At the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, the English gold medalists heard the music from the anthem ‘Jerusalem’ as they collected their medals. Chosen by a popular vote for that occasion, Sir Hubert Parry’s musical setting of the poetic introduction to William Blake’s epic poem, Milton, continues to serve as the most powerful piece of sacred music lauding England as a chosen nation, as the blessed place where the young Jesus walked and the aged Joseph of Arimathea founded the oldest church in Western Europe; it presents ‘Albion’ as the one place on earth in which Jerusalem is to be built anew. Yet the biblical Joseph was far removed from the British Isles for over a thousand years, long being thought in the East to have died in his hometown. It was through five incidental side-effects of important moments in the Joseph tradition’s growth that the pious Jewish councillor who appears momentarily to bury Jesus before disappearing from Mark’s gospel was transposed into the wealthy tin merchant-cum-decurio, soldier/knight-cum-uncle of Jesus who is found within the legends of Glastonbury and who supports an English exceptionalism which continues to echo today throughout the postcolonial spaces of the remnants of the British Empire.
- Joseph of Arimathea