Feast Day Of Lucius – First Christian King Of Britain? December 3rd

King Lucius York Minster Window

The Venerable Bede tells us that King Lucius converted to Christianity in around 180AD. He says that the King asked Pope Eleutherius to send teachers to instruct him. The Venerable Bede (died 735 AD) got this from the Liber Pontificalis of c 590. There is also a tradition that St Peter’s Cornhill in London was set up by King Lucius, and that St Peter’s is the oldest Church in London.

13th Pope

What to make of this? Bede is considered to be a reliable historian and got his information, in this case, from the Vatican. But the tradition has been written off as a legend. Indeed, there are questions to be answered, but there is, arguably, more to it than a legend but, unfortunately, not enough to make it an established fact.

Not the least of the questions to ask is: ‘What does it mean to be called the King of Britain in the middle of the Roman occupation?’

As to the early origin of St Peters, archaeologists have written off the tradition as St Peter’s is built over the Roman Forum and so how can it have been the site of a Christian Church?

St. Peter’s seen from Cornhill in a rarely seen view as there is normally a building in the way. (Author’s copyright)

But the balance of possibilities, arguably, changed in the 1980s, when archaeologists led by Gustav Milne showed that the Basilica of the Forum was pulled down in about 300AD. So from being practically an impossibility, there is now a possibility that this became the site of a Roman Church. We know London sent at least one Bishop to Constantine the Great’s Council of Arles in 314AD, so a Christian community in London must have predated this time. And a site, here, at the prestigious centre of the Capital at Londinium, is plausible.

In AD306, Constantine was acclaimed Emperor on the death of his Father, Constantius Chlorus whose wife was Helena, a Christian. He and his mother were in York when his father died. He was recognised as Caesar, (but not Augustus) by Emperor Galerius a ruled the province for a while before moving to Trier, then Rome, where he accepted the Christian God’s help in becoming the ruler of Rome. This might give a context for the demolition of the Basilica and its replacement by a Church. There is no archaeological evidence for it other than the demolition of the Basilica and the legends.

Where does that leave King Lucius? There are well attested Christian traditions that Britain was an early convert to Christianity. (The following quotes are from my book ‘In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009 by Kevin Flude and available here.)

In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009

So, an early date for an active Christian community is likely. A Church, replacing the Basilica, is plausible, particularly, after Constantine the Great probably passed through London on his way to seize the Roman Empire. But such an early date as the late 2nd Century? And could anyone, claim to be the ‘King of Britain’ at this date? We do know that King Togidubnus was called Great King of Britain in a Roman Temple inscription in Chichester in the First Century.

Altar Dedication, Chichester

To Neptune and Minerva, for the welfare of the Divine House by the authority of Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, Great King of Britain, the Guild of Smiths and those therein gave this Temple from their resources, Pudens, son of Pudentinus, presenting the site.

https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/91

Togidubnos seems to have been placed in control of a large part of Southern England, centred around Chichester, after the invasion of 43AD. He is thought to have been the successor to Verica, who was exiled and called on the Romans to restore his throne. Tactitus says that he remained loyal until late in the 1st Century. So he presumably held the line for the Romans against the Boudiccan revolt in 60AD. The Romans had used Verica’s fall as their excuse for invasion, and so an honorific of Great King to him and his successors makes sense. It is assumed that after Togidubnos’s death after 80AD, the title lapsed. But it might have stayed with the family as an empty honour? Furthermore, we know that Britain had a lot of Kings and Queens before the Roman period, and, as the Romans, never conquered the whole of Britain, there were British Kings all the way through the period of Roman control, at least beyond Hadrian’s Wall.

So, it is possible there was someone in Britain who had, or made, a claim to be ‘King’ whether ‘a’ or ‘the’ or merely descended from one, we don’t know. And that that someone, perhaps converted to Christianity, possibly in the time of Pope Eleutherius.

It has been suggested that Lucius of Britain was confused with Lucius of Edessa, but this is not very convincing.

The link to London and St Peters, need not be a contemporary one, it might be two traditions that are linked together at a later period. But, of course, there is a faint possibility that the Basilica shrine room, above which St Peter’s is built, was converted for Christian use at the earlier time necessary to make sense of the King Lucius story.

