Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England

Crouched in the lee of three hills, most notably the Tor, the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are all that remain of what was once the greatest monastic foundation and church in all of Britain, second only in wealth and size to Westminster. At the height of the Middle Ages it was a shrine second to none in Europe, considered by some to be as important as Rome itself.

According to legend, this is where Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus who gave up his tomb to house the body of his nephew, came to reside.

Later, Joseph was given the Holy Grail, the most mystical vessel which had been used to celebrate the Last Supper and the first Eucharist, and which caught some of the blood of the crucified Christ as he hung upon the cross. After the Resurrection, Joseph fled to Britain with the cup and founded the first Christian church on the ancient island of Ynys Witrin, sometimes known as the Glass Isle, or Avalon, better known today as Glastonbury.

Arthur’s body was brought here to be buried. Today, a plaque marks the spot where, in 1191, his tomb was apparently uncovered by builders working on the restoration of the abbey after it had been almost destroyed by fire in 1184. Whether this was truly Arthur’s grave or a complicated forgery perpetrated by the monks to raise funds to rebuild their half-burned church has been contested ever since. A lead cross, last seen by William Camden in the eighteen century, used to be displayed in the abbey. It read: Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the Isle of Avalon.

There are those who believe it a forgery and those who think it was the genuine gravestone of Britain’s greatest king.