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King Arthur & Avalon

King ArthurGlastonbury, in addition to many other places, like Caerleon and Tintagel, has been linked to King Arthur. This link though, at Glastonbury, is in death rather than life. The connection of the Isle of Apples or Avalloc, to Avalon was thought to have been first made in about the 12th century and then reported by William of Malmesbury the interpolator, in his De antiquitae Glatoniensis ecclesie and Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia regum Britanniae.

Arthur was the legendary English King - 'Arthur of the Britons', before Saxon times. He was born out of wedlock and raised by wizard Merlin. When only a boy, after many men had tried and failed, Arthur gained the throne by withdrawing the magic sword Excalibur from a stone. The nearby Cadbury Castle, at North Cadbury supposedly became his 'Camelot'.

Painting of monks discovering King Arthur's graveAfter his many exploits and stories concerning his Knights, the Round Table and the Holy Grail, he was wounded by Mordred at the battle of Camlan. This was around the year 542 and he was then taken across the water to the Isle of Avalon for his wounds to be healed. Glastonbury would indeed still have been an island at that time, so it was quite possible for a boat to bring him to the only place where any medical attention was available, which would have been at a monastery - Glastonbury Abbey. Arthur was mortally wounded however and it is said he was buried in the cemetery on the south side of the Lady Chapel, at Glastonbury Abbey. He was buried between two stone pyramids and at great depth.

Centuries later (in 1191) prompted by hints and rumours, the monks excavated this same spot in the cemetery and they dug down sixteen feet, to find an oaken coffin. At a depth of seven feet they found a stone beneath which was a leaden cross with an inscription His iacet inclitus Arturius in insula Avalonia - variously interpreted to read 'Here lies King Arthur buried in Avalon'! The coffin contained two bodies - a great man and a woman, whose golden hair was still intact, until touched, when it crumbled away. The bodies were said to be Arthur's and Guinevere's.

A century later in 1278 the bones were placed in caskets and transferred during a state visit by King Edward 1, to a black marble tomb before the High Altar in the great Abbey Church. There they remained until the Abbey was vandalised after the dissolution in 1539. No one has seen, or heard anything of them since.

Notice board marking the spot of King Arthur's final resting placeLegend proclaims that after Arthur's death, a powerful spirit haunted the ruins of the Abbey, appearing as a black-armoured knight with red glowing eyes and a burning desire to eradicate all records of the ancient Arthurian legends, which is why, it is said, that those seeking to discover the truth, find so few facts available.

Today a notice board marks the spot of Arthur's final resting place. Occasionally people lay flowers there to honour this mighty King whose life and death gave birth to so many myths and legends. These mystical tales that still envelope Glastonbury Abbey in a cloak of mystery add to its profoundly rich and timeless history.