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In the search for the answers to the mysteries that surround Glastonbury the reader will be taken on voyages of historic discovery, not just in Glastonbury and England, but in the Holy Land, Rome and Egypt. I firmly believe that what I have written and what I will write is true and I hope that the reader will also be able to come to that realisation.
ANN (Mother of the Virgin Mary) married JOACHIM CLEOPHAS SALOME (1st Husband) (2nd Husband) (3rd Husband) I I I VIRGIN MARY MARY ALPHAEUS MARY ZEBEDEE I I -------------------------- I I I I I I JESUS JAMES SIMON JUDE I I ------------------------------------- I I I JOHN THE DIVINE JOSEPH BARSABAST JAMES
From this document we learn that Ann, mother of the Virgin Mary, was married three times. Her first husband was Joachim by whom she had the Virgin Mary, her second husband was Cleophas and her third was Salome. (In Hachette's guide "Bleu Bretagne" there is an ancient Breton tradition that Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, was born in Cornouaille (Cornwall?) of Royal blood. When she was pregnant with the Virgin Mary, her husband (Joachim), ill treated her and she fled from Europe to Jaffa and settled in Nazareth where Mary was born.) Ann or Anna,had a sister called Bianca who was the mother of Joseph, the Virgin Mary's husband, thus showing that he was also her first cousin.
BIANCA (Aunt of the Virgin Mary) I -------------------------------------------------------- I I JOSEPH ELIZABETH (Husband of Mary) I I I JESUS JOHN THE BAPTIST
In the British Museum there is the Harl Manuscript which confirms the above information. Another manuscript, held at Jesus College, shows the family tree of Joseph of Arimathea and gives confirmation that Penardin, granddaughter of Joseph of Arimathea married King Lear of Britain. Notice that far from being confined to Palestine, the Holy Family seem, through Joseph of Arimathea, to have intermarried into British royalty and to have left Palestine to live in Britain.
ANN BIANCA JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA I I I VIRGIN MARY ELIZABETH ANNA I I I JESUS JOHN THE PENARDIN BAPTIST (Married King Lear) I BRAN (British King) I CARACTACUS (British King) I GLADYS (British Princess)
The preceding genealogies are important because of the totally different perspective of the interrelationship of the nations at the time of Jesus. It is interesting to note that the traditionally "poor" family of Jesus might not have been so "poor" after all. It appears to be difficult for most people to think of Mary and Jesus as real people who lived in a real world. Sadly, this is due to the religious artists through the centuries, as well as the general apostasy of Christianity from the original gospel taught by Jesus and his apostles. Victor Dunstan puts the point across most succinctly in his excellent book, "Did the Virgin Mary Live and Die in England?"
It is almost impossible to see the traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary, the ever placid expression, the ever clean robes, the ever young and virginal face and the ever present halo without losing all realisation that this was a woman who actually lived on this planet. The religious desire to honour the Virgin Mary has resulted in her "public image" being such as does not cause one to believe in the reality of the woman. Superstition and myth are concepts that have been writ large over the story of the mother of Jesus.
Similarly, how can anyone appreciate as a historic flesh-and-blood reality, a man who is ridiculously depicted as always standing at doors knocking, balefully waiting for someone, who never does, to open them? Jesus too, has that ever present halo hovering over his head and the fact that he seems effeminate and always to be in danger of bursting into tears may be one of the reasons why there are fewer men than women in many of our churches.
How can anyone believe, as a reality, in someone who is depicted as being so hygienic that his white robes, even after forty days in the wilderness, did not become dirty and look as though they had just been brought washing powder advert white and stiffly starched from the airing cupboard?
Let us look more closely now at some of the life of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea.
There is an old saying that "actions speak louder than words" and the actions that were taken against Jesus before, during and after his trial speak volumes about the fear of the Sanhedrin. Many of the Jewish hierarchy saw Jesus and his followers as a threat. Remember, Herod was convinced enough that the "King of Kings" had been born to murder hundreds of innocent children in order to keep his position safe. The hatred of Jesus and his followers was an almost insane hatred that led the Sanhedrin to behave in ways they would never have thought possible.
