In the Old Welsh language, Llantwit Major was known as llanilltud Fawr. Archaeological evidence found here shows occupation dating back as far as the Neolithic Period.
This is the location that all the Welsh records, the Welsh Chronicles, the Welsh Triads and the Llandaff Charters state was the landing sight of Joseph of Arimathea and his disciples in 37 AD.
It was here that he built one of the first Christian Churches in the world.
It was also from this very place that Christianity branched out to the rest of Briton.
No sign of where the original structures stood remains but it is rumored that the Old Church, as the church is now known sits upon the foundations of an earlier building. Some say the earlier church lies slightly to the north of the present but no one can be sure of the real location with out extensive archaeological work.
St. Illtyd, who took over a site originally occupied by St. Dyfrig, built the “Old Church” in the middle of the 5th Century. He also built a school or college as well as the church and monastery. It is recorded that the college became so popular that its pupils came from all over the world and had a total enrollment at one time of over 2000 students. This would make it one of the largest schools in the world for the time period.
Nothing remains of the campus now to tell us where it stood or what it looked like.
The school and church prospered till the Norman Conquest at which time it was destroyed by the invading armies sometime after 1066. It was rebuilt in 1111 AD and remained a major place of learning until the Dissolution of the Churches by Henry VIII at which time the school was abandoned.
It was a mystery why local authorities do not mention or make claim to the original college founded by Joseph of Arimathea?
The ruins of several Roman villas dating from the mid 2nd Century have been found in the area showing that it was a site of Roman occupation in the early stages of their 350 year rule.
If you were operating a Christian school and church at this time and Roman armies began building villas with in sight of your location what would you do? You must remember that they were still throwing Christians to the lions in Rome.
You would probably pack your bags and move into an area that they dared not go, like the Brecon Mountains.
This is more than likely what the surviving members of Joseph’s followers did. They were direct descendants of a group that had fled Israel because of the Romans and they were practicing a religion that the Romans had vowed to irradiate.
Now you must also take into account the fact that Joseph of Arimathea was renamed Ilid by the Welsh and later St. Ilid by the church.
The saint credited by all as the founder of the college at Llantwit Major was St. Illtyd from the 5th Century.
The pronunciation and spelling of these two names is so similar that it is not unreasonable to imagine that at one time or another this 5th century Saint was confused with Joseph of Arimathea (St. Ilid) from the 1st century.
If you combine these two facts you can arrive at a plausible explanation and a time line that is credible.
* 37 AD-Joseph of Arimathea arrives and establishes a church and a college. He is renamed Ilid (meaning Israelite) by the Welsh and later made St. Ilid by the church. His followers continue with the college after his death.
* 150 AD-The Romans arrive and the followers of St. Ilid (Joseph) move away.
* 410 AD-St. Dyfrig establishes a colony of Christians on the old site shortly after Rome becomes a Christian nation.
* 450 AD-St. Illtyd arrives and resurrects the college that Joseph had started.
Joseph later moved his Christian community to a place near Atherston in Warwickshire called Glastinbri after being granted lands there by King Arviragus. This king was a ferocious enemy of the invaders and the idea of a Roman ‘conquest’ of Britain in this period is laughable. The first century Roman poet Juvenal wrote to the effect that if the Roman Emperor were lucky Arviragus would fall from his British chariot-pole and die.
There was a later ridiculous confusion between the true Glastinbri in Warwickshire and Glastonbury in Somerset, but the Christian community at the latter site was not even founded until AD 941!
Research places Joseph's foundation very firmly at Oldbury, south-east of Atherston. This is where there is the great ancient graveyard where multitudes of the illustrious British are buried.
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