The Mystery of Glastonbury Abbey

From the mystery of King Arthur to the dissolution of many monasteries by King Henry VIII, Glastonbury Abbey in England has been through it all. First founded at the end of the 7th century, a local man boosted the wealth of the church by building it out of stone, which we recognize as the west end of the nave today. As the Battle of Hastings of 1066 swept over the country, Norman crafts people contributed to the magnificence of the already existing Saxon church. According to the Domesday Book, an account was made in 1086 that the abbey was the richest in the country. But, wealth does not last. As the fire of 1184 raged through the monastery, the abbey lost the contributions and pilgrimages of many loyal pilgrims, dropping the income needed to fix the church to an almost devastating level. Almost as if fate was directing the story of Glastonbury, two of its monk’s set out to prove a story that the great and legendary King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were buried on the grounds of the great abbey. Digging all through the night, the monks came upon two skeletons, one male and one female. Hoping that these bodies in the graves would belong to a beloved king, the monks knew the discovery of such important bones would bring more pilgrims, therefore more money, back into the monastery. With that, the abbey was thriving once more.

But, this was not the end of the troubles for the monastery. The supposed discovery of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s bodies brought people and wealth to the abbey, making it now the second wealthiest abbey in all of England, behind the Abbey of Westminster, of course. The second most prominent problem the Abbey faced was during the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King Henry VIII when he decreed the Dissolution of the Monasteries. King Henry VIII believed that the wealth of the monasteries made them corrupt which led to the reform of the church, displacing monks and nuns all over the country. The abbeys, cathedrals, and holdings were stripped bare. The lead was seized, the treasures confiscated and the highly decorated stone taken away for other buildings. Glastonbury Abbey was no exception. Left in ruins since 1551, the only function it served was the use of the Abbot’s Kitchen by Quakers as a meeting-house. Under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882, the site was protected as an archaeological and historical monument. The real mystery still debated by archaeologists and historians today is this – were those truly the bones of the legendary King Arthur and Queen Guinevere or was the discovery a ruse by the monks to increase the wealth of the monastery to the point where King Henry VIII thought it best that it was shut down? Nevertheless, the gorgeous abbey still stands tall to show that even through the worst of times, its beauty still exists for all to admire.

One Comment

  1. Very interesting and informative story! Great pictures!

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