Glastonbury Abbey a. its tor became engrained as King Arthur’s Isle of Avalon and his burial site, but clever deception and hoax has overshadowed verifiable history. eliciting truth that Glastonbury was once an island but conversely manipulating King Arthur’s authenticity and his burial there.

GLASTONBURY: KING ARTHUR’S AVALON

As relayed by J. Armitage Robinson, who was using the untainted version of the De Antiquitate, William of Malmsbury claims to have seen a very ancient charter reporting that a king (whose name was illegible) of Dumnonia (which then included not only Devon but also the greater part of Somerset) granted to the Old Church (Glastonbury) land in the Isle of Yneswitrin. The interesting term is Yneswitrin, linked to Glastonbury. This implies the same connection was made between Glastonbury and Yneswitrin in the Grail manuscripts. However, the unintsrpolated De Antiquitals does not make an association between Avalon and YneswitrIn. When William wrote the DA for the Abbey, he made only one slight and indirect reference to Arthur prior to his manuscript being “doctored.” He referenced Gawain as Waiwen and wrote “Walwen deservedly shared his uncle’s fame, for they averted the ruin of their country for many years. But the tomb of Arthur is nowhere to be seen, for which reason the dirges of old relate that he is to some again.”

This passage is of vital importance because it leaves no doubt that King Arthur’s Avalon was NOT given as a synonym Glastonbury. All allusions linking Glastonbury to the Isle of Avalon during King Arthur’s historic era came after Malmsbury, whose floruit was 1110 to 1140.

According to John Scott, the interpolations of the DA are distinguishable from Monmouth’s original because of 1) the use of different pens, 2) the use of simplistic grammatical structure which contrasted to Malmsbury’s more complex use, and 3) the poor Latinity. Scott is confident about interpolations when he writes, “It can be discerned easily that at least two different monks were involved.”

*See Chapter 8, “The Isle of Avalon,” pages 221-262 in The Historic King Arthur and pages 5, 53, 200 in Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era

If archaeological dating can be accepted as accurate, then the earliest equation which links the Isle of Avalon and Glastonbury would be the cross exhumed from King Arthur’s alleged gravesite in the tenth century when Saint Dunstan restructured the graveyard of the Abbey. That cross bears witness that “King Arthur” was buried “in insula Avalonia. This is the cross which Giraldus Cambrensis writes about.

Thereafter, there are a couple of other antiquarians who write about the Avalon/Glastonbury connection. Wace, the Norman who penned Roman de Brut around 1155, wrote the following about Arthur’s death:

“So the chronicle speaks sooth, Arthur himself was wounded in his body to the death. He caused him to be borne to Avalon, awaited of the Britons; for as they say and deem he will return from whence he went and live again.”

Near the end of the century, Layamon wrote an adaptation of Wace’s work, telling his readers

“There would be great sorrow at Arthur’s departure;
The Britons believe yet that he is alive;
And dwelleth in Avalon with the fairest of fays;
And the Britons still look ever for Arthur to come.”

The Glastonbury ruins are center frame, taken from Wearyall Hill.      Page 262, The Historic King Arthur

John of Glastonbury permanently imprints the historic Arthur in the annals of Glastonbury. In Section XIIII of his Cronica, he records

     “The glorious King Arthur rests there with his queen, Guinevere; in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 542 Arthur was fatally wounded by Mordred in Cornwall near the river Camlann, was brought to the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, died there in summer, around Pentecost, and was buried in the monks’ cemetery. There he rested 648 years and was  afterwards translated into the larger church.”

This photo was taken from Wearyall Hill, with the hollythorn tree in the foreground, a symbol which, like Chalice Well, links Joseph of Arimathea to the historic King Arthur. The disciple supposedly planted his staff in the ground granted to him by the Abbey, and from it sprang the Hollythorn Tree, one of two which survives in Britain. The other is on the Abbey grounds, near the modern chapel.

In this well at Chalice Hill, the Holy Grail was allegedly hidden by Joseph of Arimathea, sparking all the Romances about King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail.

The graveyard which Saint Dunstan raised and restructured in the tenth century is pictured in the lower left-hand corner of this model. This is where the original burial site for the historic King Arthur was allegedly discovered in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century, King Arthur’s oaken tomb was allegedly moved from its original site to a place of honor in front of the high altar. This has given rise to the controversy of the sixth-century historic King Arthur, whose gravemarker was a tenth-century leaden cross, exhumed in the twelfth-century, re-exhumed and moved in the thirteenth century.

This view depicts the horse-shoe shaped Chalice Hill from atop Glastonbury Tor.  The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Hill, and Chalice Well are the main pilgrimage sites in the area.

Geoffrey Ashe writes this about Glastonbury in King Arthur’s Avalon: “I wrote under the spell … that Glastonbury, England’s new Jerusalem, is strong magic and not dead merely because the Abbey is ruined. That conviction has never deserted me. Whatever the nature of the magic, it is there and will revive.”

Anyone who has ever stood atop the Tor and gazed at the setting sun in all its brilliant and fiery hues knows the dizzying sensation of being transported backwards through centuries of time and experiencing the true mists of Avalon as an island. Glastonbury will never relinquish its magic.–extract from page 262, The Historic King Arthur