Friday, 26 December 2014

Supposing King Arthur really *was* buried at Glastonbury?

So far as I can tell, modern historians and neo-pagans seem united in regarding the 1191 discovery at Glastonbury Abbey of King Arthur and Guinevere's tomb as a fraud.

But the evidence that it is a fraud is itself very tenuous - and the matter in reality hinges upon prejudice applied to what would seem to be inevitable minor discrepancies in the scanty records.


Modern historians and neo-pagans are mostly very different people, but they are united in prejudice against the medieval monks; and effortlessly assume that they fabricated the whole discovery for cynical and materialistic reasons.

On the other hand, if we assume the Abbot and monks were honest and true (but fallible), then it is reasonable to assume that they did indeed discover Arthur's tomb; and certainly that is what everybody believed for the next few hundred years during which Glastonbury grew to become one of the largest, finest most visited Abbeys in Britain, with a magnificent library.

When the Religious Houses were robbed and destroyed by Henry VIII, Glastonbury Abbey and its monks were treated with exceptional brutality, and the place was looted by the authorities and then the locals who benefited from robbing the sites for a considerable time.

Along with the library, Arthur's tomb, which has been the centrepiece of the Abbey, disappeared (apparently) without trace. Somerset became strongly anti-Catholic - and since the early twentieth century the town of Glastonbury has been dominated by a socialistic, neo-pagan, Gnostic, syncretic - in a word 'anti-Christian' - sensibility.


But suppose that Arthur's tomb really was discovered and restored and revered in Glastonbury Abbey - that leads to a rather different narrative than the usual one; and one that is far less flattering to the post-Catholic authorities and Somerset locals.

If we were prejudiced in favour of Medieval Catholicism and the Abbey, rather than the modern Leftist establishment and post-modern New Age 'counterculture'; then we might see Glastonbury and its history as a horribly cynical example of victim-blaming - in which vilification of the monks was used to justify murder, wrecking and looting; and history was re-written from the perspective of these self-serving lies.

Modern Glastonbury would then be the degraded consequences of the systematic destruction of ancient, legendary Britain - including her most potent hero, Arthur - and the severing of our magical and mythic links with that era; while falsely posing as a continuation of the very same legendary tradition which it in reality destroyed

If we add to this, the that the legend that Glastonbury (by Joseph of Arimithea) was actually the very first Western Christian community was also true - then the whole story takes on an epic and tragic form.


So much hinges on our interpretation of that 1191 discovery of Arthur's tomb. If it was not the fraud, that 'everyone' now believes it to be - if it was real; then an extraordinary 'alternative history' opens back onto a lost inheritance of mythic history.

The matter of Britain, and her once and future destiny, take on a very different complexion.



Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

"...then an extraordinary 'alternative history' opens back onto a lost inheritance of mythic history."

Funny that a mythic past history nurtured by Catholics, then destroyed by anti-Catholics was at last reinvented by a Catholic convert who was shrewd enough to not give his mythic history an obvious Christian turn, thus luring many anti-Christians in loving it as well as Christians do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SDR - " reinvented by a Catholic convert " - who do you mean?

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

Tolkien, of course. He considered himself a convert, since he became Catholic at eight, when his mother converted.
I read or heard somewhere (maybe in the special features of Jackson's LoTR) that his avowed purpose was to give England a mythic history that was lacking, or was imported from other countries.