Feast Day : March 17
Joseph was a wealthy Israelite born in Arimathea. The Gospels of Mark and Luke refer to him as “senator”; he may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, or supreme council, of the Jews. He was a disciple of Jesus but did not declare himself out of fear. He opposed the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of Jesus. After the Crucifixion, Joseph boldly asked Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ body and was granted it. He and Nicodemus treated the body with spices, wrapped it in linen and grave bands, and placed it in the tomb. Historians place little reliance on stories about what happened to Joseph after that. According to apocryphal texts, such as the Acts Pilati and Gospel of Nicodemus, he helped to establish the Christian community of Lydda. In the Middle Ages, Joseph was a popular figure in legends of the Holy Grail. He appears in William of Malmesbury’s 12th-century De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae, Thomas Malory’s 15th-century Morte d’Arthur, and Robert de Barron’s Joseph d’Arimathea, an early-13th-century romance. Joseph actually was added to William of Malmesbury’s work in the 13th century. According to medieval lore, Joseph held the cup that caught the blood of Jesus as it spurted from the spear wounds during the Crucifixion. Joseph was arrested and accused of stealing Jesus’ body. He languished in prison, and was nourished by a dove who visited him daily, depositing a wafer in the cup. After his release, he and his sister and a band of followers brought the cup to England, landing on the St.-Just-in-Roseland peninsula near St. Mawes in Cornwall. They journeyed to Glastonbury, where Joseph established the first Christian church in England, and hid the cup at the Chalice Well. The waters at the Chalice Well at the Glastonbury Tor are reddish from iron and have long been believed to have healing properties.