Glastonbury Abbey

sights / Historic

Glastonbury Abbey information

Glastonbury , United Kingdom
Street Magdalene St
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adult/child £6/4
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Lonely Planet review

The scattered ruins of Glastonbury Abbey give little hint that this was once one of England's great seats of ecclesiastical power. Legend has it that the first abbey here was founded by Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' great uncle, although the present-day ruins largely date from the 12th century.

The abbey was torn down following Henry VIII's Dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, when the last abbot Richard Whiting was hung, drawn and quartered on the tor. Precious little remains of the original building, except for the nave walls, the ruined St Mary's chapel, and the remains of the crossing arches, which may have been scissor-shaped like those in Wells Cathedral. The grounds also contain a museum, cider orchard and herb garden, as well as the Holy Thorn tree, which supposedly sprung from Joseph's staff and mysteriously blooms twice a year, at Christmas and Easter.

In the 12th century, monks supposedly uncovered a tomb in the abbey grounds inscribed Hic iacet sepultus inclitus rex arturius in insula avalonia , or 'Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the Isle of Avalon'. Inside the tomb were two entwined skeletons, supposedly those of Arthur and his wife Guinevere; the bones were reburied beneath the altar in 1278, but were lost following the abbey's destruction.