Click to email me
Map of Region
1st June 2002
Click on the images to show full size
There is so much myth and legend attributed to Glastonbury it is sometimes hard to see the reality. It is widely believed that the Arthurian Island of Avalon was in fact nearby Glastonbury Tor. In those far off days this region was marshy and under water. Modern "New Age Travellers" frequent the town in large numbers, attracted by the myths and legends; some may say to the detriment of the region. The local shops tend to cater for these travellers more so than, apparently, the local populace. Shops selling incense and occult books outnumber the normal street shops of Britain. Legend has it that the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere was found walled up in the Abbey, only to be removed by monks and replaced within the grounds marked today by a rather prominent marker, pictured below. Legend has it that King Arthur will return when England has its "greatest need". What is truth and what is fiction will probably never be known, but the "romance" of the legends has ensured the regions survival and prosperity in tourism for quite some time. The Abbey certainly promoted itself in the middle ages and made certain that the fame of the region was well publicised to further line their own pockets. The more "important" a place of worship appeared to be, the greater influx of wealth and Glastonbury was well ahead of the field in that particular race.
Model of Glastonbury Abbey in its former glory
13th Century Oak Door Possibly Abbots headstone
Supposedly the site of the graves of King Arthur & Guineviere
It was 'invented' by the monks to gain prosperity, it worked!
The site of the black sepulchre which supposedly contains their remains.
Thorn Tree in Glastonbury. It is said that Joseph of Aramathea planted his staff in the ground here and from it grew this thorn tree
which is indigenous only to the Holy Land.
Most probably it was either a plant or seedling brought back by a traveller or monk on a pilgrimage. Monks in those days were "famous" for their tall tales and inventive scriptures.
all to boost their own importance. All so called holy relics were nothing of the sort but inventions to boost income from the gullible pilgrim.
The Lady Chapel
In the dark times of pre-recorded history there are legends of The Isle of Avalon as the place of the dead. A sacred burial ground and later a druidical college. Legends tell us of the arrival of Joseph of Arimathea after the crucifixion of Jesus and as we move into historical times we see the great Benedictine Abbey of Glaston dominating the town. Through archaeology we can see something of the early history of Glastonbury. The Tor and some of the surrounding land was an island joined to the mainland by a narrow peninsular. The island was surrounded by tidal marshes which gave good natural protection. In Neolithic times there were people living in Lake Villages near the island but there seem to have been few if any resident inhabitants. The island appears to have been treated as sacred place from the earliest days. In the middle ages we see Glastonbury emerging as great centre of pilgrimage. The reason for the importance of this small town in a remote part of Somerset was partially the ancient tradition of the Isle of Avalon as a sacred site and partially the Christian history and tradition personified by the great Benedictine Abbey. The heart of the Abbey was the Abbey Church where the choir monks lived a life of prayer complemented by writing, teaching, illuminating manuscripts, caring for the sick and poor and looking after the pilgrims visiting the monastery. These activities were supported by the secular work of the monks, the managing of their land and farms. All this was in turn supported by the town - by the shopkeepers, farmers, craftsmen and professionals of every kind.
Whatever their particular beliefs, people are drawn there to feel and experience the numinous spiritual energies which lie very near to the surface of things. And just as visitors come to Glastonbury for many different purposes so also do people choose to live here for their own very specific and personal reasons. As a result the community of Glastonbury is very lively and varied. Whatever your interests you will find others who share them here. All the usual activities can be found in the town but in addition virtually every spiritual path has its followers from Christians to Buddhists, Pagans to Sufis, Magicians to Priestesses.
Myths & Legends
There are many myths and legends associated with Glastonbury. Many of the legends of the town centre on Glastonbury Abbey now a beautifully cared for ruin in its own spacious green parkland. It is a place of special peace and tranquillity. Some of the legends associate the Abbey with the earliest Christian settlements in this country and include the legend that the boy Jesus visited Glastonbury with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea. This visit is celebrated in the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. Later Joseph is said to have brought two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of the dying Jesus and to have buried these somewhere in Glastonbury. These legends have led to Glastonbury being a place of Christian Pilgrimage for centuries as the ‘holiest earth in England’. It is still recognised as such today and the Anglican and Catholic Churches each hold their own regular summer pilgrimage in the Abbey Grounds. The Abbey is open to the public during normal and working hours. Amongst the wealth of Myth and legend are the tales of Arthur and Avalon. Arthur is held to have been buried in the Abbey Grounds with Guinevere and his grave to have been discovered in the Middle Ages by the monks of the Abbey. It appears unlikely that this is a historical fact but the legends persist. Avalon, the Knights of the Round Table, The Holy Grail, Morgen Le Fay and the world of courtly romance still holds a powerful grip on the imagination of many. Glastonbury is also linked in legend with Tintagel in Cornwall - where Arthur is said to have been born in Camelot Castle. Other myths surround other sacred sites - Saint Brigit on the island of Beckery, Gog and Magog, two ancient oak trees said to be once pat of druidical Processional Avenue and the many legends associated with the Tor - it is the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld, and a place where the fairy folk live.
Camelot has never been found (Camelot is said locally to be the Iron age fort at south Cadbury - Cadbury = Caed's Burth, a saxon name meaning Caed's stronghold - one of several in the West of England; Camelot might also be Colchester in Essex:- roman "Camuldunum" = Fort of Camulos the War God), but Glastonbury has both a "King Arthur's Court" and a "Round Table". The Court is the section of the garden at Chalice Well, South East of Glastonbury centre. There is a pilgrim bath and a waterfall (of Chalybeate spring water) and fine old Yew Trees surround it. These are not famous, though. This spot was named so because the well's preserver, Wellesley Tudor Pole, felt this to be a link with the spirituality reality of King arthur's Court which was helping enlighten the Britain of his time (1950s and 60s).