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Encyclopedia > Glastonbury abbey
View from the former location of the North transept in East direction to the choir.

Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England, now presents itself as "traditionally the oldest above-ground Christian church in the World" situated "in the mystical land of Avalon" by dating the founding of the community of monks at AD 63, the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea, who was supposed to have brought the Holy Grail and planted the Glastonbury Thorn. Image File history File links Glastonburyabbey. ... Image File history File links Glastonburyabbey. ... Cathedral ground plan. ... The choir stalls in the quire of Bristol Cathedral, Bristol, England The choir stalls at Buxheim Priory, by Ignaz Waibl See also: Choir (disambiguation) A quire (sometimes referred to as a choir) is an area of a church or cathedral, usually in the western part of the chancel between the... Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry spot on the Somerset Levels, 50km (31 miles) south of Bristol. ... Somerset is a county in the south-west of England. ... Motto (French) God and my right Anthem God Save the King (Queen) England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto) Government Constitutional monarchy  -  Queen Queen Elizabeth II  -  Prime Minister Tony Blair MP Unification  -  by Athelstan 967  Area... The Last Sleep of Arthur by Sir Edward Burne-Jones Avalon (probably from the Celtic word abal: apple; see Etymology below) is a legendary island somewhere in the British Isles, famous for its beautiful apples. ... Joseph of Arimathea, according to the Gospels, was the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion. ... For historical artifacts associated with the cup of the Last Supper, see Holy Chalice. ... Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset, England, now presents itself as traditionally the oldest above-ground Christian church in the world situated in the mystical land of Avalon by dating the founding of the community of monks at 63 A.D., the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea who also brought...



A community of monks were already established at Glastonbury when King Ine of Wessex enriched their endowment. He is said to have directed that a stone church be built in 712, the foundations of which now form the west end of the nave. Glastonbury was ravaged by the Danes in the ninth century. The contemporary reformed soldier Saint Neot was sacristan at Glastonbury before he went to found his own establishment in Somerset. The abbey church was enlarged in the tenth century by the Abbot of Glastonbury, Saint Dunstan, the central figure in the tenth-century revival of English monastic life, who instituted the Benedictine Rule at Glastonbury. Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury in 960. Dunstan built new cloisters as well. In 967, King Edmund was laid to rest at Glastonbury. In 1016 Edmund Ironside, who had lost England to Canute but held onto the title of King of Wessex, was buried there too. Ine (died 728) was the King of Wessex from 688 to 726, noted particularly for his code of laws. ... Map of the British Isles circa 802 Wessex was one of the seven major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (the Heptarchy) that preceded the Kingdom of England. ... St Neot was born in Saxon times, living as a monk in Cornwall, England most of his life. ... cows Dunstan (909 – May 19, 988) was an Archbishop of Canterbury (960 – 988) who was later canonized as a saint. ... Benedict of Nursia left the comfort of the life of a student in Rome in about the year 500 A.D. to seek holiness. ... The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader and senior clergyman of the Church of England, recognized by convention as the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. ... Edmund I, or Edmund the Deed-Doer (Eadmund) (921–May 26, 946) was King of England from 939 until his death. ... Edmund II or Eadmund II (c. ... This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 924. ...

At the Norman Conquest in 1066, the wealth of Glastonbury made it a prime prize. The new Norman abbot, Turstin, added to the church, unusually building to the east of the older Saxon church and away from the ancient cemetery, thus shifting the sanctified site. Not all the new Normans were suitable heads of religious communities. In 1077, Thurstin was dismissed after his armed retainers killed monks right by the High Altar. In 1086, when Domesday Book was commissioned, Glastonbury Abbey was the richest monastery in the country. Abbot Henry of Blois commissioned a history of Glastonbury, about 1125, from the chronicler William of Malmesbury, whose De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae is our source for the early recorded history, and much awe-inspiring legend as well. Then as now, legend worked more strongly than raw history to bring the pilgrims who sustained the Abbey's reputation and contributed to its upkeep. Bayeux Tapestry depicting events leading to the Battle of Hastings The Norman conquest of England initiated by the invasion of the Kingdom of England by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in 1066 and his success at the Battle of Hastings resulted in the Norman control of England. ... A line drawing entitled Domesday Book from Andrew Williamss Historic Byways and Highways of Old England. ... Henry of Blois (1111-1171) was bishop of Winchester from 1129 to his death. ... William of Malmesbury (c. ... Look up Legend in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

