is said that Glastonbury was the birthplace of Christendom in Britain.
This is because of the legend of Joseph of Arimethea coming to
Glastonbury with the Chalice Cup and establishing the first church.
The legend of Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury,
Joseph was the Biblical figure who took Jesus' body
after the crucifixion. According to some legends he was actually Jesus'
uncle, and had visited Britain years before with Jesus in the pursuit of
his interests in the tin trade. It appears that there actually was a
strong Jewish presence in the west of England at that time, and many of
the tin miners may have been Jewish settlers.
At any rate, when Jesus died, Joseph thought it prudent
to flee Palestine, and after many travails he came to Britain with a
company of followers. He brought with him the Holy Grail, the cup used
by Jesus at the Last Supper. Some versions of the legend have it
that the Grail contained two drops of blood captured from Jesus' side
when he was wounded on the cross.
When Joseph came to Britain he was granted land at
Glastonbury by the local king. When he arrived at Glastonbury, Joseph
stuck his thorn staff in the earth, whereupon it rooted and burst into
bloom. A cutting from that first tree was planted in the grounds of the
later Glastonbury Abbey, where it continued to bloom every year
therafter at Christmas time. There is still a thorn tree in the
Abbey grounds, of a variety native to the Holy Lands, and it does indeed
bloom around Christmas time.
Joseph was said to have established the first church in
England at Glastonbury, and archaeological records show that there may
well have been an extremely early Christian church here. What happened
to the Holy Grail is another matter. Some legends have it that Joseph
buried the Grail at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, whereupon a spring of
blood gushed forth from the ground.
There is a well at the base of the Tor, Chalice Well,
and the water that issues from it does indeed have a reddish tinge to
it, from the iron content of the water.
Other legends have it that the Holy Grail was interred
with Joseph when he died, in a secret grave. The search for the
mysterious Grail emerges again and again in the tales of Glastonbury.
Further legends tell that the church founded by Joseph
continued for many years. Eventually it became a monastery, and one of
the first abbots was the future St
Patrick, who was born in the west country.