'Joseph of Arimathea' (See Joseph of Arimathea), is according to one legend said to have landed by boat on 'Wearyall Hill' which is located on the outskirts of Glastonbury town and again underlines the fact that in past times the area around Glastonbury flooded making certain areas accessible only by small boat at certain times of the year. This also supports the belief that this area of the country was what some legends referred to as the 'Isle of Avalon' (See Avalon).
Once he arrived in the area it is believed that Joseph of Arimathea built a church out of wattle and daub which stood next to or on the site of the what is now called the 'Lady Chapel' in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. In AD1184 a fire destroyed the original church which was described by some as 'holiest earth in all of England' and was often even then a place that pilgrims travelled to.
This church was still standing when the Saxons entered into Somerset during the seventh-century and was being used by Celtic monks. It is believed that it officially became a Benedictine monastery in AD673. The Abbey was rebuilt by King Ine, of Wessex (AD688) during AD720, ten years after his war with the Britons of Cornwall.
It is believed by some that Joseph of Arimathea actually brought the 'boy Jesus' to Glastonbury and then returned here later to spread the word of Christianity after the death of Jesus, starting in Glastonbury and bringing with him the sacred Chalice used and the 'Last Supper' or the Chalice holding His blood or sweat. Other legends tell that Joseph brought 'Mary' (the Holy mother of Jesus) with him on this return visit.
As far as it is known, the Celtic Benedictine monks did not tell the Saxons who had originally built the church. Maybe they did not know or thought it best not to tell. It has been assumed by some that maybe the Abbey had always had some form of religious significance, the connection between the old church site. The legend of Joseph of Arimathea and that of Jesus visiting England may be based upon the knowledge that the Saxons had a legend that told of the church 'not built of man but prepared by God himself'.
In AD1184, the Abbey was in the care of 'Peter de Marcy' when fire destroyed the abbey's 'Great Church' and the 'Old Church', which had stood adjacent to it. The rebuilding of the abbey was heavily supported by King Henry II, who politically had a keen interest in Glastonbury (See Arthur). His death in AD1189 meant that the abbey lost its financial support and neither of his sons, John or Richard (King Richard I, Coeur-de-Lion, The Lionheart), were interested in continuing it.
In AD1409, Bishop Robert Hallum of Salisbury claimed England to be a Christian nation with equal status to Italy, France and Germany, on the basis of apostolic conversion by Joseph. Although the date of the conversion was moved backwards to just after Christ's Passion, rather than AD63, this was to offset France's claim to conversion by Mary Magdalene and St. Denis (a disciple of Paul). A similar claim was later made and successful at the Council of Constance in AD1417. The manipulation of historical fact for the benefit of prestige and/or political power, appears throughout history.
It could be argued that like other ritualistic sites the location may have been a site on which an act of God may have taken place i.e. struck by a bolt of lighting or a comet and so flattening the area. A building or monument being then built to mark the spot.
All that can be said is that the mysteries and connections with the church of Arthurian legend and the mystical leylines/earth energy lines found here at Glastonbury will continue to attract thousands of pilgrims well into the new millennium. It is a place that does have an atmosphere that is totally unique, interwoven with the Christian heritage of the pilgrims to the so called New Age pilgrims that travel to this town from all over the world.