Glastonbury is a former island (actually a peninsula) which was surrounded by sea in very ancient times, followed by the rivers, pools and marshes of wetlands. The marshes around Glastonbury were partially drained during medieval times, and properly drained around 200 years ago.
Glastonbury has been regarded as a sacred place since humans first arrived in the area (at least 10,000 BCE), by dint of its strange, anomalous hill, the Tor. In Megalithic times (perhaps around 2500-2000 BCE) the sides of the Tor were modified with banks to form either a three-dimensional labyrinth or a series of layers representing perhaps different levels of consciousness and reality.
The first small settlements were located at Wick Hollow (top of Bove Town) and near the Chalice Well - the permanent population might have been only 50ish people, but in Megalithic times this will still have been significant.
In Celtic Iron Age times (500 BCE to around 100 CE) the 'island' was a Druid centre, a place of learning and the location of one of Britain's three 'perpetual choirs'. It presumably held high status, giving rise to the misty tradition that Jesus visited here, and the more substantial tradition that Joseph of Arimathaea and some followers came here as refugees after the crucifixion, to found the first proto-Christian church here.
This church was upgraded by St Patrick of Ireland into a monastery, which grew in size and stature during medieval times, to become by the 1100s one of Europe's greater pilgrimage places and centres of learning. The abbey was destroyed in the 1500s for political reasons and, since then, over the centuries, Glastonbury has been a magnet for spiritually-oriented and creative people, especially from 1900 onwards.
The main sacred features of Glastonbury are the Tor, the Abbey, the Chalice Well, Chalice Hill, Wearyall Hill and Bride's Mound.
Though Glastonbury is located on the ancient Isle of Avalon, its surrounding landscape is very much part of it too. It's a 'landscape temple' stretching miles. This Sacred Sites section concerns these places. Click here for the Isle of Avalon website, which contains much extra information. Click here for Anthony Kennish's Glastonbury Chronicles, showing the dowsed energy-lines of Glastonbury.
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