Glastonbury Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury, England, United Kingdom

Glastonbury Abbey is one of the most important historic abbeys in Britain and the legendary burial place of King Arthur.

Lily Johnson

04 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey is one of the most important historic abbeys in Britain and has been the focal point of myth, legend, and important historical events for almost 2,000 years.

Glastonbury Abbey history

Although the original stone church of Glastonbury Abbey was constructed by Saxon King Ine of Wessex in around 712, the site has a history said to trace back to the 1st century.

It is believed that construction of the old church took place in 63 AD, and that Jesus was brought here by his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The legend of King Arthur is also associated with Glastonbury Abbey, as in the 12th century it was believed that the tomb of the folkloric king and his wife Guinevere was found there.

The stone Saxon church underwent significant enlargement in the 10th century, under the remit of the Abbot of Glastonbury and future Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Dunstan. It was further added to by the Normans – so much so that the 1086 Doomsday Book listed Glastonbury Abbey as the nation’s wealthiest monastery!

Sadly much of this Glastonbury Abbey was destroyed in a great fire in 1184, and a new Great Church was constructed and consecrated in 1213. Glastonbury Abbey would continue to thrive for a few more centuries, only to finally be dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539. During this time the last abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, was hung, drawn and quartered atop Glastonbury Tor for his refusal to relinquish the abbey and his sustained allegiance to the Catholic Church.

Glastonbury Abbey today

Today, the picturesque ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are a popular tourist site. Many people come to see it for its stunning ruins, others to see the spot where Arthur and Guinevere’s tomb may have once lay.

The remains of the abbey demonstrate what was once a thriving monastery with its ornate stonework and towering architecture, while inside displays on the lives of the monks who lived there may be found. A highlight of the site is the 12th century Lady Chapel, whose interior has been restored with painted murals and stained glass, breathing life back into what was once the abbey’s most sacred spot.

Getting to Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey is located in the centre of Glastonbury and can be reached by taking Junction 23 off the M5 and following the signs into the town. St Dunstan’s Car Park is a 10-minute walk to the abbey, while a number of bus services run to the Town Hall stop next to the car park on Magdalene Street.

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