King Lucius may not be a proper saint, but he has a feast day because of his connections to Chur in Switzerland, which saw him enter the Roman Martyrology. David Knight proposes that the tradition of the martyrdom of Lucius in Chur comes from the transplanting of rebellious Brigantes to the Raetia frontier in the 2nd Century AD, bringing with them the story of Lucius and that, possibly, at the end of the King’s life he travelled to join the exiles in Switzerland where he met his unknown end. If true, this would base the story of Lucius in the North rather than London.

For further reading, see ‘King Lucius of Britain by David J Knight.

John Stow in the 16th Century records the tradition, which comes with a list of early British Bishops of London, which are recorded in Jocelin of Furness ‘Book of British Bishops’. This book is discussed by Helen Birkett ‘Plausible Fictions: John Stow, Jocelin of Furness and the Book of British Bishops’. In Downham C (ed) /Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts/, Stamford: Paul Watkins, 2013.

Her analysis concludes that the book is a ’12th-century confection in support of moving the archbishopric from Canterbury ‘back’ to London.’ (This information was included in a comment to the original post by John Clark, Emeritus Curator of the Museum of London.)

To sum up. We can’t bring King Lucius out of legend, nor link him with St Peters Cornhill, but the site of St Peters is a plausible, though unproven, location for a Roman Church from the 4th Century onwards.

First Published on December 3rd, 2022. Revised in December, 2023.

Walks 2023 – February – June

I am working on a new season, and these are the walks for the first six months – but more to come.

The Archaeology Of London Walk Sunday 2nd April 2023 11:15 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station To book
Jane Austen’s London Sat 2.30 pm 2nd April 2023 Green Park underground station, London (north exit, on the corner). To book
Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk Aldgate Tube Sunday 16 April 2023 11.30pm To book
Chaucer’s London To Canterbury Virtual Pilgrimage Sunday 16th April 2023 7.30pm To book
The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Guided Walk Aldgate Underground Sunday 11th June 2023 10.45am. To book
The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Virtual Tour Sunday 11th June 2023 7.30pm To book

For a complete list of my walks in 2023 look here

THE REBIRTH OF SAXON LONDON ARCHAEOLOGY VIRTUAL WALK

This walk has now been completed but will be rerun soon.

Reconstruction of Dark Age London Bridge
London in the 5th Century Reconstruction painting.

Sunday 4th July 2021 6:30 PM

The Romans gave the name of Saxons to barbarian pirates that plagued the North Sea region in the Late Roman Period. Historians link them with the Angles to create the germanic Anglo-Saxon period of which London was the leading town. But excavation and DNA analysis make the traditional story more difficult to sustain and although the Anglo-Saxons have a rich history how much of it can be trusted? Was there a Dark Age? Or was it just a ‘transistion’? How did English become the main language sweeping aside native Celtic languages? Much of the story of Saxon London has been founded on myth and dubious historical sources, but archaeological, documentary and genetic research has beginning to provide a clearer narrative.

Following the fall of Roman Britain, London was almost deserted. On this walk we explore how London recovered and grew to be the most important City in England by 1066. We will concentrate on the period from 600 AD onwards, and will begin with the story of Lundenwic at Covent Garden. We will then walk along the Strand and Fleet Street to visit the empty City of Lundinium which had a rebirth in the 9th Century as Lundenburgh and which grew to become London – the largest City in the Kingdom by 1066.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude To book click :

ARCHAEOLOGY OF LONDON GUIDED WALK – A TALE OF FOUR CITIES

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

Most Thursdays at 6.30pm City of London

Please note that you need to check it is running this week and book on this link.

This walk tells the epic tale of the uncovering of London’s past by Archaeologists. And provides an insight into the dramatic history of the Capital of Britannia, and how it survived revolts, fires, plagues, and reacted to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  It became the foremost English City but with periods under Viking and Norman control.

We tell the story in the streets of the City of London, beginning in the valley of the River Walbrook by the Temple of Mithras, and visit many sites where important archaeological discoveries were made, including the Roman Forum, Amphitheatre. Bath Houses, Temples, Roman roads and the City Walls.

We explore the origins of London. The walk is given alternately by Kevin Flude & Leo Heaton

Please note that you need to book this walk.

VIRTUAL GUIDED WALKS COMING UP

THE REBIRTH OF SAXON LONDON ARCHAEOLOGY VIRTUAL WALK

Reconstruction of Dark Age London Bridge
London in the 5th Century Reconstruction painting.