No religious group is ever proud of any treachery from within its ranks and the Jews are no different, but, to their credit, subterfuge has never played a particularly large part in the history of their nation and yet some of the most influential leaders of the time of Christ behaved in a way akin to the Gestapo in order to send Jesus to his death and erase every trace of him from the pages of history. It would appear that the lengths that the Sanhedrin went to were quite out of proportion to the threat that Jesus would have seemed to have posed. Why?
Jesus did not give politically exciting speeches, nor did he try to engender feelings of hatred towards the Romans, infact his messages were normally to exhort the people to love one another. True, he did become cross at the Temple and whipped and threw out the money changers, but this was not a crucifiable offence. Granted, Jesus likened the Pharisees to a "generation of vipers" but he had a right to say this under the law and could not be legally punished for saying it. I am sure that the Pharisees had been called much worse than that by other people! The people that Jesus healed showed no real gratitude, infact, of the ten lepers that Jesus healed only one came to offer his thanks. It would seem that the genuine followers of Jesus were not very many so the Sanhedrin could not accuse him of setting up bands of people for demonstrations etc. Infact, even the integrity of some of Jesus closest followers has to be called into question. It is interesting to note that even Hitler in his death bunker received more personal loyalty from his friends at the time of his death than did Jesus. Goebells, Goebell's wife, their children and Eva Braun were all willing to pay the supreme sacrifice for their beloved leader; yet, the disciples slept while Jesus sweated as it were "great drops of blood" in Gethsemene, a foreigner had to help him carry his cross, Peter denied him three times, all the other apostles abandoned him and Judas Iscariot betrayed him for money. There was no demonstration against the crucifixion nor any tribute to Jesus after his death. It could be argued that Jesus' followers were afraid for their own lives, yet if you look through the history books you will find countless stories of people who were prepared to sacrifice themselves for the people to whom they were devoted. So why then did the Jews fear him so much?
Despite Jesus' apparent lack of offenses, Caiaphus manipulated the trial proceedings to such an extent that even with a majority vote for the release of Jesus, he took over the proceedings himself allowing no recourse to the defence and went to the extremity of sending Jesus to Pontious Pilate on a charge of treason against Rome. Pilate said "I find no fault in this man" and washed his hands of the whole affair after pronouncing Jesus innocent on four occasions! It is of note that some of the first words Pilate said to Jesus were "What is Truth?" These three words were passwords used by the British Druids at the beginning of their debates. There are authorities who say that Pilate finished his education in a Druid College in England. Could it possibly be that Caiaphus, knowing of Pilate's education in Britain and knowing that Jesus had spent a considerable amount of his life in Britain, thought that Jesus might instigate a total change of religion to that of Druidism and hence "do away with" Judaism? It is an interesting thought to which there is no concrete answer, but it would explain the fanatascism of the Sanhedrin.
There was a legal requirement at that time that a civilian must identify an arrested person. This then was the sole purpose of the Sanhedrin paying Judas to identify Jesus, after all, Jesus was a well known figure around Jerusalem. After Judas' kiss of identification the priest's guard, with authority from the Sanhedrin, arrested Jesus, not the Roman guard as is so often assumed. It was ILLEGAL for the priest's guard to arrest a citizen, this right lay solely with the Romans by order of the court. This would not have escaped the defenders of Jesus in his trial. Could the answer be that the arrest was legal because Jesus had not lived in Palestine long enough to be classified as a citizen? Remember that John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin did not recognize him when he baptised him, yet, as devout followers of the Jewish religion they would have met together at least three times a year to celebrate the main festivals of their religion. We can only suppose that Jesus must have been elsewhere. Where?
It is interesting to note that Joseph of Arimathea was known as Joseph de Marmore as he lived in Marmorica in Egypt before he moved to Arimathea. This could well explain the ease with which Mary, Joseph and Jesus were able to flee to Egypt during Herod's "slaughter of the innocents". Without some sort of contact in Egypt to supply accommodation etc., it would have been a very perilous journey to have undertaken.
Joseph of Arimathea was referred to by the Romans as "Nobilis Decurio" or Minister of Mines to the Roman Government, he was also, as previously mentioned, the sire of a Queen of the ancient British Royal Family. Not only all this, he was also an eminent member of the Sanhedrin and worked for the defence in Jesus' trial. It is a fact that only relatives of a crucified person could request the removal of the body from the cross, consequently Joseph of Arimathea must have been related to Jesus and was possibly Jesus' closest living male relative, hence the use of Joseph's tomb.
