Glastonbury Abbey

he remains of Glastonbury Abbey are situated in Somerset in what was once a marshy landscape of small interconnected islands known as Avalon. A history of the Abbey was written by William of Malmsbury in around 1120. William's original work was lost in the fire that destroyed the abbey in 1184 but sections of that information made it into other written material and has survived. William states that in the early second century a British ruler called King Lucius returned from Rome with several missionaries and instructions to build a Christian church. The church known as the 'Old Church' was built on the site the present abbey remains. The Saxons also used the site for worship and construction of a better church was performed in the seventh century under King Ina (Ine). Under the Saxon King Edgar and Dunstan, who became the abbot, the abbey of Glastonbury flourished. Dunstan became abbot of Glastonbury in around 940 and under the Rule of St. Benedict the abbey's monks began to follow a stricter way of Christian life. The prosperity of the abbey also grew with the help of its wealthy patrons who donated money in return for the monks saying prayers for them. Dunstan also began a period of reconstruction work increasing the size of the church.

After the Conquest of 1066 the Normans took control at the abbey. The Norman abbots Turstin and Herlwin (1101-1120) both undertook building work to improved the abbey. But in May of 1184 a major fire broke out and badly damaged the church. The 'Old Church' was replaced with a new building and the Lady Chapel was complete enough to be consecrated in 1186. The Lady Chapel, located at the west end of the church, can still be seen today.

Myths and Legends

The abbey is linked to both the Holy Grail and King Arthur. Legend states that Joseph of Arimathea travelled to Avalon with either the Holy Grail or some other Holy relic and buried it near the abbey. King Arthur is associated with the abbey. In 1191 the graves of two people believed to be King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were uncovered in the cemetery. The find would have been very well timed as the church was going through a large amount of building work and the donations given by pilgrims visiting the site to see the remains of Arthur would have been most welcome.


The Abbey was confiscated from the Church as were many others in the period of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII. The last abbot of at Glastonbury was Richard Whiting and when he refused to hand over the abbey he was arrested and executed for treason at the top of Glastonbury Tor.

Mr Bligh Bond

At the beginning on the twentieth century a man called Bligh Bond claimed that he could receive information from long-dead members of the abbey about the locations of the buried structures. The information was sent to him in the form of automatic writing, where Bond would hold the pen but the movements were controlled by the spirits. Whether his explanation is true or not he did uncover several lost sections of the church.
Glastonbury Abbey Bay Elevation
943   Dunstan and Glastonbury
 Dunstan moved to Glastonbury where he placed the monastery under the rule of the Benedictine Order and became the abbot there.[1] 
944   Edmund captures York
 Edmund I took control of York and the surrounding area. He removed sacred relics from the remains of Whitby Abbey and moved them to Glastonbury Abbey. 
1030   Canute at Glastonbury Abbey
 King Canute visited Glastonbury Abbey (possibly 1032) to grant the abbey gifts and privileges. He also knelt at the altar and prayed.[2] 
1126   Henry of Blois at Glastonbury
 Henry I brought his nephew, Henry of Blois, from Normandy to take the position of abbot at Glastonbury Abbey.[2] 
1127   Charter for Glastonbury fair
 Henry I granted a charter for an annual fair to be held at Glastonbury known as the Tor Fair. The reaffirmed the right for the existing fair to be held there.[1] 
1184 May  Fire destroys Glastonbury Abbey
 A serious fire damaged the abbey at Glastonbury resulting in the need for major rebuilding work.[3] 
1191   King Arthur found at Glastonbury
 From the Chronicles of Meaux Abbey came the report saying 'In the twenty-third year of Henry, the body of Arthur some time king of the Britons were found at Glastonbury, between two stone pyramids formerly erected in the sacred cemetery. Hidden by a hollow oak, lay about fifteen feet deep in the ground. Some confusion with this date as I've also seen the date 1178 from Meaux Abbey chronicles.[4] 
1275   Earthquake destroys Tor church
 The church at the top of Glastonbury Tor was badly damaged by an earthquake.[3] 
1278 Easter  King Arthur's remains reburied
 King Edward I and Queen Eleanor visited Glasonbury Abbey and ordered that the tomb of King Arthur be opened for their inspection. In a ceremony the remains were taken to the high altar and then reburied.[2] 


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