A travel/historical guide about Glastonbury, England. The ruins at Glastonbury Abbey have long been associated with King Arthur and Guinevere. Learn more!
There are rare places where the romance of legends merges with history to produce a pleasantly unsettling effect. The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in England is just one of those places. At Glastonbury, the ground resonates with the harmony and discord of past lives. The crumbling walls could spin tales of saints and mighty kings who walked their halls.
The stark stone ruins hide a wealth of history and myth, for the abbey was once the burial ground of names known to all, such as King Arthur and his consort Guinevere. Few historical figures can match the reverence and hero-worship of King Arthur. His name is synonymous with valor, courage, and integrity. King Arthur represents not just one tale, but a group of stories in which honorable men accomplish good deeds and ultimately triumph over evil.
The partial walls still standing today at Glastonbury date back to approximately 1184. In that year, a devastating fire leveled much of the famous monastery.
King Arthur was most likely a British general of the early 6th century. Tales of Arthur spread far beyond the borders of his smallish kingdom until all of Europe knew of his bravery and prowess. His popularity was evidenced by the fact that stories of him were among the first works printed and brought into general circulation.
Arthur was one of the many noble men over the years to be buried at Glastonbury. It was an eagerly sought privilege to be near the tombs of saints that studded the area. Legend says Arthur died by the hand of his treacherous nephew Mordred. He was then taken to Glastonbury on a sable-hung barge. Queen Guinevere retired to a nunnery and died several years later. It's said that her devoted admirer, gallant Sir Lancelot, brought her body to rest beside Arthur for all eternity.
Hundreds of years passed, but Guinevere and Arthur were not forgotten. After the fire, around the year 1191, their graves were identified and opened. Records show, on April 19th of the year 1278, in the presence of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor, the remains were moved into a shrine inside the church. This black marble tomb remained intact until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539.
The base of that black marble tomb was discovered in 1934. Now, the spot is a patch of grass, marked with a rectangular outline and sign.
There are those who still question whether King Arthur ever truly existed. But his personality has become completely fixed in the minds of people. Perhaps, he is an embodiment of characteristics of a lofty ideal we all secretly cherish. It's legends such as his that give us our much-needed sense of wonder.
Before the written word was common, stories handed down from generation to generation, that provided history. The spoken word captured our minds and our hearts. Thus, Arthur passed century by century into our world today.
Arthur isn't the only important person associated with Glastonbury Abbey. Tradition has it that St. Joseph of Arimathea was sent to Britain about A.D. 60 to preach and spread the gospel. He supposedly landed at Weary-all Hill in Glastonbury. When Joseph stuck his staff into the ground, it sprouted and flowered. It has continued to blossom twice each year in the spring and again at Christmas.
At Glastonbury, the ambiance is tranquil but mystical. Visitors cannot help but feel the history that transpired beneath their feet. It toys with the imagination of even the most pragmatic, level-headed souls.