Wales could become a pilgrimage destination after a new book claimed one of the icons of Christianity is buried here.
According to the startling new claim, Joseph of Arimathea, the man who gospels say donated his own tomb for Jesus’ burial after his crucifixion, may himself be buried in the middle of Cardiff.
The revelation is made in a new book called Maelgwn of Llandaff and Joseph of Arimathea, authored by Michael A Clark and published by Covenant Publishing Company.
Mr Clark said the theory arose when – despite the fact Joseph has long been linked with Glastonbury – evidence was uncovered linking him with the important Welsh figure Maelgwn of Llandaff.
He said: “The purpose of this book is: look South Wales, you have got your Assembly but you have also got a heritage here.
“In many respects, everything has centred on Glastonbury and Somerset with all the traditions there.
“In this respect, the other side of the estuary has been left out of the story and yet, basically, this is where the centre of power was going back to the first century AD.”
Llandaff was one of the first bishoprics – with London and Wroxeter in Shropshire said to be the others.
Mr Clark said although some legends put Joseph’s final resting place after his death in 82AD on the isle of Avalon – and later accounts say he is buried in Glastonbury Abbey – he may have actually been buried on an ancient church near the River Taff.
“The bishop of Bethlehem, after the Muslims took over Jerusalem, he was promised exile in France and he used to visit here,” Mr Clark said.
“Why did he visit here? It was to do with Joseph being buried there.
“It’s basically something people have not been prepared to take up which I think should be taken up.
“In Llantwit Major there’s a major restoration project going on in St Illtyd’s chapel. These things ought to be linked up in terms of heritage and tourism in South Wales.”
Mr Clark, 73, from Birmingham, claims the grave of Joseph is intact and in the open lying within the ruins of the Chapel of St Mary in Cardiff’s Bute Park.
He says it was pinpointed as his burial place in the sixth century by Maelgwn of Llandaff – a brother of local ruler Meurig, after whom Pentre Meurig in the Vale of Glamorgan is named.
According to the gospel of Mark in the Bible, Joseph purchased linen and proceeded to Golgotha to take the body of Jesus down from the cross after he was crucified.
There, assisted by Nicodemus, Joseph took the body and wrapped it in fine linen and applied myrrh and aloes before it was conveyed to the place that had been prepared for Joseph’s own body, a man-made cave in the garden of his house nearby.
Mr Clark says Joseph was known in Wales as St Ilid and that he founded a church at Llanilid, just outside Pencoed.
Of Joseph, he said: “He was like the Carnegie of the ancient world – the great uncle of Christ, trading all the metal of the Roman empire. He was a very powerful man.
“He was a man that the Romans feared. They used to come here for all the minerals in South Wales, it was on the trade route. It’s quite logical this happened you see – it has just been overlaid and forgotten.
“I don’t think anybody knows about it in terms of the modern generations.
“You talk to people and they don’t see the relevance. They haven’t got the background knowledge of biblical things.”
Maelgwn of Llandaff and Joseph of Arimathea is published by the Covenant Publishing Company, part of the British Israel World Federation (BIWF), priced £4.
For more, visit www.covpub.co.uk