Glastonbury is the name of a little town in Somerset, England. According to the legend it has been the seat of religious activities of one sort or the other since the antiquity. This is probably due to the 500-foot hill, known as Glastonbury Tor, that has attracted the imagination of many. This mount can be seen from many miles away. Two thousand years ago the sea reached the foot of this hill but it soon disappeared to leave only a lake. In the third century the Celts founded a lake village here known as Avalon. This word has its origin in the name of the demi-god of the underworld, Avalloc or Avallach. The legend says that Avalon, where the sea meets the land, was the meeting place of the dead, where they passed to another level of existence.
By tradition Glastonbury has been associated with King Arthur whose wife, Guinevere, was kidnapped by Melwas, King of Summer Land or Somerset, who imprisoned her in his castle on the Tor. Arthur rescued her with his army. A mysterious cauldron or Grail is part of the Celtic mythology. This object later on was linked to Christ and the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus, received the Holy Grail as a memento of Him. Later on, the legend tells us that he brought it to Glastonbury and buried it on Chalice Hill, probably near Chalice Well. Medieval tradition is filled with the quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his Knights.
In Somerset many people still believe that Joseph of Arimathea and the boy Jesus built Glastonbury’s first church on the present site of the Lady Chapel in honour of the Virgin Mary. Glastonbury became the first home of the Marian cult in Britain in about 500 AD.
Glastonbury had one of the greatest monastery in Britain and its ruins are still very impressive even to-day. The first religious construction erected in Glastonbury dates from the third century BC. The Celts built a great Pagan sanctuary barring the only access to the island of Avalon. It was in some way linked to the Tor and the sacred spring of Chalice Well. It is known that a chapel existed on the Tor before 1275 but it was destroyed by an earthquake. The present building dates from the 14th or the 15th century. However there are some traces of previous Christian and pre-Christian sanctuaries.
These Pagan sanctuaries would explain the presence of the early missionaries. When a Christian chapel was finally erected on the Tor the missionaries decided to settle in the plain where the abbey was constructed later on. The Christian monastery was built on an old cemetery located near the Lady Chapel that, in its turn, replaced the older Church of St Mary. Many smaller buildings such as chapels and oratories made of wattles plastered with clay were built alongside. St Patrick chapel, rebuilt in around 1500, is the only one left to-day.
The old cemetery had been used for a long time as excavations have shown. Many people wanted to be buried as close as possible to the oratories and tombs of the saints. One of these is said to be the tomb of King Arthur who, beside what the legend tells about him, was a great general who stopped the Saxons for more that a generation in the 6th century. His grave in the cemetery, to the South of the Lady Chapel, was opened in 1191 and his remains were moved to the choir of the church. They were located in 1934 and are still there to-day. Other buildings included cells for the monks, refectories, guest houses and a school, all of which were enclosed within a bank and ditch.
According to William of Malmesbury, a historian who was the guest of the abbey in 1120, the records (lost in a big fire in 1184) put at his disposal could not confirm all the legends and, in particular, the link between Glastonbury and Joseph of Arimathea. He tells us that King Lucius who lived in the 2d century came back from Rome with some missionaries who converted the local people to the Christian faith and built the old church of St Mary. All the archaeological researches have not brought up any remains from before that date.
Somerset was conquered by the Saxons in the 7th century AD. By that time the inhabitants had become Christians and they enlarged the monastery. The abbot St Duncan (940-956) enlarged it again and the church became one of the largest of that time. He also increased the wealth of the Abbey. The Norman conquest put a lot of stress on the rich Abbey. However the new rulers built even bigger churches and enlarged the monastery. Unfortunately a big fire burned the monastery and most of its treasures in 1184. Only one chamber and the bell tower survived. King Henry II financed part of the reconstruction when local income became insufficient. The Lady Chapel was rebuilt first on the site of the old church of St Mary. A crypt was added by Abbot Beere in about 1500.
