December 12, 2010

Vandals Destroy Holy Thorn Tree In Glastonbury

Richard Savill
December 11, 2010
Daily Telegraph

The Holy Thorn tree on Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury, Somerset, is regarded as one of Britain's most important symbols of Christendom, and is said to be derived from the original planted by Joseph of Arimathea.

The tree is one of several Holy Thorns located around Glastonbury but is arguably the most significant because of its placing on the spot where Joseph visited.

Each year a sprig from another Holy Thorn tree in the town is cut for the Queen, a tradition which dates back more than 100 years. The Queen places the sprig on her dining room table on Christmas Day. The cutting ceremony took place on Wednesday, hours before the overnight attack.

Police are trying to establish a motive for the attack, in which vandals hacked off the branches of the tree, leaving only part of the trunk remaining. They have not ruled out a religious motive.

Katherine Gorbing, director of Glastonbury Abbey, said: ”The vandals have struck at the heart of Christianity. Like the whole town, we are shocked and appalled.

"The tree holds a very special significance all over the world and thousands follow in the footsteps of Joseph of Arimathea, coming especially to see it.

This is the most important tree in Glastonbury and is of exceptional spiritual significance.

”When I arrived at the Abbey this morning you could look over to the hill and see it was not there. The landscape of the town has changed overnight."

The story of the Holy Thorn and Joseph of Arimathea stretches back for centuries and is linked to the origins of Christianity in England.

The legend tells of how Joseph arrived by boat, landed on the Isle of Avalon and having climbed Wearyall Hill, thrust his wooden staff into the ground where it took root and grew into the Glastonbury Holy Thorn. The thorn is renowned for flowering twice a year at Christmas and at Easter.

Because of its associations with Joseph, who was the Virgin Mary's uncle, the Holy Thorn is of important spiritual significance for Christians and has come to be regarded as sacred by many others.

The original Holy Thorn was a centre of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages but was chopped down during the English Civil War.

A replacement thorn was planted in 1951 on Wearyall Hill, but it had to be replanted the following year. Other examples of the thorn grow in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey and St Johns Church.

The Glastonbury mayor, John Coles said of the vandalism: "I am standing on Wearyall Hill looking at a sad, sad, sight. I am absolutely lost for words; I just do not know why people would want to do this.”

Nicholas Mann, a local historian, said: ”One theory could be that because the tree is idolised and worshipped it may have been the subject of an attack by modern Puritans.

"The tree was attacked once before, by Puritans hundreds of years ago."

Read also: Glastonbury Thorn Chopped Down As Town Rages Over Attack On Famous Tree