Saint Aristobulus of Britannia
March 15 is the Feast of Saint Aristobulus of Britannia (Full title, in Greek: Aghios Apostolos Aristovoulos, Martyras, kai Protos Episkopos Vretannias; Welsh: Arwystli Hen Episcob Cyntaf Prydain; Latin: Sanctus Aristobulus Senex, Apostolus, Martyr, Episcopus Primus Britanniae; English: Saint Aristibule the Old, Apostle, Martyr, and First Bishop of Britain. Also, Aristobulus, Apostle to Britain). He was named by Hippolytus of Rome as one of the Seventy Disciples, and the first Bishop in Roman Britain. Aristobulus preached and died in Roman Britain. Whereas Orthodox tradition says he “died in peace”, Catholic tradition says that he was martyred.
Orthodox tradition says that St Aristobulus was the brother of the Apostle Barnabas, of Jewish Cypriot origin, and like Barnabas accompanied Saint Paul on his journeys. He was one of the assistants of Saint Andrew, along with Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens. On his missionary journey to Britain, he stopped to preach to the Celtiberians of northern Hispania.
The Greek Martyrologies read: “Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him. He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race. By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity. He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island.”
Haleca, Bishop of Saragossa, attests: “The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples (Halecae Fragments in Martyr.).”
In 303, St. Dorotheus of Tyre in his Acts of the Seventy Apostles wrote, “Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, was made bishop in Britain.”
The Adonis Martyrologia of St. Ado, Archbishop of Vienne in Lotharingia, under March 17 reads, “Natal day of Aristobulus, Bishop of Britain, brother of St. Barnabas the Apostle, by whom he was ordained bishop. He was sent to Britain, where, after preaching the truth of Christ and forming a Church, he received martyrdom.”
O Holy Apostle Aristobulus, first Bishop of Britain, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of sins.