Glastonbury was the second richest Abbey in Britain (after Westminster) and the Abbots lived in great luxury as is shown even to-day by the Abbot’s kitchen that was part of his big house.
Glastonbury Abbey attracted many pilgrims from every part of Britain and even from farther away. They came to venerate the relics kept in the Abbey. Important visitors were host of the Abbot but most pilgrims had to live in the town that grew up to accommodate all these visitors.
Henry VIII closed all the 800 Catholic monasteries that had existed before in Britain; 10,000 monks and nuns were thrown out and the crown seized their buildings and their land. Glastonbury Abbey followed the general rule and was closed in 1539. Many religious houses were already on the decline and the quality of their religious activities had gone in the same direction. Henry VIII was probably afraid that these Catholic institutions would interfere with his newly founded Church of England. However the main reason behind the dissolution of the monasteries seems to be financial, the king needed money and he found it in the wealth of the monasteries. Three monks were executed and the other 40 thrown out. The items of values were sold as well as the remaining of the site. Later on the site changed hands many times until the dilapidated ruins were bought by the Church of England in 1907; it was partially restored to be visited by modern pilgrims.
To-day 150.000 people visit the remains of the old Abbey each year; the entrance fees provide most of the money required to maintain the site and to preserve the ruins. Glastonbury represents the foundation of Christianity in Britain as it was here that the first Christian church was built. (13)
i- Joseph of Arimathea and Jesus
Around the 11th century BC the Israelite tribe of Asher traded with the “Tin islands”, known at the present time as Scilly Isles and Cornwall. These Jews, known also as Phoenicians, established some settlements in Britain. It is untrue to say that the real Phoenicians colonised Cornwall and Ireland. In fact no Phoenician antiquities or graves have ever been found in Cornwall or Ireland. On the opposite, the earliest graves found in Cornwall show that the dead were buried in the crouching position, on their left side, with the
knees almost touching the chin. This is typical of the Hyksos of ancient Egypt and would tend to show that the first settlers, who probably were the first tin workers, had been the Jewish descendants of Noah who left Egypt after the completion of the Great Pyramids. The same workers would have had the necessary knowledge to build great monuments like Stonehenge. It is also probable that Michael’s Mount owns its name to the Asherites who wanted to honour in this way Michael, a descendant of Asher, whose son spied on the land of Canaan on order from Moses. In the Asherite territory in Canaan there was also a city called Mishael, a variation of Michael, that was given by Asher to the Levites as a place of refuge. As Levites always accompanied the Israelites in their expeditions it is probable that Michael’s Mount was a Levite refuge in Britain. Michael’s Mount has been a place of pilgrimage for a very long time. The Levite refuge was followed by a Celtic or Druidic monastery before becoming a Christian centre. St Michael’s Mount has also been known under the name of Ictis or Mictis, this last one being again a variation of Michael.
The Asherites were trading in the Indian and Atlantic oceans and along the coast of Britain and Ceylon. This activity reached its maturity around 600 BC and the Asherites, or Phoenician as they were also called, reached their greatest power. The Asherites were the Masters of the tin mines in Britain and they exported this product to far away countries. It is believed that the Asherites bought the tin carried by the native workers to St Michael’s Mount and from there shipped it to Gaul. The tin merchants became very rich and powerful and are at the base of the wealth of the Duchy of Cornwall, the property of the heir to the British Throne. The tinners had their own Parliament called “Stannaries” whose origin is lost in the past.
Joseph of Arimathea was a prince of the house of David and, as such, well aware of the trade tin with Cornwall and of the lead mining in Somerset made by the Asherites. He was a very rich man, travelling with a large retinue, controlling his mining interests but also visiting the Royal Court. It is believed that the boy Jesus was entrusted to his care by his niece, the Virgin Mary, his eldest brother’s daughter according to the Christian tradition. The legend of the grown-up Jesus visits to Glastonbury and the Mendips Hills cannot be dismissed off hand. The descriptions of these visits have been transmitted from generation to generation and even now many people still believe that he will come back.