In 1184, a great fire at Glastonbury destroyed the monastic buildings. There is evidence that, in the twelfth century, the ruined nave was renovated enough for services while the great new church was being constructed. If pilgrim visits had fallen, the discovery of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's grave in the cemetery in 1191 provided fresh impetus for visiting Glastonbury. According to two accounts by the chronicler, Giraldus Cambrensis,[1] the abbot, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search, discovering at the depth of 16 feet a massive hollowed oak trunk containing two skeletons. Above it, under the covering stone, according to Giraldus, was a leaden cross with the unmistakably specific inscription Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia ("Here lies interred the famous King Arthur on the Isle of Avalon"). A bronze Arthur in plate armour with visor raised and with jousting shield wearing Kastenbrust armour (early 15th century) by Peter Vischer, typical of later anachronistic depictions of Arthur. ... Queen Guinevere, by William Morris Guinevere was the legendary queen consort of King Arthur. ... Castle Ashby Graveyard Northamptonshire A cemetery is a place in which dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. ... Giraldus Cambrensis (c. ...

Five years later, in 1197, Bishop Savaric FitzGeldewin of Bath persuaded Pope Celestine III to allow the annexation of Glastonbury Abbey to his diocese. He officially moved his Episcopal seat there, but the monks would not accept their new Bishop of Glastonbury and he was kept away from the abbey. The bishops continued to use the title Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury until finally renouncing their claim to Glastonbury in 1219. Services in the reconsecrated Great Church had begun on Christmas Day, 1213, most likely before it was entirely completed. King Edward I and Queen Eleanor attended the magnificent service at the reburial of King Arthur's remains to the foot of the High Altar in 1278. Savaric, sometimes Savaric FitzGeldewin or FitzGoldwin, (died 8 August 1205) was a nobleman who became Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury in England. ... The Diocese of Bath and Wells is an administrative division of the Church of England Province of Canterbury in England. ... Celestine III, né Giacinto Bobone (Rome, ca. ... The cathedra of the Pope in the apse of St. ... The Bishop of Bath and Wells is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Bath and Wells in the Province of Canterbury. ... (Redirected from 25 December) December 25 is the 359th day of the year (360th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 6 days remaining. ... Edward I (17 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), popularly known as Longshanks[1], also as Edward the Lawgiver because of his legal reforms, and as Hammer of the Scots,[2] achieved fame as the monarch who conquered Wales and who tried to do the same to Scotland. ... A bronze Arthur in plate armour with visor raised and with jousting shield wearing Kastenbrust armour (early 15th century) by Peter Vischer, typical of later anachronistic depictions of Arthur. ...

In the fourteenth century, only Westminster Abbey was more richly endowed and appointed than Glastonbury. The abbot of Glastonbury kept great state, now attested to simply by the ruins of the abbey kitchen, with four huge fireplaces at its corners. The kitchen was part of the magnificent Abbot's house begun under Abbot John de Breynton (1334-42). Archaeological excavations have revealed a special apartment erected at the south end of the Abbot's house for a visit from Henry VII, who visited the Abbot in a royal progress, as he visited any other great territorial magnate. The conditions of life in England during the Wars of the Roses became so unsettled that a wall was built around the Abbey's precincts. The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, which is almost always referred to by its original name of Westminster Abbey, is a mainly Gothic church, on the scale of a cathedral (and indeed often mistaken for one), in Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. ... Henry VII (January 28, 1457 – April 21, 1509), King of England, Lord of Ireland (August 22, 1485 – April 21, 1509), was the founder and first patriarch of the Tudor dynasty. ... Lancaster York For other uses, see Wars of the Roses (disambiguation). ...

At the start of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, there were over 800 monasteries, nunneries and friaries in England. By 1541, there were none. More than 10,000 monks and nuns had been dispersed and the buildings had been seized by the Crown to be sold off or leased to new lay occupiers. Glastonbury Abbey was once more a rich plum. In September 1539, the Abbey was stripped of its valuables and Abbot Richard Whyting, who had been a signatory to the Act of Supremacy that made Henry VIII the head of the church, resisted and was hanged as a traitor on Glastonbury Tor on November 15, 1539. dissolution see Dissolution. ... First Act of Supremacy 1534 The Act of Supremacy 1534 (26 Hen. ... Henry VIII (28 June 1491 - 28 January 1547) was King of England and Lord of Ireland, later King of Ireland, from 22 April 1509 until his death. ... Glastonbury Tor is a teardrop-shaped hill at Glastonbury, Somerset, England, with its only standing architectural feature the roofless St Michaels Tower of the former church. ... November 15 is the 319th day of the year (320th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 46 days remaining. ... Events May 30 - In Florida, Hernando de Soto lands at Tampa Bay with 600 soldiers with the goal to find gold. ...

