Note- for tedius technical reasons, I had to renumber these footnotes, but they are otherwise correct- JV 12/99

The early traditions were first collected by William of Malmsbury in a chronicle which is made up of a series  of extracts from documents, short narratives and charters, concluding with the succession in 1129 of Henry do Blois, the fourth Norman Abbot, to the see of Winchester. This chronicle was continued by Adam de Domerham to 1290, and finally, J. Glaston wrote a complete chronicle of the Abbey from the beginning, in which he employs those of the above writers, and continues tile history to 1493. That this Malinsbury is identical with the historian of the Kiugs and Bishops of England, is shewn by a passage in his Gesta Regum (Savile, p. 14), in which he alludes to the first chronicle by its own title, De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae, when praising the virtues of King Ina, especially for building the monastery of Glastonbury, "the additional splendor he gave to it, is shown in the book which I have written concerning the antiquity of that monastery" (cui quantum splendoris adjecerit, libellus ille docebit, quem de antiquitate ejusdem Monasterii elaboravi").

From internal evidence afforded by his writings, this historian is supposed to have died in 1142 or 3. The last event recorded in his Antiquities of Glastonbury is the accession of Abbot Henry do Blois to the bishopric of Winchester in 1129, and this chronicle is preceded by an address to that bishop, in which the author commends the work which he has completed to his indulgent perusal and attention. The bishop died in 1174, ten years before the great fire. Yet the chronicle contains several allusions to this fire, and a description of its effects, evidently by an eyewitness.

Now, as the completed chronicle was delivered to a bishop who died long before it happened, it follows that these allusions must have been interpolated by some subsequent writer. Indeed, every one of these allusions has the air of a marginal gloss. Amongst them we may well include the puerile stories of the hiding and finding of Dunstan's relies, in which most of them occur.

2 Malmsbury here informs us that he derived the above narrative partly from a charter of St. Patrick, dated after 430, which he gives verbatim, and partly from the writings of an ancient British historian, whose works he had found at St. Edmund's and St. Augustine's. The name of this writer and his period are not mentioned, but he may be identical with Melkin, who flourished c. 550 (vide below, p. 15). The charter is a series of inconsistencies and absurd visions

3 Which by these dates must be the fire of 1184.

4 Beside the personages already mentioned as buried in the old church on account of their connexion with the abbey, a long list of the bodies of other celebrated saints were laid claim to in this establishment under various pretenses, many of which existed in duplicate in other monasteries, but were asserted to have been removed to Glastonbury from the ruins of monasteries destroyed in 754 in the Danish excursion. Thus they asserted the possession of St. Hilda, abbess of Whitby, of the venerable Bede, St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, also of St. Dunstan in 1012, removed from the ruins of Canterbury after the Danish sack in 1011 of which more presently.

St. Benignus, who visited Glastonbury in 460, was a disciple of St. Patrick and his third successor in the Irish episcopate. He was translated to Glastonbury in 901, or, as Malmsbury says in another place, in the days of Turstinus, the first Norman abbot. He was in 1091 brought to the great church and placed before the high altar (J. Glason, 160).

5. It will be observed, throughout these legends, that the fact of the dedication of the church to the Virgin, in 63, is never said to have been performed by the agency of man, but to have been divinely effected and communicated in dreams to the missionaries, and this fact again in another dream to St. David in the sixth century, it follows that it is not worthy of the slightest attention. The church was probably dedicated to the Virgin Mary for the first time, when St. David visited it.

6. "Paulinum ... asserit patrum traditio, ecclesiae contextum dudum, ut diximus, virgeue, vigneae tabulatu induisse, et plumbo a summo usque deorsum cooperuisse," P. 300.

7. De Gestis Pontificum, p. 254.

8. Aldhelm, bishop of Sherborn (705-709).

9. Malmsbury, Gest. Pont. p.254, and J. Brompton, p. 758; also Osbern De vita Dunstani, p. 100.

10. Dunstan was appointed abbot of Glastonbury in 940, consecrated archbishop of Canterbury in 957, and died in 988.

11 It is in the highest degree improbable that the wicker church, clothed with boards and lead by Paulinus in 625, should have remained in this condition for 560 years, and through the Danish ravages to the time of the fire of  1184, as John of Glaston asserts in an addition at the end of the paragraph concerning the work of Paulinus, which he has copied from Malmsbury (vide page 5, above). The ground of his assertion appears to be another sentence of Malmsbury, which declares that St. Patrick "was buried in 472, and rested in the vetusta ecclesia, at the right side of the altar for 710 years, until the burning of the church" (P. 4, above). These numbers shew that the fire of 1184 was meant, but as Patrick was buried in a stone coffin, the church above might have been rebuilt over and over again without disturbing him.
The charter of king Cnut giving privileges to Glastonbury in 1032, is promulgated in lignea basilica

12  Malmsbury,  p. 301, "...Tica cum valefecisset viae, in dextero angulo majoris Ecclesicae juxta introitum vetustae, notabilem accepit sepulturam..."

