I haven't spent much time in England
but after several days spent driving the Lake District awhile back,
I'm aching to return.
And one of the places I knew I had to see while there
was the famous abbey ruins and city of Glastonbury.
As I've mentioned,
my novel touches on Mary Magdalene
and it's said that she may have briefly spent time here.
Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought Jesus here as a boy.
And that when they escaped after his death,
Joseph landed here with Mary Magdalene before she went on to the South of France.
Located in Somerset (once known for its plentiful apple orchards and strong cider),
the Abbey was once the most important in England,
the site of the crowning of Edmund Ironsides as King in 1016.
At its earliest recording in the 7th and early 8th century,
it was known as Glestingaburg.
The 13th century French poet, Robert de Boron,
wrote that Joseph brought the Holy Grail with him
in which he captured some of Jesus' blood.
And further legend states that
when Joseph landed in Britain and thrust his staff in the ground,
it flowered into the Holy Thorn tree,
a specific hawthorn which only grows near Glastonbury
and flowers twice a year, at spring and Christmas.
The original Holy Thorn became a pilgrimage site in Medieval times.
And every year,
a local vicar cuts a sprig from the most recent Holy Thorn
and sends it to the Queen.
Some say that Glastonbury was built at the request of Joseph of Arimathea
to house the remains of Jesus' blood and the Holy Grail.
And the Abbey now calls itself the "oldest above-ground Christian church in the world."
Below are a few scenes from the kitchen
which I always find interesting.
Even further steeped in lore is the belief that
Glastonbury was the site of King Arthur's Isle of Avalon.
Monks from the Abbey claimed to have found the graves
of King Arthur and Guinevere near the church's Lady Chapel in 1191.
When a new abbot, Henry de Sully, ordered a search of the grounds,
monks found the coffin with a cross which stated,
'Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon.'
Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote the History of the Kings of Britain,
called it the Isle of Apples, which in old Breton
is spelled Avalou.
And according to Geoffrey,
Avalon is where Arthur was taken after his battle with Mordred
to have his wounds tended.
Avalon was also known as the Isles of the Fortunate
because it grew apples, grape and grain all of its own accord.
The town of Glastonbury itself is filled with shops
catering to the New Age and Pagan cultures it attracts.
The church of St. John the Baptist dates from the 15th century
and it is here that the vicar and the students from St. John's school
sing carols around the Glastonbury Thorn tree and the eldest pupil clips the cutting
which is then taken to the Queen.
Somehow on that visit,
I missed the Tor, St. Michael's tower, up the hill from the ruins
and the Chalice Well, a holy well at the foot of the Tor,
which just means, of course, that I will have to return!
Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
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