Joseph of Arimathea in English tradition

Joseph of Arimathea by William Blake (1757-1827)

Joseph of Arimathea holds a peculiar place in the mythology and traditions of England. He was a wealthy Jewish merchant from Judea who was also a contemporary follower of Jesus Christ.  As a member of the Jewish council, or Sanhedrin, he was a man of considerable influence in his  own country.  Joseph of Arimathea is so named because he came from Arimathea in Judea.  He was mentioned in all four gospels and from these we know he was a good and righteous man

Joseph’s legacy

Joseph  was believed to have converted thousands of people to the Christian faith, including Ethelbert, a local king of the time.  He was also said to have founded Glastonbury Abbey. At his death at the age of 86, it is said that he was so respected that six kings bore his coffin.   His life and actions in Britain remains enigmatic and whatever the truth is we will probably never know but Joseph of Arimathea remains an important figure in English and Christian tradition.  Read more …. Continue reading


The legend of the Glastonbury Thorn

The legend of the Glastonbury Thorn belongs to the group of legends that surrounds Joseph of Arimathea and his legendary part in bringing Christianity to Britain. As with all legendary people there are many versions of his different exploits and achievements that cannot be verified. Such is the stuff of legends and the following has been pieced together from different sources.

Glastonbury Thorn at Glastonbury Abbey – By Tom Ordelman CC BY-SA 3.0

The Holy Thorn is very much revered by many people for many reasons. Some see it as an ancient symbol of Christian beliefs and a tangible presence from the distant past carrying a message for the present and the future.  Read more Continue reading

The Christian Symbolism of the Passion Flower

The Passion flower (Passiflora) is also known as Maypops, and in parts of South America, Maracuja.   It is a plant of the Americas that was taken to Spain and later Europe and other parts of the world by early Spanish explorers and missionaries.  In South America, early Catholic missionaries used parts of the flower’s anatomy as symbols representative of Christ’s suffering and from there it entered into folklore.  The name relates to the Passion of Christ rather than having romantic connotations.

Passiflora × belotii by Tomas Castelazo – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.


One of the earliest known Europeans to encounter the flower was Nicolás Monardes (c1493 – 1588), a Spanish doctor in Peru in 1569.   In 1745, Carl von Linné (c1707 – 1778) classified the plant recognising 22 species. The hybridization of the plant began in Victorian Britain and there are now believed to be more than 600 hybrids of the Passion flower around the world.  It was the Europeans who noted that the plant had mild sedative properties and was beneficial in alleviating pain, nervous conditions and insomnia. However, it was in 1610 that Emmanuel de Villegas, a Mexican Augustan monk, seems to have been the first person to note, or record the symbolism attached to the plant’s anatomy and made sketches that were sent back to Europe.

Christian Symbolism

In early times because most people could not read or write, in Christian art and teaching, flowers were used as symbols representing profound metaphysical ideas and concepts to make it easier for the uneducated mass of people to understand.  In some cases symbols were taken from the earlier pagan times before Christianity.  The Passion flower became part of this tradition when it was adopted by early Catholic missionaries and brought back to Spain from the New World.

Symbolism of the Passion Flower 

The symbolic use of the Passion flower was to help people understand the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion.  It was seen in the following way, ‘The whipping and scourging of Christ is represented by the tendrils.  The pillar of the scourging is represented by the flower column.  The Crown of Thorns is the 72 filaments that encircle the head.  The three nails are symbolized by the top stigma and the five wounds of Christ are the five anthers.  The style is the sponge that moistened Christ’s lips with vinegar.  The spear blade that pierced his side is seen as the leaves (some species only).  The blood of Christ is the red stain from the plant and the round fruit of the plant symbolises the world he came to save. The fragrance of the flower represents the spices prepared by the Holy women.’ (

The Spreading of the Passion Flower

Like the teachings of Christ, the Passion flower has spread around the world carrying the story of Calvary and the Christian message to people far and wide over many centuries.

References and Attributions
File:Flower jtca002.jpg From Wikimedia Commons - Passiflora × belotii by Tomas Castelazo - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Meaning of Flowers in Christian Art
Passiflora, from Wikipedia