Linking the Romans with Merton, Devon.


To enable us to see the link it is helpful to imagine how we would have viewed The Cross had we been there.

To the Jews Jesus was a healer and worker of miracles. During the thirty years before the crucifixion the angels over Bethlehem would have been talked about by everyone involved and the story handed down. The three "kings" arrival and Herod's subsequent massacre of the children as a result would have been seared into people' consciences. The High Priest of the period was struck dumb during his one privileged hour within The Holy of Holies and only spoke again after his son John was born,

When Jesus was baptised by this same John, his cousin, the whole company witnessed something extraordinary. After three years of miracles and friends and relatives being healed the 3000 baptised on the Day of Pentecost is not so exceptional. Even the man who carried The Cross is remembered through his son Rufus.

To the Romans Jesus was worthy of respect (B )and His actions would have been wondered at and spoken of for decades by the Ferrata Legion (X) and their friends and relatives in other outposts.

Two Roman soldiers have entered our history and vocabulary. St Maurice and St Martin of Tours. Morris is a very common surname and Martin a common Christian name. Morris Minor, Morrisons, Mauritius, St Moritz, and William Morris immediately spring to mind and in Merton, Devon, the former dedication of the parish church to St Martin is a powerful reminder. (A)

The first religious establishment dedicated to St Maurice was the cathedral of Saint-Maurice , built only 50 years after the massacre. by Litorius bishop of Tours begun in 337 AD.

St Maurice came from Egypt where St Mark had taken Christianity. The cathedral in Alexandria is said to stand on the site of the church founded by in 60 AD. St Mark converted many to Christianity and performed many miracles. He is considered the founder of the church in Alexandria and their first bishop and was buried under the church he had founded. Some of the liturgy of the Coptic church goes back to this date.

The time between St Mark in Alexandria and St Maurice in the Rhone Valley is only 220 years. Many of us remember WWII or tales of WWII. We've seen photographs of grandparents and their parents in military uniforms. The events are not in the dim and distant past. The Queen Mother was over 100 years old when she died and she was born in Queen Victoria's day who became queen in 1837. Already we are nearly 200 years away from 2012. This is "living" memory. To our great grandparents 1837 could be only 30 years before their birth. Beethoven had died only ten years before Victoria's reign. Berlioz composed his landmark piece Symphony Fantastic in 1830 and the Battle of Waterloo was fought only 16 years before that. Our great grand parents were brought up within this history.

To St Martin, who was proclaimed bishop of Tours in 371AD, St Maurice was a hero and popular figure and he valued the relics of St Maurice.

We can see therefore how the dedication of our churches ties us back to the earliest Christians who happened to be Romans.


NB.

(X) Ferrata Legion. This legion was recruited in 52 AD by Julius Caesar in Gallia Cisalpina, and was still in Palestine in 215.AD
(A) At this point it could be useful to research the churches in Devon dedicated to St Martin looking for evidence of Saxon churches and evidence of Roman activity.
(B) Matt. 27 v 24. Matt. 8 v.9

167 AD - At the request of Lucius of Britain, missionaries Fuganus (or Phagan) and Duvianus (or Deruvian) were sent by Pope Eleuterus to convert the Britons to Christianity[13]