William of Malmesbury’s History of Glastonbury

This in preparation for a post on the significance of St Mary’s Chapel in early Christianity and in particular the small round wattle-and-daub building with an intricate pavement, contemporaneous with the Westminster Abbey sanctuary pavement but of a design and a date unknown. Important but often speculative twentieth Century sources are Bligh Bond, John Michell and Keith Critchlow, whilst the earliest historian to record its history was William of Malmesbury.

William’s history of Glastonbury was significantly changed in the century after it was written, to suit the Abbey’s pilgrimage business. Fortunately, the main body of that history lived on unaltered in William’s revision of his History of the Kings of England. The notes below were made using The Glastonbury Legends pagesĀ 26-41, by Professor (of History) R.F. Treharne (1901 – 1967), Aberystwyth University.

Introduction

William of Malmesbury wrote a large-scale history of England (Kings of England) by 1125. In it he stated that Glastonbury Abbey had been founded , on the advice of St. Aldhelm, by Ine, King of Wessex (688-726), a statement which he repeated in his Ecclesiastical History also finished in 1125. Later, when writing a Life of St. Dunstan (undated) he realised Glastonbury was much older than that since “Glastonbury had already passed under ecclesiastical authority long before the time of St Patrick, who had died in A.D. 472”. So, impressed by what he had seen and heard at Glastonbury, he wrote a separate monograph on the antiquity of that great abbey, completed by 1135.

Figure 1 Frederick Bligh Bond’s vision of the first church at Glastonbury, based upon the story of Joseph of Arimethea added to William’s History in the century after it was written, as explained below.
Continue reading “William of Malmesbury’s History of Glastonbury”

Earth and Moon within Westminster’s Coronation Pavement

Our modern globes are based upon political boundaries and geographical topography yet they have geometrical predecessors, which described the world as an image, diagram or schemata. The original idea for the form of the world was summarised within a simple two dimensional geometry, like an eastern mandala or yantra.

Such a diagram was built into the Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey, built by Henry III and dedicated to the Saxon King and Saint Edward the Confessor. This exotic pavement became the focus for the Coronations of subsequent English then British monarchs.


Figure 1 Photo of the Cosmati Pavement at Westminster Abbey
[Copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster]
Continue reading “Earth and Moon within Westminster’s Coronation Pavement”