It’s a bit of a coincidence really. For the majority of my life, my family has spent part of our summers at the beach in Avalon, New Jersey. A place named after Avalon, the mystical island that plays a significant role in Arthurian Legend.
The island of Avalon, or as it is also frequently called, the Isle of the Apples, is commonly associated with Glastonbury, which was surrounded by water hundreds of years ago, when Arthur would have lived. According to legend, a mortally wounded Arthur was brought to Avalon to be healed following his clash with Mordred at the Battle of Camlann.
My dad and I spent Thursday exploring two main sites in Glastonbury: the Abbey and the Tor. We started the day off by walking to and climbing up Glastonbury Tor, a giant hill overlooking the town. The Tor is home to what is left St. Michael’s Church; a tower built in the 14th century. In Arthurian Legend, the Tor is mentioned as one of the sites visited by Arthur and his knights during their search for the Holy Grail.
It was amazing to climb up the Tor and imagine what climbing up it must have been like for the generations before me. Be it those from the 500s or those who built the churches on top of the massive hill, I kept imagining myself in their footsteps. Although it was brutally windy from the top of the Tor—my ears nearly popped from the pressure—the views more than made up for it.
We also visited Glastonbury Abbey later in the day. Glastonbury Abbey is definitely one of the most intriguing places I’ve visited, simply because of the implications it casts over the authenticity of Arthurian Legends.
See, in 1191, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the tomb of Arthur and Guinevere. The remains were moved to a black marble tomb in the middle of the nave of the Cathedral, where they remained until the dissolution of the Abbey in the 16th century, at which point they, and the tomb, disappeared.
The main question is whether or not the monks were telling the truth—they’d recently come into some financial difficulties, and it’s entirely possible their claims were a 12th century version of a publicity stunt.
The romantic in me likes to believe that the monks truly found Arthur’s body. There’s just something indescribably special about standing right where Arthur and Guinevere Pendragon were allegedly buried. But after spending far more time than me going over the evidence (or lack thereof) most experts believe the monks fabricated their claims. Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that Glastonbury has played a large part in Arthurian Legend and in England’s history, making it a special place regardless.