When Jesus went back to Palestine after his travels to India and Tibet he was thirty years old and he began his Ministry. The Mosaic laws prescribed that this was the age when priests started their work. Joseph of Arimathea was back in Palestine too and he became a secret disciple of Jesus. He feared the Jews and the Sanhedrin, of which he was a member, and thought that he could best serve his Master in the background. Joseph was an officer of the Roman army and this explains his acquaintance with Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea. Joseph knew that the Sanhedrin to have Jesus killed but, although he did not agree with this decision, he did not oppose it. While Jesus had his Last Supper, the Sanhedrin was meeting after the Feast of Brotherhood (the Qadosh) that was held on Passover Eve. All the members had to be present so Joseph was there too. Judas left the assembly of Jesus’ disciples to go to the Sanhedrin where he agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Afterwards he led an armed crowd to the garden of Gethsemane where they arrested Jesus who was waiting for them. Joseph was a passive witness to the arrest of Jesus and to his condemnation by the Sanhedrin. He did not oppose the death sentence pronounced by Pilate (even if it was against his best judgement) and the crucifixion. After Jesus’ death he asked, as next-of-kin, Pilate’s permission to remove the body for burial. Nicodemus, also a secret disciple as well as a rich man, helped him in this task. They embalmed the body with the rich spices they had brought, enrolled the body in a linen sheet as only kings are, and deposited the body in a sepulchre that Joseph had made for himself and his family.
After the burial Joseph and Nicodemus went back home to feast the Passover with their families.
There is nothing special to mention about Joseph Arimathea until Claudius became emperor in 41 AD. During the first years of his reign, the Jews were very hostile towards the Christians and many of them fled from the port of Caesarea. After suffering persecution Joseph organised the departure of a group that included Martha, the three Marys, Salome, Lazarus, Zachaeus, his family, his servants and twelve disciples. They finally landed in Marseilles. Lazarus remained there as the first missionary to preach in this town to become, later, the first Bishop. The other members of the group went up the Rhone valley loosing various members along the way. The last one, Zachaeus, stopped in Rocamadour. Joseph and his family went as far as Morlay in Brittany waiting for a ship to take them to Britain.
During Joseph’s previous visits to England the local king was Cunobelinus. Soon after Claudius became Emperor, the Romans invaded Britain because Cunobelinus refused to pay tribute to Rome. The invasion met a strong resistance. Joseph and his followers, including his son Josephes, landed on the Wirral about one mile from the Glastonbury Tor. There he immediately planted a staff in the ground, an ancient way to claim the land. It could have been our Lord’ staff as Joseph inherited all his possession. It must not have been his own as, according to the Jewish tradition, it had to be handed over to his oldest son, possibly during a death-bed ceremony. The staff grew into a beautiful tree that became known as the “Sacred Thorn”.
The cup used at the Last Supper was kept in Joseph of Arimathaea’s Jerusalem residence. This ordinary cup, in every-day use in his house, became a sacred treasure with other object he brought to Glastonbury. With this cup of olive wood our Lord inaugurated the New Covenant (Luke XXII, 20). This cup was preserved and cherished by Joseph’s descendants. Later on, probably at the time of the Saxon invasion, the cup was deposited in the Celtic Church in Glastonbury for safety. It remained there during the following years of unrest and was forgotten. When the Celtic Church was demolished to be replaced by a Catholic one, the cup was found in its hard box. In fact it was the Saxon King, Ina, after taking Somerset, who gave the church to Rome at the request of the monk Augustine. Since the 16th century the cup has been kept safely at Nanteos Manor near Aberystweth.
