The British Isles are blessed with many springs which have been places of pilgrimage. Many are named after the holy person who lived nearby - and often there remains a folk tradition of "dressing the well" - with flowers and offerings. This is a deep - though often dismissed tradition.

Where the Church has not continued the tradition, others have taken it up.

One place where this is particularly so is the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. As with all holy wells, the waters of Chalice Well are reputed to have healing qualities and people have visited it for generations to drink the waters.

Chalice Well Gardens (56293 bytes)

The pools in the Chalice Well Gardens

Glastonbury has become associated with a festival and the New Age - but its Christian origins go far deeper.

Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Chalice from the Last Supper to Glastonbury and buried it near the Well.

The search for the Holy Grail was part of the quest of the Knights of the Round Table and symbolised the search for spiritual truth and enlightenment.

Joseph of Arimathea is also said to have pushed his staff into the soil where it took root. The thorn tree - which can still be seen (or, at least, one of its descendants!) is unusual in that it flowers at Christmas. This obviously increased the significance of Glastonbury as a site for Christian pilgrimage.

Overlooking the Well is the famous Glastonbury Tor . This is also surrounded by legend - many associated with King Arthur who, some say, was buried with Guinevere in the cemetery of the Abbey.

However, evidence has been found on the Tor of hermits’ huts dating back to around 450 AD. Legend has it that St Patrick - and possibly other Celtic saints - came to Glastonbury at around this time.

The simple hermitage eventually grew into a larger monastic community and the first Abbey was built in what became the town of Glastonbury by the Saxons in 712 AD.

A large stone church was built at the top of the Tor. This was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. It was replaced but later destroyed when the Abbey was suppressed on the orders of Henry VIII - the last Abbot being hanged at the top of the Tor.

The Abbey ruins lie in the centre of the town - the ruins of the church tower stand on top of the Tor - reminders of the long Christian heritage of Glastonbury.

| Back | Glastonbury | Next |