatre after Rome: a centre of Christian worship?". Cheshire History. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Fleming, Robin (2011). Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise 400 to 1070. London, England: Penguin Books. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-140-14823-7. 
  5. ^ Cambrensis, Giraldus. "The Intenerary Through Whales, and the Description of Whales". archive.org. Everyman Library,. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Reeve, Basil. "Destruction and Decline". St Julius and Aaron Parish Church History and Guide. St. Julian's Parish Church. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), page 349.
  8. ^ National Calendar for Wales, accessed 6 February 2012


David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 228.