The ancient town of Glastonbury is no stranger to myth and legend. Some believe that Joseph of Arimathea, along with a young Jesus Christ, visited the town, and as the story goes, had Glastonbury Abbey built after Jesus’ death to house the Holy Grail.
The abbey is also connected to the tale of that fabled British monarch, King Arthur. The medieval legend of King Arthur has links to several places in southern England, such as Tintagel Castle and Merlin’s Cave. However, it within the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey that he and his wife, Guinevere, are said to be laid to rest.
The theory is that in the year 1191, monks at the abbey discovered a hollow log, containing two bodies with an inscription suggesting they were that of Arthur and his queen. Arthurian legends had been around for centuries, but interest had intensified a few decades prior when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his Historia Regum Britanniae. The stories became so popular, that in 1278 King Edward I traveled to Glastonbury to watch as the bodies were re-interred into a black marble tomb.
It is commonly believed that the “discovery” of Arthur’s tomb was a PR stunt by the monks as a way to garner interest in the abbey and raise funding. The abbey had recently suffered from a fire that destroyed most of the buildings before conveniently unearthing King Arthur’s remains.
During the English Reformation of the 16th century, King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of all monasteries, thus the abbey, along with the tomb, was destroyed. Luckily, enough of the shell of the abbey survived to allow modern archaeologists to pinpoint the location of the tomb. Though most historians doubt the tomb’s authenticity, the myth that began over a thousand years ago lives on.
Know Before You Go
To visit the tomb, you must pay an entrance fee for the abbey, which is slightly cheaper if you buy online. There is parking outside the entrance, which is also conveniently located for exploring the rest of the town.