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Friday, 12 June 2009

Pagans don't have martyrs

The Roman empire embraced Christianity in 323 AD but before then Christians had been persecuted and tortured. In 303 AD a large group of Christians were worshipping quietly in Caerleon. Roman soldiers arrested them but when they found the local prison was too small to hold them they decided to kill them instead. The terrified Christians were chased halfway to Newport all the time being hacked to pieces and drenching the road with their blood. Two of these Christians were St. Julius and St. Aaron, early victims of inadequate prisons.
Clearly an excitable bunch, the Silurians, and they haven’t changed much. Mind you the church got its own back a few decades later when Britain enjoyed ‘enforced’ Christianity under later emperors. Trouble is pagans don’t have martyrs.

But getting back to Newport.

Gwynllliw was both king and pirate. He kept a fast ship in narrow pill near the mouth of the River Usk. With his gang of cut-throats he would attack any defenceless ship that sailed too close. This "Pill of Gwynlliw " eventually became known as Pillgwenlly. It's believed Gwynlliw lived on the top of Stow hill. From there he could see from a distance rich cargo ships sailing towards the Usk. He would then race down what is now Bellevue lane, across the marshy Mendalgief to his pirate ship in Pill.

He was married to a saint and surrounded by marsh

Which ever way he looked.

Enough to make you crazy.

One day he saw an angel a little like this one. (Then again may be not)

Who told him to walk to the top of a nearby hill where he would find a white ox with a black spot between its horns. There he was to build a church and live a holy life.

Maybe he wasn't crazy. Maybe angels like a laugh

For lo and behold he found that white ox with a black spot between its horns
and built a church on the spot.

The next post may well be titled a Mafia of Saints, or perhaps, less controversially, a surfeit of saints.
All the marsh photos are by courtesy of Andy Southwales.

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