The Christian faith came to England in the first century AD. Tertullian wrote a tract against the Jews about 200 AD and mentions that there were areas in Britain that were inaccessible to the Romans but had been conquered by Christ. The first notable Christian was probably a man named Bran, who was the father of Caractacus, king of the Silurian tribe in Britain. He, and his family were taken captive to Rome in 50 AD, and faced a public execution. Included in this party were Bran’s father Llyr Llediaith, his son Caractacus, and the children of Caractacus who included the beautiful Claudia and probably Linus. When they arrived in Rome, in chains, the emperor Claudius had Caractacus brought before the Roman Senate. There he made an impassioned speech and as a result was not only given a pardon but also a pension and rooms in the Imperial palace. Caractacus was eventually returned to England as a puppet king but his family were retained in Rome as surety for his loyal behaviour. They were allowed to live normally in Rome. It was probably during this time that the whole family became Christians. We do know from Paul’s epistle to the Romans, written in 58 AD, that there were several Christians in Caesar’s household at this time. It is very likely that these people shared the Christian gospel with the Royal hostages who were also living in the imperial palace.
It is possible that it was this same Linus who became one of the leading members of the church in Rome. A Linus eventually became its senior elder or bishop in the latter half of the first century. Clement, the early church father, who lived in Rome at this time wrote of the “saintly Linus, brother of Claudia”. Bran, Linus and Claudia’s grandfather, eventually returned to Britain in AD58 where he was the focus for the church that developed around him. The ancient Welsh Triads tell us that,
Bran brought the faith of Christ to the Cambrians.
It was likely that this same Claudia married a young Roman Senator named Pudens, whose full name was Rufus Pudens Pudentia. His family owned a large home in the centre of Rome. A Spanish poet, called Martial, lived in Rome at this time. He was not only a contemporary of Pudens but also his friend. He usually wrote short scurrilous poems but he treats his friends marriage with great respect. Several of his poems mention this marriage.
O Rufus, my friend Pudens marries the foreigner Claudia.
Although Claudia was a relatively common name, the following poem suggests that this Claudia was the daughter of Caractacus.
Concerning Claudia Rufina –
Seeing Claudia Rufina has sprung from the azure Britons, how come she
has the feeling of a Latin maid?
Thanks to the gods, she has borne many children to her holy husband.
The description of a Roman Senator as being ‘holy’ is most unusual and taken together with other information does suggest that he had become a Christian. This affluent couple used their home as a Christian centre, and it is likely that Paul might have visited their house. At first this house, which still stands in Rome was called the ‘Palatium Britannicum’, presumably because of the link with the family of Caractacus. Another name was the ‘Hospitium Apostolorum’, or ‘Apostles House’. The apostles referred to probably included Paul and Peter. Today the house is called ‘St. Pudentiana’. There is an inscription on the wall of this house saying,
This is the house of Sanctus Pudens, in which many martyrs were buried by Pudentiana and Praxedes themselves.
Praxedes was one of the sons of Pudens and Claudia. It is known that the children of this couple were martyred for their Christian faith. Another interesting fact is that Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor, was himself a fourth generation descendant of Caractacus through another of his sons, Cyllinus. Cyllinus’ son was named Coel, who during his short reign founded the fortress town of Colchester in Essex, which still bears his name. Most people know of him as ‘Old King Cole’ of nursery rhyme fame! Coel’s daughter, Helen, was a Christian and she became the mother of Constantine the Great.
Although the precise details of this story are not proven, it does demonstrate how active the early church was. It is also fascinating because Paul mentions the names of these leading Roman Christians in one of his epistles to Timothy.
Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. (2 Timothy 4 v. 21)Another Life:
1st century. Saint Claudia, mother of Pope Saint Linus, is said to have been the daughter of the British king Caractacus, who was sent to Rome with his family in chains when he was defeated by Aulus Plautius. Released by Emperor Claudius, one of his daughters took the name Claudia, remained in Rome, was baptized, and is the Claudia mentioned in Saint Paul’s second letter to Timothy (4:21). Another tradition makes her the daughter of Cogidubnus, a British ally of Claudius, who took the emperor’s name. In a third postulation, Martial mentions a British lady, Claudia Rufina, and says she was married to his friend Aulus Pudens, a Roman senator, which would mean she was the mother of Saints Praxedes and Pudentiana. Another tradition has this senator the Pudens also mentioned in the same letter of Saint Paul (2 Timothy 4:21) (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia).
- Celtic and Old English Saints – 7 August . 2016. Celtic and Old English Saints – 7 August . [ONLINE] Available at: http://celticsaints.org/2016/0807a.html. [Accessed 15 August 2016].