Skip to comments.Catholic Word of the Day: GLASTONBURY, 09-07-13
Posted on 09/07/2013 8:17:57 AM PDT by Salvation
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Ruined abbey and shrine in County Somerset, in southwestern England, and one of the first centers of the faith in Celtic England. In 1184 the famous abbey reached the peak of its architectural glory. Now it is in ruins except for the abbot's kitchen, built in 1437, which today draws curious sightseers. St. Patrick is reported to have built the first permanent church there in 432. King Arthur and his queen are buried nearby; their tombs were recently discovered. In 943 or 944 King Edmund made St. Dunstan its abbot. From this time the abbey was organized according to the Benedictine Rule. There was a rich history of miracles at Glastonbury. In 1539 the strong Catholic enemies despoiled the entire property, stole the sapphire altar, which had been St. David's gift, and put to death Richard Whiting (1460-1539), the Benedictine abbot. He is now canonized.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
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I have been privileged to visit Glastonbury on a number of occasions, once with each of my 4 kids and once most recently last fall with my wife. One time I was there all by myself -- brisk March day, threateningly overcast. The Tor in the distance was half shrouded in mist.
On that same occasion, I sat on one of the lichen-covered, ancient choir seats directly across from what is marked with a simple weathered sign on a pole and outlined in stone as the presumed tombs of Arthur and Guinevere. I sat there for roughly 20 minutes completely undisturbed.
There are remnants of what might be termed progressive construction as the building advanced in size over time in each of 3 discreet sections. As I strode deliberately (as if in my own processional from the rear Lady Chapel to where the front altar and the Edgar Chapel are located) I simply marveled at what had to have been the sheer magnitude of the place.
The monks' residence burned in 1184 and the actual discovery of Arthur's tomb was made amongst the tombs of other monks on the land adjacent to where the cathedral was finally built in 1191. It was marked by a crude Latin-inscribed lead cross bearing Arthur's name.
Naturally, all the notoriety of the discovery assisted with necessary (and some say strangely convenient) fund raising from pilgrimages which was needed to restore the monks' quarters and to build still more cathedral. In 1278 the bodies were reinterred and lie where they are today; King Edward I was said to have been in attendance at the occasion.
The ruin was overgrown and unattended when in 1934 the tombs were re-discovered. When the author says "recently discovered" if he means ~80 years ago = recent, perhaps his context comes from the fact that the foundations of the present ruin were laid by Saxons ~ 720 AD and St Patrick was supposed to have visited the earlier church there sometime in the early 5th century.
Thanks for your first-hand account. It must be impressive.
Note: I am not attributing any accuracy to the legend; however, it is something that has been passed on by the locals for over a thousand years.
It still sounds interesting. I sent it to our Spiritual Reading Group for next year’s list.