Joseph and his party were received at Glastonbury as “Judean refugees”. They were welcomed by Arviragus who, at that time, lived in his palace at Caerleon-on-Usk. Perhaps this warm welcome can be explained, as already mentioned before, by the affinity between both Druidism and Christian religions. Glastonbury was very rich at that time. It was also an educational centre and a place of refuge. The King gave the twelve disciples of Joseph twelve hides (160 acres) of land each free of tax, enough to maintain a family. The accompanying legal documents gave the disciples many concessions including citizenship rights and all the privileges accorded the Druidic hierarchy. In this way Joseph was able to build a very comfortable house for himself and his family. The twelve disciples also built a house on their hide of land. These privileges accorded to the first Christians lasted as royal patronage until 156 AD when the reigning king, Lucius, established Christianity as the national religion of Britain in which the Levitical Druidism merged little by little.
The refugees introduced the Gospel of Christ in the land and built a wattle church. This church was built of timber pillars and framework, wattled inside and outside and thatched with reeds.
ii- King Arthur
King Arthur, linked to the many legends of Glastonbury, is a difficult person to identify as many men of this name could have filled the role. However most historians believe that our King Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon who lived in the 6th century. They were direct descendants from Joseph of Arimathea. Uther had a round table built that was an exact copy of the table used by Christ for the Last Supper. He gave it to his son, Arthur who came many times to Glastonbury to meditate on the flat stone that mark the point where Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff. Arthur and his Knights (who were also descendants of Joseph of Arimathea) swore to find the Cup of the Last Supper, or Grail, and for this they had to participate in many battles. According to the local tradition Arthur died in Glastonbury having been wounded fighting. He did not retrieve the Grail that was hidden in a church near Glastonbury, but he did not know it. Arthur was buried in Glastonbury near his wife Guinevere who died before him.
Even as late as 600 AD Glastonbury (Avalon) was still an island. This is described by the monk Augustine who landed in Britain in 597. Reclamation of land made later on has changed completely the landscape. Augustine confirmed also in his writing that the Christian Church had been established in Britain more than 500 years before his arrival.
The castle of the ancient British Kings was in Caerleon-on-Usk were Joseph of Arimathea came as an honoured guest. Probably he is responsible for the building of a second church here after Glastonbury. Caerleon-on-Usk became one of the first three Bishoprics with York and London. After the Council of Nicea of 325 AD they became Archbishoprics. They were given priority as British Bishops at the Council of Pisa, Basle, Constance and Sienna. The church of Caerleon-on-Usk was handed to Rome by the Saxon King Ina. (20)
iii- The Chalice Well
The flow of healing water from the well close to the Tor and to the church that gradually replaced the ancient Druidic place of worship provided the water to the early Christians and attracted many pilgrims. The well was probably built by some Semitic ancestors coming from Egypt as the type of construction is typically Egyptian.
The well delivers in permanence 25,000 gallons per day of chalybeate curative and health promoting water. The well is not advertised, however, thousand of visitors of all over the world come to drink its water every year. It is now surrounded by a beautiful garden that creates an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. The tradition tells us that Joseph of Arimathea had a hut near the well. (20)
iv- Did our Lord visit Britain?
Before trying to answer this question we must remember that Britain’s history of the first 500 years of the Christian age is not supported by any written document. Gildas, the first British historian, lived between 516 and 570 AD. Only Roman writers such as Julius Caesar, Dion Cassius, Tacitus and a few minor ones have left some traces, but we must remember that for them Britain was the enemy. Caesar’s description of Britain as barbaric is generally taken in modern sense of the word; at that time, it only meant non-Roman. We know that, at that time, Britain had already a highly developed civilisation and culture. In the same way the general view of Druidism comes also from Caesar who was more familiar with the continental, or Gaulish, branch of these people whereas Britain was the home of the cult. For the early British history we are left with legends and traditions that very often are as reliable.
Joseph of Arimathea was an uncle of the Virgin Mary, being a younger brother of her father. He became rich importing tin, in particular from Cornwall to Phoenicia. At least on one of his business trip it is believed that he took the boy Jesus with him. Jesus remained in Britain for a certain time and he came back later as a young man. He lived quietly in Glastonbury where he erected a small house of mud and wattle. Later on, after Jesus’ death, Joseph escaped to Britain and settled in the same place where he built a mud and wattle church.