Sunday 4th July 2021 6.30pm

An exploration of what happened following the Roman Period. How did a Celtic speaking Latin educated Roman City become, first deserted, then recovered to become the leading City in a Germanic speaking Kingdom?

To book

THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON ANNIVERSARY VIRTUAL WALK

Virtual Zoom Walk on Sunday Sept 5th 6.30pm

On the Anniversary of the Great Fire of London we retrace the route of the fire of 1666 from Pudding Lane to Smithfield.

To book

RING IN THE EQUINOX VIRTUAL WALK

Tuesday 21st September 2021 7.30pm

On this walk we look at London at the Equinox, its calendars, folklore and events associated with the beginning of Autumn

To book

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & HALLOWEEN VIRTUAL WALK

SUNDAY 31st October 2021 6.30pm

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the celtic origins of Halloween. .

To book

ZEPPELIN NIGHTS – A VIRTUAL WALK FOR REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY

Sunday 14 November 2021 6.30pm

We follow the route of a Zeppelin Raid through London. On the way we discover London in World War 1

To book

The Decline and Fall of ​Dark Age London​ Archaeology Virtual Walk

Sunday 1st November 2020 ​

The first British Brexit?   The Roman Britains kicked out the Romans in 407AD, and then asked them to come back  after a catastrophic collapse.  Faced with plaque, civil war, invasion, mass  immigration,  industrial decline, reversion to barter the authorities struggled against anarchy and the Dark Ages.

Or was it?   Wasn’t it a rather a transition into the Late Antique period in which life for most people went on much as before except paying taxes to local rulers not to distant Romans?

This virtual walk explores why the Roman system in London broke down, and what really was the impact of the end of the Roman system in London.? What is the evidence?  Can we do much more than guess?  How should we regard the written records? We tramp the virtual streets of London in search of the light to shine on the Dark Ages.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude.

To Book for this walk click here

Also given as a physical walk at 2.30 pm on Saturday, September 28, 2019. The meeting point was exit 2  St. Paul’sTube.

New Series of Archaeological Virtual Walks for London Walks

Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air
Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air

This is my schedule of Virtual Walks. One every Sunday at 6pm.

The Programme is:

 ​Sunday 25th October 2020 ​​The Archaeology and Culture of ​Roman London​  Virtual Walk. For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

​ Sunday 1st November 2020 ​ ​​The Decline and Fall of ​Dark Age London​ Archaeology Virtual Walk. ​For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

​ Sunday 8th November 2020 ​ ​ ​The Rebirth of Saxon London Archaeology Virtual Walk For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

​ Sunday 22nd November 2020 ​ ​ ​​Flower of Cities All – ​Medieval London​ History & Archaeology Virtual Walk​ For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

Sunday 29th November 2020. ​ ​ ​The London of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell  Virtual Walk For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

​ Sunday 6th December 2020​​ The Financial City from Slavery t​o Hedge Fund  Virtual Walk For more details click here. To buy Tickets click here:

Sunday 13 th December 2020 Myths, Legends and the  Origins of London Archaeology Virtual Walk . For more details of this walk click here. To buy Tickets click here:

Bookings will be via Eventbrite and London Walks and links will be posted here.


MYTHS, LEGENDS AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF LONDON

Virtual Guided Walk for London Walks

Currently, not programmed.

This virtual walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

A Walk for London Walks.

Archaeology in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries has revolutionised our view of the early history of London while its rich set of myths and legends have been largely forgotten. This walk is designed to set that right and give an insight into London’s legends, and how they relate to modern archaeological discoveries.

According to legend London was founded in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. He called the new City Troia Nova or New Troy, which became corrupted to Trinovantum. Around the time of Julius Caesar the name changed to Lud’s Dun and eventually to Londinium. Early archaeologists therefore looked for a prehistoric City, to add to the history they could read by classical authors of a City founded shortly after the Roman Invasion of 43 AD. When the Roman system broke down in 410 AD, historical and archaeological records become almost non-existent, until the foundation of St Pauls Cathedral in 604 AD. The two hundred year gap, sometimes called the Dark Ages, has another rich selection of legends. The walk will explore these stories and compare to the archaeology.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River at Billingsgate, along the River to London Bridge, up to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls.

This is a London Walks Guided Walks. Look at their web site for a list of more of their amazing walks