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Monday, July 26, 2010


Glastonbury, a small town of less than 9,000 people in Somerset, is now more famous for its annual music festival than the historic abbey that dominated the town's early history.

Glastonbury is associated with the legends of King Arthur, the Holy Grail and Avalon. The 12th & 13th century French poems of Robert de Boron created the myth of Joseph of Arimathea bringing the Holy Grail containing Christ's blood from the cross to the kingdom of "Avalon" in the west.

Glastonbury Abbey, dates from around the 7th century and was an important and extremely wealthy monastery during the following centuries. Both King Edmund (d. 967) and Edmund Ironside (d. 1016) were buried here and the abbey continued to flourish after the Norman conquest.

The monastery is now in ruins following its Dissolution in the reign of Henry VIII as many of the stones were removed for local buildings.

Glastonbury Tor, which rises up from the Summerland Meadows plain, is another feature associated with the Arthurian legend. The roofless medieval St. Michael's Tower sits atop the hill.

The increase in interest in English mysticism and the Grail Legend in the early 20th century lead to Glastonbury's present day importance as a New Age centre. There are scores of shops in town selling herbal remedies, crystals, New Age books and organic food.

The Glastonbury Market takes place every Tuesday in Market Place and there is a Farmer's Market on the 4th Saturday of every month in St John's car park. The nearby Gauntlet is a new development of 16 specialized shops.

Glastonbury's association with the Holy Grail and Arthurian legend has also inspired such diverse writers as William Blake (Jerusalem), John Cowper Powys (A Glastonbury Romance) and Thomas Hardy.

The Glastonbury Festival, which began in 1970, takes places annually in June in the nearby village of Pilton and has grown to become the largest green field open-air music and performing arts festival in the world, with attendances of over 170,000 people.

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