Aaron & Julius were executed during the religious persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 304, traditionally on 1st July. The earliest authority for their existence is Gildas. In his De Excidio Britanniae, he says, "God ... in the ... time of persecution ... lest Britain should be completely enveloped in the thick darkness of black night, kindled for us bright lamps of holy martyrs ... I speak of Saint Alban of Verulamium, Aaron and Julius, citizens of Caerleon, and the rest of both sexes in different places, who stood firm with lofty nobleness of mind in Christ's battle." There appears to have been a tradition of these latter two men at Caerleon, perhaps as early as the sixth century, for the Book of Llandaff mentions 'Merthir Iun (Iulii) et Aaron.' Merthyr denoting a 'place of martyr (or martyrs)' - that is a church, or Martyrium, built in memory of a martyr, generally over his grave. In the reign of the 7th century King Meurig of Glywysing and Gwent, Bishop Nudd of Llandaff was, apparently, made a grant of all the territory of the martyrs, Julius and Aaron, which had formerly belonged to Saint Dubricius.
Giraldus Cambrensis mentions two churches, with their convent and society of canons, at Caerleon, dedicated to Aaron and Julius. Bede paraphrases the words of Gildas, but, not understanding that his "Urbs Legionum" was Caerleon-on-Usk, mistakenly transferred their martyrdom to Chester.
According to Bishop Godwin (1595-1601), there existed, in the recollection of the generation preceding that in which he wrote, two chapels called after Aaron and Julius, on the east and west sides of the town of Caerleon, about two miles distant from each other. There are a number of legends concerning the religious communities which supposedly lived at these two places. "St. Julian's," now a farmhouse, but once a mansion - the residence of Lord Herbert of Cherbury - probably occupies the site of S. Julius's Church. The reputed site of St. Aaron's Chapel is near the Roman camp of Penrhos, between the Afon Lwyd and the Sor Brook that flows into the Usk above Caerleon. Here stone coffins have been found, showing that it was a place of interment, possibly Christian.
Soon after the Norman Conquest, there was a church in Caerleon itself dedicated to SS. Julius and Aaron, which was granted, by Robert de Chandos, to the Priory of Goldcliff, founded by him in 1113. Though the very ancient parish church remembers St. Cadfrod (now St. Cadog). There is a Cae Aron (his field) near Caerleon and a Cwm Aron (his dingle) in the parish of Llanfrechfa, in the neighbourhood.
Records of SS. Aaron & Julius date back to the 6th century. They are generally considered historic.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.|