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The first Christians arrived in Roman Britain by 200 AD and
soon after martyrs were recorded as Christians met opposition from the locals
and some of the leaders who objected to the religious challenge of their faith.
Later writes such as the monks Saint Gildas (in 500s) and
Saint Bede (in 700s) have recorded some of their history.
Saint Gildas wrote of the saints Aaron and Julius who were
martyred in a Roman amphitheatre in the town that is now Chester, so it is
clear that they lived and died in an earlier age.
Archaeologists did not find the amphitheatre until its
foundations were discovered in the basement of a house undergoing renovation in
1929. It was eventually excavated before 1960 after funds were raised to dig in
the area and around half of it (partially rebuilt from the foundations that
were discovered) can now be visited without charge. This amphitheatre was built
around 80 AD and enlarged around 200 AD and the post to which victims were tied
is still there (2023) in its centre. It is the largest amphitheatre discovered
so far in Britain.
By 689, a church was built next to it (probably because of
the martyrs who were commemorated there) and parts of the old steps which lead from
the amphitheatre to its basement are still visible. This church was demolished and
rebuilt around 1000, at the time of the Norman invasion and it became the
(Catholic) cathedral of the area. Today still stands as Saint John’s church
(currently Anglican) and parts of the old walls remain from Norman times.
‘The Two Saints Way’, David Pott, Northern Eye Books 2019
Cheshire West and Chester council information signs at the