The City of Colchester

The news that Queen Elizabeth has made the town of Colchester into a City as a present on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee is most welcome.

Once the Capital of the Celtic Trinovantes tribe, then briefly the Capital of Roman Britain, when London was still wild marshland (a possible meaning of its name), Colchester has long been known as Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its Celtic name was Camulodunum, the fortress of the Celtic war-god Camulos. Its Roman name appears to come from the word Colne, the Celtic name of the local river (there are several other Celtic-named River Colnes in England) and chester, from the Latin castra, meaning a Roman camp. Thus, for the Romans Colchester was a ‘civitas’, which is the Latin word from which is derived the modern word ‘city’.

Its crest shows the three crowns of St Edmund of East Anglia, King and Martyr (+ 869), Patron-Saint of East Anglia and Co-Patron of England, against a background of the Cross of Christ. The connection with the Cross goes back to its finder, St Helen, who is reputed to have visited Colchester together with her son Constantine. He was a military leader in Roman Britain and was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire on 25 July 306 in York. Later he opened the First Universal Council of the Church in 325, which took place just outside New Rome, the City he founded, which later became known as Constantinople. Today a statue of St Helen holding the Cross, stands on top of Colchester City (no longer Town) Hall facing south-east – towards Jerusalem, where she found it.

With the largest Orthodox church outside London (and probably as big as any in London), both in terms of the building and the multinational parishioners, we wonder if Colchester may not yet also become a City in the sense that it will one day have an Orthodox bishop?

May God’s Will be done.