13  Ecclesiam a praedecessore inchoatam, quia magnitudini possessionum suarum non respondebat, solo tenus eruit et novam inchoavit, in qua
CCCCLXXX libras dispendit (Malm. P. 533), For in qua J. Glaston substitutes circa quam consummandam (164).

14 W. Malmsb. 305, J, Glaston, 168. This sapphire came into the hands of  King H. VIII at the dissolution of the Abbey.

15 1184, 30 H. II. " Eodem anno combusta est Abbatia de Glastyngbirie." Rog. de Hoveden, Annales, p. 624. Savile.

16. Domerbam

17 "Quoniam quae serninaverit homo, haec et metet; Ecclesiae Glasconiensis fundamentum jaciens, quae, dum in manu mea fuerat incendio  consumpta in cinerem resedit: eam Domino volente, persuadentibus Eraelio, Patriarchae Hierosolymitano, Baldwino Arch. Canti. Ricardo Wimton Ep'. Barth'. Exoni. Ep'. Radulf'. de Glanvill, cum multis aliis, per me aut per heredes meos consummandam magnificentiis reparare decrevi" (Hearne, Hist. of Glastonbury, p. 126). The charter is not dated, but the signature of the bishops and the date of the fire place it between 1183 and  1186.

18" Ecclesiam sanctae Mariae in loco quo primitus vetusta steterat, ex lapidibus quadris opere speciosissimo consummavit, nichil ornatus in ea praetermittens, qaam dedicavit Reginaldus tunc Bathonioe episcopus. A'. D. mill'. centes'. octogesimo circiter sexto, die S. Barnaboe." Ad.. de Domerham, 335, and Joh. Glaston, 180, who adds the sentence in italics, probably from the bishop's register.


1. Itin. f. 86.

2. On the north side of the eastern part of the Lady chapel there are manifest indications which shew that an attached building had been added to it between the buttresses, which ntight well have been one of those parasitical chantries that occur so commonly in such positions. Some writers place the Lady chapel at the east end of the great church.

3.  p.  301.

4. Rymer, V. 458.

5 Sparke, Script.

6" Inter quos Joseph de Marmore ab Arimathea nomine, cepit somnum perpetuu et jacet in linea bifurcata, juxta meridianuin angulum oratorii cratibus praeparatis"  (Melkin, apud Glaston, pp. 30 and 55).

Linea, according to Ducange, is an under garment, close fitting, and made of linen; "vestis interior stricta, ex lino confecta, unde nomen;" "a camisia, subucula, or shirt;" the epithet bifurcata, peculiar, I believe, to this example, appears to imply th at it was divided below into two flaps like that ordinary garment. The passage therefore simply reads that Joseph of Arimatbea was buried in a linen shirt. A dalmatic, being open at the sides below, also deserves the epithet bifurcate.

7. Leland, De scriptoribus, p. 41.

8. J. Glaston , p. 16.

9. Eccl'ia b'te Marie in fine occi'tlis pte navis dc'e ecelie Long'do capelle b'te Marie que est 9t'mia ex p'te occnt'li p'te Navis ecclie 9tnet. 34. virgas latido , ej's 9ti'et 8 virgas

Et in qlbt latere s'nt fenestre magne

Et ex opposito s'cde fenestre ex p'te m'idioli.
est in cimit'io due cruces lapidee concavate
ubi ossa Arthuri regis recondebat' ubi in linea
bifurcata jacet Jh'o ab Arimathea

10. p. 16, above.

11 A piece of indirect evidence to the position of the Lady chapel is contained in the following transaction. When Savaricus was made bishop of Wells (1192 to 1206), he annexed the abbey to the bishopric, assuming the title of bishop of Glastonbury. The papal confirmation of this transaction commands
that "the bishop shall have those houses near the capellam beatae Mariae, which belonged to the abbot, with the inclosure by the wall which extends from the larder to the corner of the said chapel, and he shall be allowed to make his portal towards the market-place of Glastonbury." Ad.Domerh. p.421. This is clear evidence that the socalled chapel of St Joseph is the chapel of the Virgin, as the position of a wall connecting the kitchen court of the abbot, where the larder would be, with the Joseph chapel is well known. It is shown at the bottom of the plan Fig. I, extending from the right, where the kitchen court is placed, and running within a few feet of the west end of the chapel.

