June 2 – Glastonbury Abbey

Drinks with Philippa

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Glastonbury was on our radar for today and we found a free car park just a few blocks from the Abbey. There are several church micros around Glastonbury so on the way to the Abbey we called into St Benedict’s church. It was closed but we collected the numbers for the multi and walked the short distance to the final. There was a family sitting under the tree that we believed was the final so we came back this way later in the day and found the cache easily.

Glastonbury Abbey is mostly a ruin but the Benedictine monastery grounds are large and we took a tour with a guide. This was apparently the first church in the world founded by Joseph of Aramathia and by 1535 it was the richest and most powerful abbey in England. Glastonbury is also famous for its legend of King Arthur and in 1331 the monks dug up a grave which was said to have been his tomb. The tomb was removed to the nave of the abbey where it is still celebrated today. The great church was 220 feet (67 m) in length and 45 feet (14 m) wide. The choir was 155 feet (47 m) long and the transept was 160 feet (49 m) long. The church would have been filled with colour and music 24 hours a day and would have been very opulent compared to the way people lived at the time. After the Reformation, the Abbey fell into disrepair and many of the houses nearby are built with stone from the Abbey.

The Abbot’s Kitchen is described as “one of the best preserved medieval kitchens in Europe” and is a fascinating building showing just how initiative the builders were in past ages. The 14th-century building is octagonal with four large arched fireplaces, one for a spit to roast meat and cook fish, one for vegetables, one for hot water and the other for pies. Bread was not made here. The hot air goes up through the dome in the ceiling through wide slits and then cold air comes in through the centre hole in the pyramidal roof. A very clever piece of engineering. Above the kitchen was a walkway where the head chef could control the actions of the entire kitchen. He also has control of the spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron which were more valuable than gold. The amazing thing was that this kitchen big though it was, was for the preparation for meals for Abbott alone and his guests. The monks were fed elsewhere. This building also has very good acoustics and concerts are held there sometimes. In fact, while we were there a stage was being erected in the garden for a performance of ” Twelfth Night” tonight. The Glastonbury Abbey herb garden was fascinating with a great mix of culinary, medicinal and dye making herbs.

It was a lovely day and we sat in the Abbey ruins near the tomb of King Arthur to have our lunch. Also in the grounds was St Patrick’s chapel which was completely covered in wall paintings designed by Wayne Ricketts. After lunch, we wandered up the street window shopping. The town is very alternative, similar in many ways to Bryon Bay, in N.S.W., Australia with shops selling goods to do with healing, medication and related topics. We didn’t climb up Glastonbury Tor, maybe we will another time.

We did try to do one other church micro at St John the Baptist church until we realised that it had been archived. The church had wonderful windows many made by A.J. Davies in 1936 featuring Joseph of Aramathia, St Aristobulus, Simon Zelotes and King Arviragus. In St. Georges chapel there are two windows, one by Danielli and the other by Worth, Clayton and Bell. The east window is by Westlake. There is also a tomb of John Camel who died in 1487 and was the Lay Treasurer of Glastonbury Abbey. The stone pulpit depicting twelve disciples was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and carved by Frederick Merrick.

On our way home we visited St Nicholas church in West Pennard where I found the cache while Mike visited the church. It had a wonderful range of stained glass windows including the Good Sheperd. The ceiling was painted and there were corbels and angels around the ceiling. The log for the geocache was very delicate as it had been wet but is dry now. I was able to sign the log though. We did another geocache at the war memorial down the road where I managed to get stung by a nettle which is very hard to avoid at this time of the year.

Next, we went to St Peter’s church in North Wootton where the font was “on the huh”. The cache was easily found and we were soon on our way to St John the Baptist in Pilton. This is a very beautiful church with a wonderful East window. and brilliant angels on the roof of the nave. There were a carved pulpit and two bits of medieval stained glass. There was a parclose screen around the chapel. There was also a wonderful Millenium tapestry map of the village made by the villagers. The church had an unusually long squint. Apparently, the reason for a squint is that you could not have the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine going on in two places in the church at once so the squint was to allow the priest in the chapel to watch the priest at the main altar for his direction.

In the evening we had been invited to visit Philippa Threlfall in Wells for drinks. She is a mosaic artist who makes relief murals in ceramic and has a shop, workshop and house behind the Wells Cathedral. She and her husband also had a business making handmade terracotta tiles. After her husband passed away Philippa encouraged her son to take on the terracotta tile business and it has gone from strength to strength. Philippa travels quite a bit so I am sure we will see her in New Zealand one of these days. We had a lovely couple of hours chatting and enjoying visiting her home and garden.