Glastonbury. Yep… I’m still there… unless any disasters have befallen between the day I am writing this and the day you get to read a post written just in case I still have no internet access. However, there are one or two things I know I will be doing today. I will be going to the church with Stuart. That’s a given. The last time we were here there was a service so, although I know the church we didn’t get to explore it together… and with our book, Giants Dance, well underway, we know we need to do so.
It is a lovely old church. Parts of the foundations date back well over a thousand years and who knows how much earlier a place of worship may have stood on this spot. Much of the current church goes back to the 15th century, and George Gilbert Scott restored the gothic building in the mid 19th century. Just on dates alone that makes it of interest to our research.
In the church-grounds stands one of the scions of the Holy Thorn, that twice flowering hawthorn that blooms for Christmas and Easter. Legend tells of Joseph of Arimathea, carrying the Holy Grail to Glastonbury and planting his staff in the earth of Wearyall Hill. From the deadwood of the staff sprang the thorn.
Also in the churchyard is a labyrinth of blue lias stone. A traditional seven circuit design that marries traditions, it was the idea of author Sig Lonegren and, in spite of much support seemed destined not to materialise until Reverend Marsh asked the congregation of the church how they felt about building within the church’s precincts. The design marries the ancient and more modern faiths and I personally find it entirely appropriate that this gesture of healing came into being through the cooperation of a community that follows differing paths.
Last time, other than indulging in speculation about the various symbols carved on the outside of the church, that is as far as we managed to get. This time, we need to explore inside the church.
At the time of my last visit we had barely begun to examine the detailed symbolism of windows and carving. I wouldn’t have known my sedilia from my predella… the amount we have learned seems incredible in such a short time… but of course, as soon as interest becomes truly engaged, you have the birth of passion.
Every time we revisit a place we have previously explored we bring more knowledge to the quest… and so we learn to understand more. I would never have thought to look for the marks where arrows were sharpened on the walls of a chapel, though we have learned to look for pilgrim’s crosses, ‘board’ games carved into pillars and the miniature sundials that marked devotions through the day.
This building of knowledge and understanding is always reciprocal… the more you bring, the more you find. Like children reading a book who may understand the words alone, but it needs the experience of a life lived to enable true understanding of the intricacies of the story. We are still learning our alphabet here, uncovering more and more as we go, and weaving history, myth and symbolism with belief and speculation, finding the doors of discovery ajar and glimpsing wonders and mysteries beyond.
What might we discover today? Who knows! But then, that is the joy of the journey.