Glastonbury Thorn

Flowering Thorn

A thorn which was said to have come from a staff, driven into the earth by Joseph of Arimathea on Wearyall Hill, and which became a thorn tree, flowering every year at Christmas. Every winter a sprig of thorns is sent to the Queen to be used as a table decoration on Christmas Day.

The thorn is first mentioned in the Lyfe of Joseph of Arimathea (c. 1502). The trunk of the tree was cut down in 1643 by a Puritan zealot. The tree has a number of descendants alive today, notably in front of the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Glastonbury, from which a sprig is sent every Christmas to the reigning monarch. They bloom in late December or early January - twice a year, in the spring and at Christmas.

Various other legends exist about this Holy Tree. Some accounts say that the original tree, from which Joseph of Arimathea's staff had been cut, grew from a thorn from the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ. Local Somerset legends also tell of those who wished the tree harm. Usually the Puritans were blamed in these stories, but the tree always seemed to get the better of them. One particular assailant attacked the thorn with an axe, but it slipped from the trunk and embedded itself in the man's leg, while wood chips flew into his eyes.

An alternative legend says that the Glastonbury Thorn was not a thorn tree at all but a walnut tree. Early writers described this tree, again said to have sprung into life from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, saying that it budded on Saint Barnabas' Day (11 June) and never before. It seems that, until this tree was cut down, it was held in the same degree of reverence as the Glastonbury Thorn, for both trees, walnut and thorn, were thought, by some, to have once existed in the town.

The existing descendant is of Mediterranean origin (Crategus Monogyna Bi Flora), and some have speculated that the original tree was brought from Arabia by a returning crusader.

During the English Civil War, the so called Roundheads felled the tree. The leader Oliver Cromwell waged a battle against the Crown. Locals salvaged the roots of the original tree, hiding it in secret locations around Glastonbury. In 1951 it was replanted on the Wearyall Hill, as well as in other places, such as the Glastonbury Abbey.

From Wearyall Hill you can see the Abbey and the town and other holy hills: the Tor, Chalice Hill and Saint Edmund's Hill (now called Windmill Hill).

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
King Arthur and Guenevere's grave | 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