By Shakespeare's time, two generations later, Glastonbury was one of the "bare ruin'd choirs Where late the sweet birds sang."


One of the earliest surviving manuscripts, now at the Bodleian Library, telling that Dunstan the abbot gave orders for the writing of this book.

The Abbey library was described by John Leland, King Henry VIII's librarian who visited it, as containing unique copies of ancient histories of England and unique early Christian documents. It seems to have been affected by the fire of 1184, but still housed a remarkable collection until 1539 when it was dispersed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Historian James Carley has traced some of the manuscripts from Glastonbury. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 378 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (456 × 722 pixel, file size: 70 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) This is folio 73v out of MS. Hatton 30 which is owned by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 378 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (456 × 722 pixel, file size: 70 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) This is folio 73v out of MS. Hatton 30 which is owned by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. ... Entrance to the Library, with the coats-of-arms of several Oxford colleges The Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in England is second in size only to the British Library. ... Henry VIII King of England and Ireland by Hans Holbein the Younger His Grace King Henry VIII (28 June 1491–28 January 1547) was King of England and Lord of Ireland (later King of Ireland) from 22 April 1509 until his death. ...

The Glastonbury Thorn

A specimen of Common Hawthorn found at Glastonbury, first mentioned in an early sixteenth century anonymous metrical Lyfe of Joseph of Arimathea, was unusual in that it flowered twice in a year, once as normal on "old wood" in spring, and once on "new wood" (the current season's matured new growth) in the winter. This flowering of the Glastonbury Thorn in mild weather just past midwinter was accounted miraculous. Binomial name Crataegus monogyna Jacq. ...

At the time of the adoption of the revised Gregorian calendar in Britain in 1752, the Gentleman's Magazine reported that curious visitors went to see whether the Glastonbury Thorn kept to the Julian calendar or the new one: The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world. ... The Gentlemans Magazine was the first general-interest magazine, and the most influential periodical of its time. ... The Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and came into force in 45 BC (709 ab urbe condita). ...

"Glastonbury.—A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual."
Gentleman's Magazine January 1753

This tree has been widely propagated by grafting or cuttings, with the cultivar name 'Biflora' or 'Praecox'. An early antiquarian account by Mr Eyston was given in Hearse's History and Antiquities of Glastonbury, 1722 : "There is a person about Glastonbury who has a nursery of them, who, Mr. Paschal tells us he is informed, sells them for a crown a piece, or as he can get." [1] The present "sacred thorn tree" at the Church of St John, Glastonbury was grown from a local cutting, like many others in the neighbourhood of Glastonbury. This Osteospermum Pink Whirls is a successful cultivar. ...

The original Glastonbury Thorn itself was cut down and burned as a relic of superstition by Cromwellian troops during the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell (April 25, 1599–September 3, 1658) was an English military and political leader best known for making England a republic and leading the Commonwealth of England. ... The English Civil War consisted of a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between Parliamentarians (known as Roundheads) and Royalists (known as Cavaliers) between 1642 and 1651. ...

The custom of sending a budded branch of the Glastonbury thorn to the Queen at Christmas was initiated by James Montague, Bishop of Bath and Wells during James I's reign, who sent a branch to Queen Anne, King James I's consort. James Stuart (19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scots as James VI, and King of England and King of Ireland as James I. He ruled in Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567, when he was only one year old. ... Anna of Denmark (October 14, 1574 – March 4, 1619) was queen consort of King James I of England and VI of Scotland. ...

A spray of Holy Thorn from the Glastonbury Thorn tree was sent to the Sovereign each Christmas by the Vicar and Mayor of Glastonbury. But it was pronounced dead in June 1991, and cut down the following February. However, many cuttings were taken from it before its destruction. The pre-1991 thorn in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey is said to be a cutting from the original plant which was planted in secret after the original was destroyed. Now only trees budded or grafted from the original exist, and these blossom twice a year, in May and at Christmas. The blossoms of the Christmas shoots are usually much smaller than the May ones and do not produce any haws. It is noteworthy also that plants grown from the haws do not retain the characteristics of the parent stem. A monarch (see sovereignty) is a type of ruler or head of state. ... Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry spot on the Somerset Levels, 50km (31 miles) south of Bristol. ... Binomial name Crataegus monogyna Jacq. ...

Many have tried to grow the Glastonbury Holy Thorn, Crataegus monogyna var, biflora, (or Crataegus oxyacantha praecox) from seed and direct cuttings, but in recent years all attempts have reverted to the normal hawthorn type, flowering only in spring. Binomial name Crataegus monogyna Jacq. ...

