Saturday, 9 June 2012
Glastonbury Abbey is located northwest of Chalice Hill in the centre of old Glastonbury. Legend has it that this is the site of the earliest Christian foundation in the British Isles.
The ruins are as impressive as they are dramatic and the abbey is thought to have been founded by Kinge Ine in around 700 A.D. Over time this became a very influential centre and at the time of the Norman invasion it owned extensive lands in the county of Somerset.
A fire destroyed most of the abbey in 1184 and seven years later an amazing discovery took place. A wooden sarcophagus was discovered in which the remains of a man and a women were found. A lead cross found nearby convinced the abbot that the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere had been found. This is hard to substantiate as the area was used as a burial ground for several kings from the Saxon period and it could have been a ruse to obtain more funds and encourage more visitors.
The replacement abbey had been completed by 1278, the new church being 560 feet in length and an impressive building with its twin west towers and central bell tower. The abbey continued to wield great influence and power in the region until the arrival of Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 which forced its closure. The building was completely abandoned and fell into disrepair. There is a visitor centre on site and a shop and Abbey Tea Rooms and Licensed Restaurant.