As just previously mentioned Joseph of Arimathea was a Minister of Mines for the Romans. It is a well documented fact that Britain led the world at this time with its tin. Herodotus, as far back as 450 BC writes of the British Isles as the "Cassiterides" or "Tin Islands". In the "History of England" by Sir Edward Creasy we are told that, "The British Mines mainly supplied the glorious adornment of Solomon's Temple". There are other references to be found about tin in the British Isles in many early history books. At Ostia, the seaport of Rome, an archaeological dig produced an ancient Roman drain-pipe that had been bonded with tin. A section of this tin was sent to England for analysis by a Professor Forbes who declared it to be metal from the Mendip Hills which are near to Glastonbury. In Cornwall, as late as the middle 1800's, tin miners sang songs as they worked and the chorus of one such song ran "Joseph was in the tin trade". It is worthy of mentioning that mention of Joseph Of Arimathea in England is restricted to Cornwall and Somerset these being the only two counties that were involved in the tin trade. There are many traditions, stories etc., abounding in these two counties but nowhere else, not even in Devon which is only "next door". It would appear that Joseph travelled only where his work took him before finally settling in Glastonbury.
Most people who have read the New Testament will be aware of the acute silence about the life of Jesus from the age of twelve when he was teaching in the temple to when he began his ministry in his 30's. Cornwall and Somerset are full of traditions that Jesus and Mary went there. Remember, it is suggested that Ann, the Virgin Mary's mother had lived in Cornwall and as Joseph was her brother chances are he knew people, or even had family there. We know for a fact that Joseph's granddaughter Penardin married King Lear so she and her family must have been moving in royal circles. What more logical place for Jesus to spend years of study and preparation for his forthcoming ministry in Jerusalem than in a country where a) he had visited before as a young boy, b) where he probably had some relatives and c)where the religion of the time was similar to his own teachings.
Where other than Britain could Jesus have gone? Would it have been edifying for him to dwell in Pagan Rome with it's obscenities and cruelties? Could he have felt at home in Greece with it's multiplicity of Gods and perversions?
The whole of Europe, from the Rhine to Spain and from the Euphrates to Calais was tainted with the depraved paganism of Rome. Even the Druidism of Gaul had become bastardised by Roman paganism and had adopted that which was abominated by every Israelite - human sacrifice.
Only in Britain was there a fountain of pure religion flowing, a religion which was uncannily similar in character to the religion of Israel.
R.W. Morgan in his excellent work "St. Paul in Britain" writes of the British Druids:
"Westward of Italy, embracing Hispania, Gallia and the Renish frontiers, portions of Germany and Scandinavia, with it's HEADQUARTERS and GREAT SEATS OF LEARNING fixed in Britain, extended the Druidic religion. There can be no question that this was the primitive religion of mankind, covering at one period in various forms the whole surface of the ancient world.
The ramifications of Druidism penetrated, indeed, into Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor; nor did Plato hesitate to affirm that all the streams of Greek philosophy were to be traced, not to Egypt, but to the fountains of the West. The pre-historic poets of Greece anterior to the mythological creations of Homer and Hesiod, were, as their names imply, Druids..."
Theologically Jesus would have been stifled in the legalistic attitude adopted in the Temple and Synagogues of his day. When he returned to Palestine and commenced his ministry we see how far he had departed from the traditions of his fathers whilst still adhering to the divine Revelation of the books we now know as the Old Testament."
There are many books that can be read about Druidism and they will all reveal that Britain was a centre of learning in the world even before the time of Christ. As far as culture and learning went, the British eclipsed both the Greeks and the Romans. Isabel Hill Elder writes:
"Concerning the educationaE4 Editor l facilities available to the so-called barbarous people of these islands, there were at the time of the Roman invasion FORTY DRUIDIC CENTRES OF LEARNING.
...The students of these colleges numbered at times sixty thousand of the youth and young nobility of Britain and Gaul. Caesar comments on the fact that the Gauls sent their youth to Britain to be educated."
Knowing that Jesus had to grow in knowledge and learn the same ways that an ordinary man did would lead us to presume that he probably attended one of these great seats of learning. The way that Jesus was able to confound the Pharisees and Sadducees, themselves excellent practitioners of the art of debate, indicates that Jesus must have had a considerable education. When a Roman went to arrest Jesus he came back without having arrested him and said "Never man spake like this man".