The large tree had been in the churchyard for eighty years. It was planted by Mr George Chislett, then head gardener of Glastonbury Abbey. He also learned how to graft Holy Thorn cuttings onto the root of blackthorn stock, and so preserve the “miraculous” Christmas blossoming characteristic. His son, Wilf, sent Holy Thorns all over the world, including to Washington, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Binomial name Prunus spinosa L. The Blackthorn is a large shrub or a small tree of the genus Prunus, botanic name Prunus spinosa. ...

Luckily, trees survive from earlier grafs to perpetuate the Glastonbury legend, among them two other Holy Thorns in the grounds of St John’s. In recent years, the blossom sent to the Queen has come from one of these. At the end of term, the pupils of St John’s Infants School gather round the tree in St John’s parish churchyard on the High Street. They sing carols, including one specially written for the occasion, and the oldest pupil has the privilege of cutting the branch of the Glastonbury Thorn that is then taken to London and presented to Her Majesty The Queen.

In 1965 The Queen erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with the following inscription: “The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its origin.”

The Abbey today

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey were purchased by the Bath and Wells Diocesan Trust in 1908. The ruins are therefore now the property of the Church of England. On acquiring the site the Church appointed Frederick Bligh Bond to direct an archaeological investigation. The Church of England is the officially established Christian church[1] in England, and acts as the mother and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, as well as a founding member of the Porvoo Communion. ... Frederick Bligh Bond (30 June 1864 – 8 March 1945)[1] was an architect, archaeologist, and psychical researcher. ...

A pilgrimage to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey was held by a few local churches in 1924. This pilgrimage continues to be held on the second Saturday and Sunday of July, and now attracts visitors from all over Western Europe. Services are celebrated in the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The term Anglican describes those people and churches following the religious traditions of the Church of England, especially following the Reformation. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ... Eastern Orthodoxy (also called Greek Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy) is a Christian tradition which represents the majority of Eastern Christianity. ...

It is a grade I listed building.[2] Buckingham Palace, a Grade I listed building. ...


  1. ^ In his Liber de Principis instructione ("Book of the instruction of princes"), of ca.1193, and his Speculum Ecclesiae ("Mirror of the Church"), of ca.1216. He identified the abbot in charge as "Abbot Henry, who was later elected Bishop of Worcester".
  2. ^ Glastonbury Abbey. Images of England. Retrieved on 2006-11-11.

For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... November 11 is the 315th day of the year (316th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 50 days remaining. ...

See also

This is a list of topics related to the United Kingdom. ...

Further reading

  • James P. Carley, Glastonbury Abbey : The Holy House at the Head of the Moors Perilous ISBN 0-906362-23-7
  • ---, The Chronicle of Glastonbury (1985)
  • ---, Glastonbury Abbey: History and Legends (1988)
  • --- (editor), The Archaeology and History of Glastonbury Abbey (l99l)
  • ---, Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition (2001) Essays.
  • Robert Rouse and Cory Rushton, The Medieval Quest for Arthur, Tempus, Stroud, 2005 ISBN 0-7524-3343-1
  • Philip Rahtz and Lorna Watts, Glastonbury: Myth and archaeology, Tempus, 2003 ISBN 0-7524-2548-X

External links

Coordinates: 51°8′44″N 2°42′52″W / 51.14556, -2.71444 Giraldus Cambrensis (c. ... Map of Earth showing lines of latitude (horizontally) and longitude (vertically), Eckert VI projection; large version (pdf, 1. ...

  Results from FactBites:
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Glastonbury Abbey (3776 words)
Glastonbury, and later became abbot there, ruling the monastery, except for one brief period of banishment, until his elevation to the episcopate.
Glastonbury to worship at the tomb of one of their worthies, a Patrick, though doubtless not the Apostle of the Irish, which seems a clear proof of an independent Irish tradition confirming the local one mentioned above.
Glastonbury as part of the royal possessions already in view of the intended attainder of the abbot, proceeded to "dispatch with the utmost celerity" both their business as spoilers and the monks themselves.
Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Hill, King Arthur, Giants - Crystalinks (3778 words)
Glastonbury is also believed to be the place known in Authurian lore as the Isle of Avalon.
The Abbey was built according to a prehistoric arcance tradition of sacred geometry known to the masons of the Middle Ages.
Intertwining the myths and legends of Glastonbury Abbey's history, it is widely believed that finding The Holy Grail Joseph is said to have hidden was years later the purpose behind the quests of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
  More results at FactBites »



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