The life and death of a Holy Tree


As the legend goes — and it is only a legend — after Christ’s crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea carried the Holy Grail from Jerusalem to ancient Britannia, specifically, to the area near modern day Glastonbury. There, he founded an abbey and planted a thorn tree, one offshoot of which survives to this day. While in reality, the abbey was founded around the 7th century, the legend continues, entwined as it is with Arthurian myth and local pride.

The Holy Thorn Tree — which flowered twice a year, at Easter and Christmas — sits on Wearyall Hill, and has been a popular site for religious pilgrimages. No longer. As some point last Wednesday night, vandals chopped down the much-loved tree, leaving nothing but a stump and a pile of branches.

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Katherine Gorbing, curator of the town’s abbey, said: ‘The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity.

‘It is the most significant of all the trees planted here and can be linked back to the origins of Christianity.

‘When I arrived at the Abbey this morning you could look over to the hill and see it was not there.

‘It’s a great shock to everyone in Glastonbury — the landscape of the town has changed overnight.’

[Hat tip: Kamilla]

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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