[St. Pachomius Library]


According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Glastonbury was established by King Ine of Wessex. Legends contend it was founded much earlier by Joseph of Arimathea (or c. 166 when King Lucius requested that the pope send missionaries). Archæological evidence shows that Celtic monks lived there as early as the V Century. Whatever its origins, the monastery was a wealthy center of education and a popular pilgrim's destination in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The monastery is a central image in Arthurian and English mythology as well. St. Dunstan was its abbot c. 940-988. He introduced Benedictine rule, and his tomb was an object of veneration. Kings also were buried at Glastonbury, and in 1191, the monks claimed to have found and reinterred the bones of Arthur and Guinevere. (Modern scholars doubt this story and doubt as well that Dunstan's tomb was at Glastonbury). Abbot John of Taunton increased the monastery's reputation by developing scientific farming methods and reforming its monastic discipline. The monastery contained a large library and extended many charitable services. Monastic discipline began to decline in later centuries, and Glastonbury was dissolved in 1539.

Karen Rae Keck


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