3. Of BRITAIN. Bede in his Historia Ecclesiastica,
1.4, states that in A. D. 156, in the reign of the Roman emperors Aurelius and Verus, and in the pontificate of Pope Eleutherius, Lucius, a British king, sent a letter to the Pope, praying for his assistance that he might be made a Christian; and having obtained his request, was with his people instructed in the Christian faith, which they preserved perfect and uncorrupted, and in peace, till the reign of Diocletian.
A statement similar to this is given by Bede in his Chronicon s. de Sex Aetatibus,
and by Ado of Vienne, in his Chronicon.
The early Welsh notices and the Silurian Catalogues of Saints state (according to Mr. Rice Rees), that Lleurwg-ab-Coel - ab - Cyllin, called also Lleufer Mawr, " the Great Luminary," and Lles, applied to Rome for spiritual instruction; and that in consequence four teachers, Dyfan, Ffagan, Medwy, and Elfan were sent to him by Pope Eleutherius. Lucius is said to have founded the see of Llandaff. To these scanty, but in themselves, sufficiently credible notices, the credulity of the later ages has added many particulars. Lucius is made by Giraldus Cambrensis (apud Usher), king of the Britons; and the missionaries from Rome effect the conversion of the whole population of the island. Five metropolitan sees are established; one for each of the five provinces into which the Romans had divided the island, with twelve suffragan bishops to each. Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Lucius the son of Coillus, the son of Marius, the son of Arviragus ; and, though differing in details from Giraldus, agrees with him in making the conversion of the inhabitants and the institution of the hierarchy complete. Some other traditions or legends of the middle ages make Lucius resign his crown, travel as a missionary, with his sister St. Emerita, through Rhaetia and Vindelicia, and suffer martyrdom near Curia, the modern Coire or Chur. Thus distorted by the credulity of a later age, the history of Lucius and his very existence have been by some critics altogether doubted.
But we see no reason to doubt that there was a British regulus or chieftain of the same or somewhat similar name, about the time of Eleutherius; and that his influence, which he had retained under the Roman dominion, conduced to the establishment and diffusion of Christianity in Britain: and the Welsh traditions, which place him in the territory of the Silures, the present Glamorganshire, are more probable than the suppositions of Spelman, who makes him an Icenian, and of Stillingfleet, who makes him king of the Regni, in Surrey and Sussex.
He probably lived in the latter half of the second century; but there are difficulties about the year of his application to Rome, as to which Bede is in error.
A letter is extant, and is given by Usher, professing to be from Pope Eleutherius " to Lucius king of Britain," but it is doubtless spurious. Usher mentions that two coins, supposed to be of Lucius, had been found, one of gold, the other of silver; having the image of a king with a cross, and the letters, as far as could be made out, LVC. (Beda, ll. cc. ;
in the Biblioth. Patrum,
vol. xvi. ed. Lyon, 1677; Galfrid, Monemut. lib. ii. init.; Usher, Britannic. Eccles. Antiquitates,
100.3-6; Stillingfleet, Antiq. of the Brit. Churches,
100.2, with the preface of the Rev. T. P. Pantin, the latest editor; Rice Rees, An Essay on the Welsh Saints,
pp. 82, seq.; Tillemont, Mémoires,
vol. ii. pp. 62, 63, 615, 616; Baron. Annal. ad Ann.