We now have three reasons as to why Jesus and Mary would have come to Britain.
1. Convenience. Easy transport was available through Joseph of Arimathea and there were probably relatives to stay with.
2. Education. Britain was the only land with extremely high standards of education.
3. Religion. The Druid religion was so like the religion of the Hebrews.
This third factor would have been the most important of the three as far as Jesus and Mary were concerned. The similarities between the ancient faith of Israel and that of Druidism are quite startling. Yes, there are recorded instances of human sacrifice but this must be taken in context. All religions have their bastard offshoots and Druidism was no exception. Imagine if you will what the world would teach about the religion of Israel if some archaeologists dug up the Golden Calf and nobody had written the Biblical record that we have!
I do not wish to digress into a discussion on Druidism but I feel it is essential to mention just a few points to further show why Jesus would have come to Britain.
1. For hundreds of years the Druids had looked forward to the time when their saviour would come whose name would be Hesus.
2. Druids believed in the immortality of the soul and in the resurrection of the body.
3. Israelites were not allowed to hew stone for their altars as they had been instructed ""And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." (Exodus 20:25, see also Deuteronomy 27:5) Druids were not allowed to hew stone for their altars either.
4. It was at Bethel that Jacob slept with his head on a stone. The central stone in the Druid circle was called Bethel.
5. Druids believed in a Godhead of three main personages but also believed in a multiplicity of gods.
6. It is believed that Druidism was founded by Gwyddon Ganhebon, supposedly Seth of the Mosaic genealogy, in Asia and was brought to Britain by Hu Gadarn a contemporary of the Patriarch Abraham.
7. Druids believed in the great law of atonement. Caesar wrote of the Druid's belief, "The Druids teach that by no other way than the ransoming of man's life by the life of man, is reconciliation with the divine justice of the immortal gods possible". It can be seen quite easily how this statement could be construed to mean human sacrifice, but if you bear in mind that the Druids were awaiting Hesus who would redeem them through his death, I believe the statement drops into context. It is also a documented fact that there is no evidence of any human sacrifice by Druids having taken place in this country. Even the mysterious "Bog-Man" uncovered in peat a few years ago was proved to have come from Ireland where a separate form of Druidism was practised.
When Jesus arrived in Britain, he was in a land where the people already worshipped somebody called Hesus and which had received it's faith from Seth and taught many of the doctrines which he would himself be later teaching although in a more correct form.
To fully understand how the Druid religion came to be in Britain after having been established in Asia would mean writing another article many pages long. Suffice it to say that when the tribes of Israel scattered some of the tribe of Ephraim made it to Britain. This is a subject that must, because of it's enormity, be approached separately. An article about the Tribes of Israel and where they went will be written for "Truth Seeker" and I hope that it will help to tie in why Druidism was being practised in Britain so far from it's origins.
There is a biblical period of silence that spans the time from when the Holy Family left Egypt and the time that Jesus was left behind at the Passover when He was twelve years old. This is approximately ten years of Jesus' life of which there are no Palestinian legends or traditions. There is also another period which spans from the Passover incident at the Temple until the commencement of Jesus' ministry. After the Holy Family's flight into Egypt, the Passover incident is the only one recorded about their life until Jesus' ministry.
The incident at the temple during the Passover is not all that important or profound and does not carry any great gospel message. I feel that it would be safe to assume that this incident was written about because it was the ONLY incident that the author of the account knew about. Both Jesus and Mary must have said some things worthy of note yet they do not appear to be recorded.
From the Bible we learn that many of the disciples of Jesus were either his family or his friends and as such should have been conversant with Mary and Jesus, yet we know that they did not recognise Him when He called them to join His ministry.
Bearing in mind the miraculous circumstances of Jesus' birth and the ensuing events immediately afterwards, one would assume that the Palestinians would not have forgotten such a thing. Even King Herod recognised that the Messiah must have been born as so many prophecies were fulfilled at the time of Jesus' birth. So, where are the records, stories or legends that you would expect to find about the family? You would expect Jesus to be the centre of attention and many people coming to Him for healing etc. After all, millions of people have gone to Lourdes to be healed by water which they believe to be divinely blessed by the Virgin Mary, many, many years after the actual vision of St. Bernadette. Human nature being what it is I would have expected queues of people every day lining up to at least "gawk" at the miracle child if not to be healed or blessed by Him.
