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You are in: Somerset » Glastonbury 2003
June 2003
Glastonbury - not the festival!
Glastonbury Abbey
The mystical ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury - the name conjures up images of huge crowds of festival-goers in a field in the middle of Somerset.

But there's a lot more to Glastonbury than just the festival...


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Glastonbury Town and Tor

14 April 2003
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Helicopter helps with tower repairs

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King Arthur

Isle of Avalon
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Tor (official site)
Glastonbury Tor (unofficial site)
Chalice Well
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Let's start with some facts about the town of Glastonbury:

  • It's surrounded by the Somerset Levels and the River Brue runs between it and the nearest town, Street.
  • In 1996, it had a population of just over 8,000.
  • The nearest railway station is eight miles away at Castle Cary.

The Tor

Glastonbury's most famous landmark is the Tor, which can be seen for miles around - and it's certainly visible from the festival site at Worthy Farm.

Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor - without the scaffolding!

On the Tor's summit is St Michael's Tower, which is a ruined 14th-century church tower.

It's currently covered in scaffolding while the mortar of the tower is replaced - the current mortar is made of cement and is damaging the tower.

The Tor has a bloody past - the last abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, was executed on top of the Tor in 1539 for his adherence to the Roman Catholic faith.

The Abbey

And that's where the town's other main landmark, the Abbey, comes in - they stuck the abbot's severed head on the Abbey's gate after his execution.

Glastonbury Abbey is thought originally to have been established in the 4th or 5th century.

Joseph of Arimathea is thought by some to have brought the Holy Grail - the chalice of the Last Supper containing the blood of Jesus - to Glastonbury, and to have built the first Christian church on the site of the Abbey.

What is known more clearly is that in AD688, the Saxon King Ine founded the first monastery there.

St Dunstan, who became abbot of Glastonbury in about 940, introduced the Benedictine order.

In 1191, seven years after a fire had destroyed the abbey completely, monks 'found' the tomb of King Arthur and Guinevere - quite possibly as a publicity ruse to attract pilgrims and their money.

Mystical atmosphere

Added to all the stories and legends around Glastonbury, there's lots of talk about ley-lines and the Glastonbury Zodiac - the local geography marks out the signs of the zodiac.

If you go to Glastonbury, you'll find it's got a somewhat mystical atmosphere with many New Age shops in the town centre.

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