12 In the plan I have marked the spot, 48 feet south from the centre of the chapel, which would be the site of the pillar.

13. Hearne says that in Mr Broughton's time it was in the custody of Thomas Hewes, of the city of Wells. Hearne's Glastonbury, p. 118. Broughton's Age of Faith, Vol. I. cap. 22, p. 110.

14. Printed in Hearne's John of Glaston, and Dugdale's Monasticon.

15. "Et ut semper nosceretur ubi Capellae istae conjungebantur quaedam piramis in parte septentrionali exterius et quidam gradus interius, et meridies linealiter cas abscindunt. Juxta quam lineam secundum quosdam antiquorum jacet Sanctus Joseph cum rnagna multitudine sanctorum."


1. Malmsbury 301.

2. I have condensed the above history of St. Dunstan's relies from Malmsbury's Chronicle, P4. Domerham, 336. J. Glaston, 180.

3. Anglia Sacra, Vol. II. pp. 222-233.

4. An inventory of the bones in the shrine of St. Dunstan at Glastonbury, is in the Cotton MS. Titus, D. VII. I, and printed by Hearne,

5 Acts V. 38, 39

6. Vide Leland's Assertio, Arturii.

7 A.D. 1171.

8. This event took place in the middle of the sixth century, c. 543.

9. 1191 is the date given by Wendover and Matthew Paris, and the Cronica Persorana, and is the most consistent with the history of the abbey.

10.  The words employed by the monk of Glastonbury, quoted by Leland in reference to this first place of deposit, are "Porticus ad meridiem est, et sacellum, quo itur in gazophylacium:' Assertio Arturii, p. 55. Gazophylacium is, properly, the chest in which alms to be given to the poor are kept, and as this would be deposited in the almonry, or eleemosynaria, of the monastery, the word may be fairly translated almonry or almery. This monastic office was always placed close to the entrance gate of the curia or outer court.

11. p. 17, above.

12. Part of them were standing in Whitaker's time (1777), on the edge of the burial ground, a few feet from the north-west angle of St. Joseph's chapel. He mistook them for Arthur's pyramids (or stone crosses, as they are now termed), Life of St. Neot, P. 35. 1809.

13.  J. Glaston, 250.

14. " Magnum horologium processionibus et spectaculis insignitum et organa mirae magnitudinis in eadem. (Ecelesia) construxit." J. Glaston, 263,

15.  Mr Warner (xciv.) refers to this passage as authority for asserting that he built the Lady chapel 90 feet long at the east end of the church.

16. These are the words of the original Latin, vide Leland's Itinerary, Vol. III fol. 85, &c.: "Gualterus Monington in Choro Abbas Glaston. Hic fecit Voltam Chori et Presbyterii et auxit longit, Presbyterii 2. Arcubus."

17.  Vide his account of the discovery of the MS. of Melkin in the library at Glastonbury, p. 16, above.

18.  Leland also found a lectern of  his gift in the choir,  "Lectura antiqui operis ex dono Richardi Bere, Abbatis Glaston."


1.Vide my Arch. Hist. of Worcester, Archeological Journal, Vol. xx.

2. Domerham has informed us that the monks took refuge in Abbot Robert's chapel immediately after the fire (vide p. 11, above)

3. " Porticus introitus ad magnam ecclesiam; continet ejus longitudo videlicet 15 virgas et latitudo 8 virgas."  The great thickness of the sideaisle walls indicates a high triforium, and the roof lines that remain on the ruin of the eastern tower piers, shew that the triforium of the choir was lower than in the transept, and consequently the clerestory higher. Wells also has thick side aisle walls.

4. Britton's Arch. Antiquities, Vol. IV. p. 195.

5.The dimensions which Worcester gives for the length of the chapels, 5 yards, and 5 yards for the breadth of aisle behind the reredos, agree with the actual measure, as nearly as usual; for the length from the corner at F to the respond at D is 31 ft. 3 in.

6. In Borromeo's rules the breadth of the side chapels of naves are said to be from 9 ft. 7 in. to 15 ft. The width of the transept chapels at K is 16 ft. If the space Gg at the east end of the choir were divided into two chapels, their width would be 18 ft.