We are left to assume that the total absence of documentary evidence about Jesus and His family during these periods must be because He was not there. Where was He?
Knowing the somewhat "high-handed" opinion of itself that the Roman Catholic Church has, and also knowing that they would like to consider themselves the founder of Christianity, it is interesting to note that even today in the grand Church Councils that take place where each country is placed around a table in the order that they received Christianity, first and foremost sits Great Britain. The Catholics have tried in the past to prove this inaccurate but have never been able to prove their case. As long ago as 597 AD when it was not in the best interests of either the Roman Catholic Church or St Augustin to admit that the Roman Church was not the first church in Britain, we find St Augustin writing to Pope Gregory:
"In the Western confines of Britain there is a royal island of large extent, surrounded by water, abounding in all the beauties of nature and necessaries of life. In it the first Neophites of Catholic Law, God hath beforehand acquainted them, found a Church constructed by no human art, BUT BY DIVINE CONSTRUCTION BY THE HANDS OF CHRIST HIMSELF, for the salvation of His people.
One is led to wonder what St Augustin meant when he referred to the "church constructed by no human art, but by the hands of Christ Himself, for the salvation of His people"? Should we take this literally? It certainly seems to make clear that there was a Church already standing when Joseph of Arimathea and his companions arrived at Glastonbury. I would suggest that the word "constructed" shows that it was a material Church and not a spiritual one that had been built. The building had been erected from wattle and was considered so sacred that it is recorded that Paulinus, the companion of St Augustin, covered the old church with a protective covering of boards, with the purpose of its preservation. It is possible that it could also mean that the Glastonbury Christian community was established on a "foundation" laid by Christ Himself.
Remember that St Augustin arrived in 597 AD with the belief that the whole island was pagan. He actually found that it was only the Eastern parts which had been invaded and settled by the Saxons that were pagan, and that in the Western parts where the Britons had been driven there was a very powerful British Church which even had its own Bishops.
The royal island referred to is, without doubt, the Isle of Avalon, that is Glastonbury. I believe the first neophites (ie converts of ministers) were Joseph of Arimathea and his companions. They were granted land under the Royal Patronage of King Arviragus when they first arrived and never had to pay any taxes on the twelve hides of land that they were given.
Where His weary feet have gone,
When He climbed the Tor and looked out
O'er the Isle of Avalon?
Have you seen the Holy Thorn tree
Standing in the evening sun,
Full of blooms and scented perfume
On the Isle of Avalon?
And the lead mines on the hill-tops
I have often gazed upon,
Where He walked - a lonely figure
On the Isle of Avalon.
Up the Cheddar Gorge to Priddy,
In the rain and snow and sun,
Just to give His simple message
To the Isle of Avalon.
Near the Chalice Well His hut stood;
When the day of work was done
He would watch the golden sunset,
O'er the Isle of Avalon.
You may walk there, in His footsteps,
And your eyes will rest upon
Glastonbury's sacred mountains,
On the Isle of Avalon.
In the beautiful countryside of Somerset in the West of England lies the town and Abbey of Glastonbury. All that is left of the Abbey are some magnificent ruins but the signs of all of it's former glory remain. I have had the privilege of standing in the grounds at Glastonbury and feeling the stillness and the hush that appears to pervade the area. I have been moved to tears as I stand at the site reputed to be where Mary, the mother of Jesus was buried. In this world that we live in where there is so much hatred and crime and filth, it is a relief to know that there are places that you can go to receive a re-vitalisation. To me, the grounds of the Abbey at Glastonbury and the grounds of the Chalice Well are two such places. The many traditions that have grown up in and around Glastonbury are what help to contribute to the feelings of peace and beauty.
After Mary's death, a wattle construction building was built over her home. It measured sixty feet in length and was twenty-six feet wide/ This building became known as the "Vetusta Ecclesia" or the "Lignea Basilica" and the "Ealdechurche" or "Old Church".
An assumption has been made by several authors who have written about Glastonbury that Joseph, after the death of Mary, decreed that the place where she was buried should be dedicated as a place of worship of Christ. Not long after Mary's death Joseph and his disciples lived together as a community around the Vetusta Ecclesia. Perhaps this was so that they could help perpetuate the continuing worship of Jesus Christ at a spot that would have been considered very sacred.
