Glastonbury

The History of that Holy Disciple Joseph of Arimathea: Image of Joseph

Glastonbury

PlacesBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Located in Somerset, Glastonbury is the focal point for a number of legends and stories relating to Arthur and the Grail and is sometimes equated with the Island of Avalon, an association that is bolstered by the fact that the marshy lands of the region made Glastonbury virtually an island in its early history. The site of a medieval abbey and perhaps a sacred site even before the coming of Christianity to Britain, Glastonbury was, according to tradition, the first Christian settlement in Britain. By some legendary accounts, Christianity at Glastonbury can be traced back to Joseph of Arimathea. In his fifteenth-century translation of the Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal, Henry Lovelich asserts that Joseph of Arimathea was buried at Glastonbury.
            In The Antiquities of Glastonbury (ca. 1135), William of Malmesbury explains that the name of Glastonbury came from a British king named Glasteing, who followed a sow until he found her under an apple tree; hence he called the place ‘Insula Avallonia’ or ‘Apple Island’ (‘avalla’ meaning ‘apple’). William also offers the alternate explanation that Avallonia derives from Avalloc, a man who lived there with his daughters. According to William, the island was first called Ynyswitrin by the British and then Glastinbiry by the Angles, which he considers either the translation of Ynyswitrin or a name derived from Glasteing.
            In his Life of Gildas (ca. 1130), Caradoc of Llancarfan reports that Glastonbury was called Ynisgutrin, Island of Glass, by its original British inhabitants but that the English renamed it Glastigberi, the City of Glass....

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