At that point some previous affirmations must be clarified before proceeding any further.
– That Joseph was a relative of Jesus is an Eastern tradition, but two Bible’s stories confirm it.
The first is the fact that Joseph buried Jesus in his own sepulchre erected in his garden. If we remember that Jesus was condemned by popular demand for saying that he was the Messiah and Divine, a very serious crime for the Jews, it is difficult to understand why Joseph took the risk of taking care of his body. Such criminals were normally buried anonymously outside Jerusalem. If Pilate agreed to Joseph’s request there must have been a good reason; this must be that Joseph was related to Jesus. Both Roman and Jewish law states that the nearest relative has the obligation to bury the dead irrespective of how he died.
The relationship between Joseph and Jesus may be inferred from the passage of the Bible relating Jesus’ first Passover when he was twelve years old, even if Joseph’s name does not explicitly appear in it. It is unbelievable that Joseph and Mary started on their way home without Jesus, noticing his absence after three days only, or of Him staying behind without informing his parents. We can only believe that he was staying with a trusted person in Jerusalem and that this person must be his cousin, John the Baptist who was only a few months older. In the meantime Mary and Joseph were the guests of Joseph of Arimathea in his Jerusalem’s residence. The Passover feast lasted seven days but we can assume that Joseph and Mary left the fifth day to stop in Arimathea (now Ramallah), the home town of Joseph Arimathea where he also owned a house. Here they expected Jesus whom they had left in the care of Joseph of Arimathea and of John the Baptist’s father, the priest Zacharias. He should have arrived the following day in time to resume, together, their journey home. The third days they were so anxious that they went back to Jerusalem where they found him in the Temple listening to the Rabbis’ lectures. This seems to be the only logical way to explain what happened.
– The existence of a tin trade between Cornwall and Phoenicia is mentioned in many old books and probably started around 1500 BC.
Already Herodotus in 445 BC spoke of the British Isles as the Tin Islands. Pytheas (352-323 BC) and Polybius (circa 160) also mentioned the tin trade. Diodorus Siculus gave a detailed description of it. Moreover, as we know, it still exists to-day. Lead, copper and other metals were also mined in the Mendips and used to make alloys with tin increasing, in this way, the traders’ interest in Britain.
Widespread traditions in Cornwall and elsewhere say that Joseph of Arimathea was engaged in the tin trade. The fact that he chose later to settle in Glastonbury after escaping from Palestine proves that he had been there before. And the only reason for him to visit this part of Britain was the tin trade.
– Was Jesus absent from Palestine before he started his ministry and did he stay in Glastonbury?
It is a fact that there is no record of Jesus’ life between the age of 12 and 30, but two events recorded in the Bible show that he was away from Palestine before he started his ministry.
When St John the Baptist met Jesus at the beginning of his ministry he did not recognise Him. This would only mean that they had not seen each other for a long time whereas they met regularly when they were young. In any case, if both were living in Palestine, they should have attended the three main feasts as required by the mosaic Law and meet there.
In St. Matthew 17.24, when Jesus arrived at Capernaum St. Peter was asked by the tax collector if his Master had to pay the tax. From Jesus’ answer it is clear that the question was about the tax due by strangers. Capernaum was in fact Jesus’ domicile where the Virgin Mary had moved earlier. The question meant that the tax collector, who knew Jesus, was not certain if he had to pay it or not, implying a long absence.
– Again, tradition is the only source that says that Joseph took Jesus with him at least on one of his travels to Britain.