Maelgwyn wrote: "The Isle of Avalon greedy of burials...received thousands of sleepers, among whom Joseph de Marmore from Aramathea by name, entered his perpetual sleep. And he lies in a bifurcated line next the southern angle of the oratory made of circular wattles by 13 inhabitants of the place over the powerful adorable Virgin." He also wrote concerning the other saints buried at Glastonbury: "who there awaited the day of resurrection under the protection of the Mother of God." The implications are obvious and help to explain why the Vetusta Ecclesia later became known as "Mary's Chapel" as well as "St Joseph's Chapel".
Glastonbury can boast of having the most superior cemetery in the world. There is a list that is still extant that records the names of those buried at Glastonbury and it is truly illustrious. The old cemetery, along side the Mary's Chapel, has been called "the most holiest ground in earth;" "the most hallowed spot in Christendom;" "the burial place of the Saints." William of Malmesbury describes it as "held in great reverence, on account of the number of Saints, Martyrs and Confessors, who had found a resting place, either by ending their days here, or whose bones, owing to its character for superior sanctity, had been translated hither...For it seems to have been the custom at Glastonbury, in early ages, to place the relics of some saint in a magnificent shrine, to attract a multitude of worshippers...It, with the venerated Vetusta Ecclesia, was called the "Tomb of the Saints." As well as Mary and Joseph of Arimathea, Philip, plus twelve of his disciples, St Patrick of Ireland, St David, King Coel, or Hoel, (the father of Queen Helena and grandfather of Constantine), were laid to rest there. There is also evidence to suggest that the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinivere were found not far from the cemetery and the body of the great martyr Thomas a Beckett was laid to rest here also. Is it any wonder that one can feel so at peace when standing in close proximity to such a sacred place?
Gradually, over a period of many years there was the inevitable falling away from the original teachings of Jesus Christ and Joseph of Arimathea. As the Catholic Church became more and more involved in religion so many of the earlier teachings became lost and the simplicity of the Gospel was lost in the profound "mysteries" of Catholicism. "Bigger and Better" seemed to be the motto for several centuries after about 900 -1000 AD and the simple wattle church was replaced eventually with an Abbey Church that was, without doubt, one of the finest examples of 12th Century architecture. The Mary's Chapel was built over, destroyed and then rebuilt in the same style as the Abbey Church. Some of the most learned men in the country came there to study and the vast library of books was unequalled anywhere in the world.
In 1184 AD there was a fire which consumed the greater part of the Glastonbury Abbey including the original Wattle Church. The lead that had encased it melted and destroyed it. No real reason was ever put forward as to why the fire started but it was generally circulated at the time that candles had ignited some curtains during a wind storm.
This fire resulted in the loss of beautiful treasures of gold and silver, silk and ornaments, the value of which could not have been replaced at that time. The greatest loss of all was the famous library, considered the finest collection of books of the period, including records covering a thousand years of Glastonbury Abbey history. To most people the loss of the books that the monks worked on that were illuminated on vellum (parchment) bound in richly tooled leather and mounted with silver and gold was and still is a catastrophe; to me the greatest loss would have been the writings of those people who personally knew Joseph of Arimathea and perhaps even Jesus.
Gradually, over many years, the monks undertook the restoration of their beloved Abbey. After a little over 100 years the work on the great Church had been completed and then in 1275 AD years of work was destroyed by an earthquake that severely damaged much of the stone work. Again, the monks undertook restoration work under the supervision of the various Abbots and the Abbey was again became a building of splendour. Finally, in 1539, the Abbey came into the possession of the King, Henry VIII, and so came about its final dissolution.
E Raymond Capt writes:
"Today, having endured the weather, the storms, and the violence of many generations, Glastonbury Abbey still stands. Pilgrims from all corners of the world have visited and continue to visit this holy shrine. There can be no doubt that the Glastonbury Abbey is the oldest, continuous Christian foundation in the world. Since the time when Joseph built his first church on the Sacred Isle of Avalon, men have worshipped Christ on that site. The buildings may have changed, the ecclesiastical orders may have changed, but worship of the Lamb of God has never ceased at Glastonbury Abbey."
When men's hands stripped it bare,
They made a rough and cruel crown,
To put on Jesus' hair.
He died upon the rugged cross,
From sin to set us free,
The little Thorn tree cried with shame
That day on Calvary.
