“The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints” (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)
SAINT ARISTOBULUS – Apostle of the Seventy, revered as having brought the Orthodox Faith to the shores of Britain.
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) is a Jewish Cypriot saint, numbered among the Seventy Disciples. Along with the Apostles Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens he assisted Saint Andrew. St. Aristobulus was also the brother of the Apostle Barnabas.
He preached the Gospel in Britain as its first bishop and there he reposed peacefully in the Lord.
Previous to this, he preached the Gospel to the Celts of Northern Spain, i.e. Celtiberians, whilst on his way to Britain.
His feast days are celebrated on March 16, on October 31 (with Amplias, Apelles, Stachys, Urban, and Narcissus), and on January 4 with the Seventy.
Such was the Apostle Aristobulus’ acclaim amongst the Brythonic Celts that a region was named after him, i.e. Arwystli, which later became a small medieval British kingdom, and continues to this day as a district, or more precisely, a cantref within the county of Powys, Wales.
He is possibly mentioned by St. Paul and is identified with Zebedee, the father of Sts. James and John. Hippolytus writing in AD 160 the Martyrologies of the Greek Church, (and others) state that he preached in Britain. It is believed he was martyred in Wales although there is no documentation for this.
Troparion of the Apostles tone 5
“Let us acclaim Stachys, Apelles, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus and Aristobulus as a six-stringed harp of the Spirit that sings of God’s marvellous gifts to mankind. As divine apostles they pray for us.”
The Holy Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy was born on Cyprus. He and his brother, the holy Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy, accompanied the holy Apostle Paul on his journeys. Saint Aristobulus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16:10).
Saint Paul made Aristobulus a bishop and sent him to preach the Gospel in Britain, where he converted many to Christ. He endured the torments and malice of the pagans, and eventually baptized them.
From Cyprus and one of the Seventy, he [the Apostle Aristobulus] was the brother of St Barnabas and is mentioned in Romans 16, 10. Some say that he was the father-in-law of the Apostle Paul. In any case, the Eastern Lives of the Saints quite specifically affirm that he was sent by the Apostle Paul to preach in Britain, inhabited by “a very warlike and fierce race,” in particular in the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. Here he toiled much and suffered from cruel and unbelieving people. He was beaten, dragged as a criminal along streets and suffered misfortune, malice and mockery. Finally, local people accepted from him the Light of Christ. He taught them the Faith, baptised them, built churches and ordained priests and deacons, reposing in Britain. Some sources add that he was also martyred in Britain, but we do not need to believe the Cypriot folklore that he was eaten by cannibals. Accounts of these events can be found in the writings of Haleca, Bishop of Augusta, and Dorotheus of Tyre.
As regards folk memory, the British Achau, or Genealogies of the Saints, say that St Aristobulus was known as Arwystli Hen (the Elder) and that he came to Britain with others, Jewish converts, and also his own son, called ‘Manaw’. An area on the River Severn in what was Montgomeryshire in Wales used to be called ‘Arwystli’, for this was said to be the site of his martyrdom. St Aristobulus is feasted on 15/28 March in the Greek Churches and 16/29 March in the other Orthodox Churches.