Even after almost 2000 years, pilgrims still come to Glastonbury Abbey to take part in services, which continue the abbey's tradition as a living church.
Every week throughout the year, services are held in St Patrick's Chapel. This chapel was founded by Abbot Richard Beere in 1500 and so has been witness to 500 years of Christian worship. In summer months this service transfers outside, to the crypt of the Lady Chapel, if the weather is fine.
Summer – a Saturday in June - is the high point of the modern-day Glastonbury Pilgrimage. Begun by a few local Somerset churches in 1924, the pilgrimage has become a public expression of personal faith. Groups of worshippers come from all over Britain and Europe. At noon, the pilgrims gather to process down Glastonbury High Street, with banners flying and then return to the ruined nave of the abbey church, where Eucharist is celebrated. Several thousand people partake in this service, presided over by bishops and priests and receive the Holy Sacrament.
On the same day, an Orthodox service is held in the ruins of the Lady Chapel to venerate the icon of Our Lady of Glastonbury; Musicians, choirs and actors also entertain the pilgrims as the day progresses. The day culminates with the Christian multitude celebrating Evensong in the nave of the abbey church at 3.30pm.
In early July, on a Sunday, the Roman Catholic pilgrimage comes to the Abbey. A procession is made around the Abbey grounds, then out into the High Street and back to the Abbey via the main entrance, in Magdalene Street. Bishops and visiting dignitaries lead the singing pilgrims in procession. On return to the Abbey, Mass is celebrated in the Nave of the Abbey Church at 3.30pm.
Church groups are most welcome to make their own pilgrimage to the Abbey at other times during the year. Prior arrangements are essential – please contact the Director.