Then Joseph laid His body down,
The scripture to obey,
And from the Thorn he chose a branch
To carry far away.
To Glastonbury's hilly land,
Upon its sacred mound
He took the little Thorn tree twig
And put it in the ground.
It grew into a stately tree,
The pilgrims loved the sight,
To glory our dear Saviour's name,
It blooms each Christmas night.
The legend of the Holy Thorn is one that most people are able to accept and believe as there are still several Thorns that do flower at Christmas around Glastonbury. Of course these are trees that have been grown from graftings that were grown from graftings etc., etc., but with a little imagination you can believe the trees to be the ones that grew from the staff that Joseph of Arimathea planted.
When Joseph of Arimathea arrived at Glastonbury it is said that he thrust into the ground the staff that he had carried with him from the Holy Land. Experts have declared that a staff of wood that had relatively recently been cut from a tree could take root in moist ground and begin to grow. It is said that this is what happened and that eventually a cutting was taken from the tree and grown in the grounds near the original Wattle Church.
The Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree is somewhat unique because it has bo exact parallel among native English trees. It actually blooms twice a year which no other English tree does. The natural blooming period of the Levatine (Palestine) thorn is during the month of December whilst British ones bloom in May. The Glastonbury Thorn, of which there is one in the grounds of the Abbey ruins, one at the Chalice Well and one in the grounds of the Parish Church of St John on the Glastonbury High Street, blooms in May along with all the English trees and then again in December along with all the Palestinian trees. Cuttings from the trees have been sent to a variety of places around the world and the subsequent trees grown from the cuttings have continued to bloom twice a year.
Whether the Thorn truly came from Palestine and was planted by Joseph of Arimathea, perhaps we will never know for sure, I do not really feel that this is of great importance albeit very interesting. I do, however, feel that there is significance in the sacredness of the land around the ruins of the Abbey. I do believe that Mary the mother of Jesus was buried there and also Joseph of Arimathea. I hope that one day some form of indisputably documented proof will come to light so that the world as a whole will be able to believe if they wish to. At the moment we have to rely on documents that evolved after the great fire in the 12th Century and our own personal feelings.
It is in the writings of William of Malmesbury that we find the earliest records of the Chalice Well. He said that sometimes the waters were blue and at other times they were red. Due to this statement some people have called the Chalice Well the "Blood Spring".
The legend of the "Blood Spring" is related to the tradition that when Joseph came to Britain with the Cup of the Last Supper, he brought with him two cruets, one holding the blood and the other holding the sweat of Jesus Christ. The blood and sweat were supposedly washed from his body after the Crucifixion and prior to His entombment. It is recorded that buried with Joseph of Arimathea are the two white and silver cruets filled with the blood and sweat of the Prophet Jesus. Up to this time these cruets have never been found.
Referring back now to the Cup of the Last Supper; according to legend Joseph of Arimathea planted the Cup in the Chalice Well and after doing this the waters streamed forth blood. It is true that the water does leave a crimson deposit on the stones that it flows over and it is also true that at times the water appears very red in colour, however, I believe this to be due (as do scientists and historians) to the large levels of iron in the water. I have actually drunk from the water coming from the Well and to me it tasted like an iron bar!
Anybody who has the opportunity to visit Glastonbury should make an effort to go to the Chalice Well. Thanks to a trust fund that was set up several years ago, the grounds have been turned into beautiful gardens. There are seats scattered about and people can stay for as long as they wish. The water has been channelled from the Well and flows through the gardens forming pools. There is one section where a glass is permanently left by the water so that if you should wish to you may have a drink. The healing power of the waters is a well-documented fact stretching back hundreds of years. There is an aura of peacefulness and tranquillity in these gardens.
Joseph's bones were placed in a silver casket which was then placed into a stone sarcophagus which in turn was placed at the east end of the crypt under St. Mary's Chapel. From then on the chapel was often referred to as St. Joseph's Chapel as well. Originally the crypt was reached by a staircase that passed the ancient Norman well of St. Joseph and this is purported to be near where John Bloom actually found the tomb of Joseph. On visiting the Abbey now, you can go into the St. Joseph's Chapel and actually climb what is left of the original staircase by the well and emerge on the outside of the building. (Not recommended for young children, the stairs are dangerous).
