At the heart of the complex web of myths surrounding Glastonbury is the early Christian legend that the young Jesus once visited this site, a story that is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The Romans had a heavy presence in the area, mining lead in the Mendips, and one of these mines was owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a well-to-do merchant said to have been related to Mary. It’s not completely impossible that the merchant took his kinsman on one of his many visits to his property, in a period of Christ’s life of which nothing is recorded. It was this possibility to which William Blake referred in his Glastonbury Hymn, better known as Jerusalem: – “And did those feet in ancient times/Walk upon England’s mountains green?”
Another legend relates how Joseph was imprisoned for twelve years after the Crucifixion, miraculously kept alive by the Holy Grail, the chalice of the Last Supper, in which the blood was gathered from the wound in Christ’s side. The Grail, along with the spear which had caused the wound, were later taken by Joseph to Glastonbury, where he founded the abbey and commenced the conversion of Britain.
Glastonbury is also popularly identified with the mythical Avalon; the story goes that King Arthur, having been mortally wounded in battle, sailed to Avalon where he was buried alongside his queen – somehow Glastonbury was taken to be the best candidate for the place.