King Arthur and Guenevere's grave

Located in Glastonbury

The town remains most famous for its Arthurian connections, which started to appear during the seventh century. The legends regarding King Arthur and Glastonbury really start with his death. If Camelot is indeed to be identified with Cadbury Castle, across the moors, it seems perfectly reasonable to equate Glastonbury with Avalon, which is how many people saw the association.

In 1191 the monks at Glastonbury claimed to have uncovered the bodies of both Arthur and Guenevere just south of the Lady Chapel. Their relics were said to have been 16 feet down in the hollowed-out trunk of an oak tree. With them was a leaden cross with the Latin inscription:

Hic jacet sepultus inclitus Rex Arturius in insula avalonia

('Here lies Arthur, the famous King of the Isle of Avalon')

Or, alternatively, the inscription:

Hic jacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rex futurus

('Here lies Arthur, king that was, king that shall be')

When the political and domestic background of the times is considered, this 'finding' of Arthur seems extremely conventient. King Henry II was having immense problems with the Welsh, who believed that Arthur was sleeping and would return to lead them to victory. To prove that Arthur was dead by exposing his grave made sound and prudent political sense. Excavations at the same spot have revealed a brake in the charred earth resulting from the fire, and the base of a pyramid that was said to have been next to the graves. These at least confirm a part of the monks' story.

Also, as the abbey had experienced its terrible fire in 1184, the additional kudos brought to the abbey through this 'discovery' ensured many more pilgrimages would be undertaken, thus bringing in the huge sums of money needed for the rebuilding work. After 600 years Arthur was becoming a cult figure, and the monks obviously saw no harm in attaching his cult status to the abbey. Some eighty-seven years after the remains of Arthur and Guenevere had been 'uncovered', they were reburied in front of the abbey's high altar on 19 April in 1278. Obviously they had lost none of their romantic or political importance, for this reinterment was attended by King Edward I and Queen Eleanor.

The tomb into which Arthur and Guenevere were supposedly placed was made of black marble and survived until the Dissolution in 1539. Its position was rediscovered during the excavation in 1934 and is now clearly marked within the ruins. The inscription at Glastonbury today reads:

The site of King Arthur's Tomb

See also
Glastonbury | The Legend of King Arthur
Glastonbury Abbey and Church | The Legend of King Arthur
Joseph of Arimathea in Glastonbury | The Legend of King Arthur
Glastonbury Thorn | The Legend of King Arthur
Glastonbury Tor | The Legend of King Arthur
Saint Collen | The Legend of King Arthur
Glastonbury Zodiac | The Legend of King Arthur