Our next stop was to the mythical and mysterious legendary heritage site that is Glastonbury Abbey, in the heart of the town center of the hippy and free loving Glastonbury you are able to enter one of top historic sites in Somerset.
Glastonbury Abbey had records to suggest of religious excavations from around AD 650, although there isn’t a specific date of when it was founded. In the middle of the monastery was a early church that was built of wattle – light thin branches that can form a woven lattice, and this building is now commonly known as the Old Church.
A large enclosure where the grounds of the Old Church are include a cemetery, several underground chambers and from what we can see 2 oratories, all of this is viable and defined by a large ditch. Just over the 300 years, the old church was surrounded by other buildings that were erected inside the enclosure over that time, including a timber church that was erected sometime before AD 726 by King Ine of Wessex, the church was extended and joined to the wattle church with an atrium.
After this, Glastonbury’s most famous resident and abbot took over known as Dunstan, who added a porch, an east tower to the abbey church and an eastern aisle. Interestingly Dunstan then went onto becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 960, it was after this that a shrine was built in remembrance and dedicated to St Dunstan.
Other major buildings that are at Glastonbury’s site are the lady chapel, a detached monks kitchen, the abbots kitchen, a chapter house, a refectory and many under crofts. Around 1191, they unearthed the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere near the south side of the Lady Chapel, then in 1278 the bones of this royal couple were reburied in the high alter, in a black marble tomb.
By the late middle ages, Glastonbury had become a success and the second richest abbey in England, this was all due to the heavy pilgrimage trade and it was rich enough that it built an inn for well to do do pilgrims named the George Inn on the High Street of Glastonbury, this welcomes guests now 500 years later and is thriving.
Throughout most of the medieval period, Glastonbury Abbey was the second wealthiest house in Britain, although this all amounted to nothing when Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries around the 1530s. It was not until 1908 that the abbey and grounds were brought by the Bath and Wells Diocesan Trust, of which they restored the buildings and it is now a place that visitors from all over can come see this historical and remarkable site.
When visiting the abbey you will have to now go on their website and book your tickets through there, keeping in line with government guidelines around COVID-19, they are limiting the numbers of people that are welcome at one time. It is so easy to do and for the price of £8.50 an adult, it honestly is well worth paying to get into the site because not only are you visiting the historical and wonderful Abbey, you are able to walk around their 36 acre site where they have all of the different ruins to wander around and explore in. These include fish and duck ponds, a cider orchard, an onsite cafe and a museum full of archaeological wonders.
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