By putting Joseph's bones into a silver casket they could be easily removed and shown to the many pilgrims who came to the Abbey. It would appear from several historical documents that the stone sarcophagus of Joseph of Arimathea was still in place in the St. Joseph's Chapel as late as 1661. One John Ray records that on June 22 1661; "we saw Joseph of Arimathea's tomb and chapel at the end of the Church." Later, in the same year, the same man returned to Glastonbury and records seeing the sarcophagus of St. Joseph in the ruined Chapel. (Ruined because of the earlier dissolution of the monasteries under Oliver Cromwell in 1539). John Ray was afraid that there might be another wave of Puritanical fanaticism such as had destroyed the original Thorn Tree, and fearing that Joseph's tomb might be desecrated he removed it secretly and buried it unmarked in the church yard, adjoining the east end of St. Mary's chapel. (I assume that he had some help in this venture as I should think that the tomb would need at least eight to ten men to lift it!)
It was two hundred and twenty-six years later that the Rev Lionel Smithett Lewis (late Vicar of Glastonbury) accidentally stumbled, quite literally, on a corner of the sarcophagus in the grave yard. The stone sarcophagus now sits under the Arthurian window of St Katherine's Chapel in the Parish Church of St John the Baptist in the High Street of Glastonbury. The silver casket holding the bones of Joseph of Arimathea was never found.
Drank at the last sad supper with His own.
This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
After the day of darkness, when the dead
Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord.
And there awhile it bode; and if a man
Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
Grew to such evil that the holy cup
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.
For over one thousand years there has been a belief that the original cup of the Last Supper was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea and that he buried it in the Chalice Hill near to the opening of the Chalice Well. As time ran its course so more and more legends grew up around the Cup of the Last Supper. The most famous of all these legends have to be those surrounding Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their inevitable quests for the "Holy Grail". Even Indiana Jones, along with Hollywood and Sean Connery, has succeeded to further the legend and bring it to our television screens.
Whilst many romantic stories picture the Cup of the Last Supper as being made of gold or silver and encrusted with precious jewels, it is far more likely that the Cup was made of plain wood and was just an ordinary drinking vessel. (Luckily Indiana Jones made the right choice, did you see what happened to the bad guy who chose the fancy cup?!!!)
It is reported that at the time of the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey, Richard Whiting, the last Abbot, entrusted a wooden cup to his monks to carry away to safety. This cup was described as "the most precious treasure of our Abbey". The monks fled into Wales and took sanctuary in the remote Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida (now ruined). However, with the continual approach of King Henry's men they had to flee even further west and they ended up at Nanteus Manor which is in a secluded valley about three miles from Aberystwyth. Over the years the monks remained safely at Nanteus Manor until eventually they began to die of old age. At that time the last surviving monk supposedly gave the Cup to the Lord of the Manor and charged him that the Cup would remain at Nanteos Manor "until the church claims her own".
Since that time the Cup has built up a reputation of being a Healing Cup and many miraculous cures have been claimed by those afflicted who drank from the Cup. Are the remnants of the Nanteos Cup the remnants of the Cup used for the Sacrament at the Last Supper? Does it really have healing powers? The owner of the Cup now will testify in no uncertain terms of the healing power of the Cup as her daughter lay dying from a broken skull after a ladder fell on her head. The owner of the cup took it from its box and prayed that her child might live. Within minutes the hospital telephoned to say that the bleeding had stopped and her child would live. Not only did Jean (the child) live, but she completely recovered to live a perfectly normal life.
It is a moot point as to whether the cup has extraordinary healing powers or whether it is just a vehicle to motivate people's faith. There are many who believe that this humble wooden vessel is the Cup of the Last Supper. Until we receive further light and knowledge on a subject that is so surrounded by myth, we shall never know for sure. Until that time comes I have no real reason to disbelieve the stories surrounding the Nanteos Cup.
To those who have had the privilege to visit Glastonbury I hope that these articles have enhanced what you already knew, to those who have never visited I can only say that irrespective of whether you believe that Jesus Christ and His mother Mary lived there, or Joseph of Arimathea came there after the Crucifixion, or any of the legends and traditions, the place itself is beautiful and instills a hush upon the inner soul that it is difficult to find anywhere else. For that reason alone I would recommend a visit.
I hope that as time goes on I will be able to discover more and more about Glastonbury and its history. It would be nice to be able to authenticate some of the traditions and legends. Watch this space!!!
(Contributed by Teresa Williams)