We can reasonably assume that Jesus came to Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, when he was a young boy. It is also probable, due to the fact that Mary became a widow when Jesus was still very young, that Joseph of Arimathea became his guardian. Mary and her family moved from Nazareth to Capernaum. This could explain why Joseph took Jesus with him to Britain on one of his journey. Later, when he was a young man, he came back and settled in Glastonbury, according to the tradition, for study, prayer and meditation. He also erected a small house of mud and wattle. It could be that Jesus chose to stay in Glastonbury because it was an important Druidism centre. Druidism has always been regarded as an important and influent religion. After all it had a 2000 year’s history at the time of Our Lord. The Romans tried to eradicate this religion that opposed their own and the invasion of Britain could be justify this way as Britain was also its headquarters. The basic Druid belief was in a Trinity and it was not polytheistic. Druidism, in some ways, anticipated Christianity and believed in a coming saviour known also by the name of Jesus. Druidism could be an offshoot of the Jewish religion that was never recorded in writing as it was only transmitted orally. Here Jesus must have been free from the Roman oppression, the superstition of the misinterpretation by the Jewish Rabbis, and the current Pagan idolatry and bestial, immoral customs. Here he could live among people dominated by pure ideals, exactly what he proclaimed later.
The stay of Jesus in Glastonbury would have attracted little attention. After all, he was only another unknown religious man living as a hermit in a sacred place used to this kind of presence. This would explain why no account of his visit was recorded in writing. He also left very quietly.
After Jesus’ death, Joseph of Arimathea had to leave Palestine and he chose to come to Glastonbury, possibly because the Lord had been here before. The small house built by Jesus was consecrated by Joseph as a private chapel for himself and his eleven companions. When Joseph of Arimathea told Jesus’ story, his presence would have been recalled by the local inhabitants and his little house would become sacred.
No written record has survived because most of the old books and documents were burned in the big fire that destroyed the Abbey in the 12th century. Some old historians made some little references in their books. For instance, St. Augustine, who arrived in Avalon in 597 AD, mentioned Jesus’ past presence in a letter to Pope Gregory. He also recognised, contrary to his previous beliefs, that part of Avalon was already Christian and that a church was erected there even before Joseph of Arimathea’s settled in. The British historian Gildas (516-570 AD) wrote that Christ was living in Avalon during the reign of Tiberius Caesar who died in 37 AD. As Jesus died in 30 AD and as during his three year ministry his presence in Palestine is well documented, we can only conclude that he was in Avalon before 27 AD. Also Taliesin (circa 550 AD) mentions the presence of Jesus in Avalon as does the Doomsday Book from 1086 AD.
From what Gildas and Taliesin wrote we can deduce that Jesus did not close himself entirely from the world, but that he taught his credo to the local inhabitants. The message he told them must have been very simple, but to the learned Druids he must have explained the principles of his own Jewish belief in more details, comparing it with their own. Both religions were expecting a Saviour under a similar name, Hesus for the druids, Jesus for the Jews and the high priests of the two religions wore the same dresses. In short, the two religions were not in opposition to each other; Druidism never opposed Christianity with which it merged quietly later on. Even the writings of William of Malmesbury indicate that Jesus talked about his religion in Glastonbury. In the same way, King Ina in his charter records that the Lord resided and ministered in Glastonbury. The Doomsday Book confirms that the church of Glastonbury had twelve hides of land attached to it on which no tax was ever paid. The land was given by the king to Joseph of Arimathea and his eleven companions and remained the property of the church for more than one thousand years. This is a proof that Joseph settled there and that the gift had a special sanctity. The importance of Glastonbury is also linked to the tradition that Joseph buried the Holy Grail there. All this explains why Glastonbury is also called the “Home of God”.
In conclusion, the fact that Jesus’ stay in Glastonbury was private, and that it occurred before he started his ministry, precludes any written record. At least three traditions place Jesus in Glastonbury during this period of time. The historians Gildas and St Augustine and well as the Doomsday Book indirectly confirms these traditions.
– The following history of Glastonbury confirms the tradition.
The early history of Glastonbury, the sanctity in which the place was and is still held, must rests on something more that the presence of Joseph of Arimathea. It has been suggested that this is mainly due to the presence here of Our Lord.
