Built sometime in the late-to-mid early 7th century, Glastonbury Abbey was one of the first roofless structures in Europe. Founded by Joseph of Arithmetic, the Abbey and surrounding gift shops have been attracting pilgrims from all around the world and Dorset ever since. Its location was very carefully chosen – offering, as it does, spectacular views of up to three cafes at a time, as well as several buskers.
Half way into the eleventeenth century, England suddenly found itself host to a party of French people called Normans. This happy event was celebrated by everyone in Britain chipping in and getting themselves a lovely new king to put on the throne. They named their shiny new king, “William of Conkers” and so the famous nut-based, knuckle damage game was born. William was very fond of Glastonbury Abbey and immediately had it stuffed full of new monks and abbots and hired William of Marlmalade to write a most excellent history of the place which was both accurate, true and accurate. Although filled with historical inaccuracies and speling misstakes, it is still a very popular and accurate history filled with many truths.
In the twelfthfth century, work began on a lovely new extension to the Abbey, but the work had to be halted due to the discovery of the burial site of none other than King Arthur himself. Famous for having been raised by a wizard and as having almost magical powers himself, the workman was still surprised at his lucky find. The contents of the grave were described at the time by Geraldo of Cambelt as, “…the skellingtonnes of a talle man, and a normil sized womanne, soe tis obviouse this be Kinge Arthure and his wife Guinuivuirrvuire, righte?” With this indisputable proof that Glastonbury Abbey was the final resting place of the legendary King Arthur, the site began to attract more visitors than ever. Drawn by myths and legends that insist that in the darkest hour of man, when people cry out in anguish and fear he will return, it seems unlikely that the workman will actually come back and finish the job.
From its earliest times, the Abbey had been very much supported by the monarchy but, by 1536 Henry VIII decided that he no longer believed in friaries and so began his great Disillusionment of the Monasteries. Henry went from town to town, selflessly taking on the burden of wealth that the monks of Britain had been suffering under for centuries. He scattered monks hither and yon, and also released thousands of nuns into the wild. Glastonbury Abbey soon became a target for Henry’s angry anger, but Glastonbury’s ever thoughtful Head Monk, Richard Whiteley, thought King Henry might not have room for all of the Abbey’s treasures and offered to hang on to them. Because of this generous offer, he was hung, drawn and quadrupled all over the top of Glastonbury Tor in 1539, and all his monks told to go home. Without its silent monks, Glastonbury Abbey fell silenter, and was not heard of again until it was dug up by Sir Walter Rally Radfordshire in 1955.
Today, visitors can still wander around the Abbey today, exactly as monks and nuns and abbots and priests and nuns must have done all those years ago. Indeed, they are even relieved of the burden of money as they cross the threshold, in the traditional manner. Visitors may also even stay at the nearby hostelry, the Gorgeous Pilgrim which was built in the 15th century for just this purpose. Unlike the Abbey, this particular building was recently fitted with a roof, making it one of the finest examples of roofed pubs in all of England. Today, this means that having visited the Abbey, today one can simply walk round the corner and enjoy a delicious pint of beer exactly the way the last Head Monk of Glastonbury Abbey would have liked to; alive.
If you enjoyed this, do check out Andy Brady’s other guest post for Normal For Glastonbury ‘New Light on Glastonbury Tor‘. Hands up who learnt something new?! Andy Brady is responsible for both the text and the illustration for this piece. Would you like to write for Normal For Glastonbury? We love guest contributors, just get in touch.
Enjoy this post?
Then you’ll love my books – ‘Normal For Glastonbury: Life in England’s Most Magical Town’ and my ‘Crap Views of the Tor’ Postcard Book.
For more of ‘this sort of thing’ join the We Are Normal For Glastonbury membership site, for exclusive content, a comprehensive guide to making the most of your visit to the town, a personalized membership certificate, discounts from Glastonbury businesses, a members’ forum and blog page where you can post your own writing and photos. You’ll also be supporting me to carry on writing about and photographing Glatonbury Town and its wonderful creative community. Membership is only £20 a year. Click here to find out more: We Are Normal For Glastonbury.
You can also subscribe to Normal For Glastonbury by email, follow the Normal for Glastonbury