Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Glastonbury: Legend, Lore and a Tree

 I didn't think we'd have time to go to Glastonbury. I should have known I'd figure it out, and that Larry, though tired with driving almost 1500 miles during our trip, would be willing to make one last side trip before we headed to our last AirBnB. But I wanted to see the home of the fabled Glastonbury Thorn.

What is it? Just an old, broken tree on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. But it's much more than what it appears. According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea visited Britain with 12 followers. When he laid down to rest, his staff, made from a thorn, too root and grew into a tree that bloomed at Easter and Christmas. Legends and stories about Joseph are many, and include several from Cornwall where he is said to have visited with his nephew, the child Jesus, and showed the Cornish people how to smelt tin.

Scholars argue and some refute the legend of the Glastonbury Thorn, but it persists and later generations of the original tree (local variety of hawthorn) are carefully nurtured so there is always a Glastonbury Thorn tree at the Abbey. The tree was cut down by vandals in 2010, an act I am completely unable to understand, but another tree was planted (nearer to a place where an eye can be kept on it) to continue the rich history of this iconic symbol.

The Abbey istelf is a ruins dating back to 712 AD, and was destroyed by fire in the 12th century.

Sign reads: Site of the ancient burial ground where in 1191 monks dug to find the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere.

It was rebuilt, however, and continued to be an important Christian site until the Dissolution of monestaries under Oliver Cromwell in the 1500's. The monestary was stripped of its riches, and even stones were carried away from its buildings to be used in other structures.

Abbot's kitchen is the round building in the center of this photo.
Some idea of the grandeur of the Abbey can be sensed in the Abbot's Kitchen which is still standing and was recently restored.

Four huge fireplaces dominate this circular space.

It began to rain when we ducked inside, a perfect place to wait out the shower. I couldn't resist--the acoustics in the place were so astounding that I had to sing, just a bit of the old carol Down in Yon Forest. The haunting melody bounced from the domed ceiling, just amazing.

A lady who came in to get out of the rain approached me when I stopped singing and she shared a bit of two more ballads with me. She was a local druid, on the way to meet with her group, and we had a fascinating conversation. Such interesting people we met on this journey.

Other legends abound about this place. One of the most famous is that it is supposedly the site of King Arthur's burial and also that here the Holy Grail was brought by Joseph. The mix of lore, legend, myth and history in such an idyllic place makes it a natural for pilgrimages by people of many beliefs, and the area around Glastobury abounds with witches, wiccans, pagans, and Christian religions of all kinds. While we were there a parade of Hare Krishnas passed by, yet another layer of the colorful mix of Glastonbury.

We did not have time to see nearly all of this sacred site, yet another place on our list of places we need to return to.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Ahh, what a satisfying post you shared today, such long lived reminders of past history.

Brig said...

Another beautiful place... the stories and architecture are wonderful!

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