The wattle and mud church built by Joseph was 60 feet long and 26 feet wide. Later on, every care was taken to keep it intact and even a stone church was built above to protect it. In 546 AD St. David built a bigger church as an addition to the East end of the previous one. A stone pillar was erected to tell where the old church ended and the new one began. Its base was found in 1921. The great monastery, whose ruins are still present to-day, was erected here. Kings, bishops, Saints, martyrs and British heroes have been buried in it and Royal charters were signed in the wattle church.
Many well-known people were associated with Glastonbury. St. Patrick came in 449 AD and became its first Abbot. He restored the church on top of the Tor. King Arthur’s legends are centred on Glastonbury and his tomb is still shown to-day. Gildas, the first British historian, finished his life there as well as St. David.
In 1184 a big fire destroyed most buildings including the Abbey and the old wattle church. Henry II ordered to rebuild it and as soon as 1186 the new Norman Chapel of St. Joseph was completed on the site of the old one. Among the remaining ruins, those of this chapel are the best preserved.
There are many traditions but as we will see they fit together:
i. The Cornwall tradition.
Joseph of Arimathea came by boat to Cornwall and brought the boy Jesus with him. Joseph was in the tin business and this metal was mined and produced in this region. Diodorus Siculus indicates that tin was exported from the island of Ictis that has been identified as the present day Mount St. Michael or Falmouth.
ii. The Somerset tradition.
Joseph and Jesus came to Britain by ship and landed at Tarshish. They then proceeded to the Summer land (clearly Somerset) and stayed in a place called Paradise that is near the present town of Burnham. Paradise has also been indicated as being the ancient Celtic Glastonbury.
iii. Another Somerset tradition.
Jesus and Joseph stayed in the village of Priddy in the Mendip Hills that was the centre of the lead and copper mining area.
iv. Joseph and Jesus are linked with Glastonbury.
This tradition is mainly concerned with the visit of our Lord as a young man, that is before he stared his ministry. But if Glastonbury was the Celtic “Paradise” then he came also here as a boy.
Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain on a business trip in relation with his import business of tin, lead and copper from Britain to Phoenicia. As he had become the guardian of Our Lord, he took him with him on one of his visit. They arrived at Mount St. Michael in Cornwall and from there went by coastal boat to Burnham or Uphill. From there they went to Priddy and finally to Glastonbury. The “Paradise” where they sojourned was either Glastonbury or Burnham. All four independent traditions lead to the same conclusion.
v- Life in Glastonbury
The life at the foot of the Glastonbury Tor must have been very quiet in those days. The Tor, an isolated hill, stands up as a monument in the otherwise flat country. On its top there are the remains of the ancient St. Michael’s Church, believed to have been built by St. Patrick. At the foot of the hill there is a well fed by an invisible big spring of pure water. One legend says that its name, Chalice Well, is due to the fact that Joseph of Arimathea dropped the Holy Chalice or Grail in it. By tradition it is also the spot where Joseph and his eleven companions erected their houses. We may also believe that Our Lord built his humble house here near the well of pure water, a symbol of the pure teaching that he came to give to the world. The nearest neighbours lived in the mud and wattle village of Glastonbury.
About ten years after Jesus had left his house in Glastonbury, Joseph arrived with eleven companions looking for a quiet retreat after the persecutions they were submitted to in Palestine. Moreover this pace reminded them of their Lord and Master, Jesus. Tradition tells us that they also erected their houses near the well and that they used the small house of the Lord as their private chapel. They came as missionaries, to tell the message of the Saviour Jesus or Yesu to the Druids. The message was well accepted and their king, Arviragus, gave them twelve hides of land. Some of their first converts were members of the royal family. They also erected a bigger mud and wattle church. Finally Joseph and his companions were buried here. Joseph’s body was removed around 1345, placed in a silver casket inside a stone sarcophagus, and moved to Joseph’s chapel. Many pilgrims came from far away to visit it. In 1662, for fear of puritan fanaticism, it was removed into the Parish Church churchyard. It was found again in 1928 and moved back into the church. (9)