Glastonbury’s Holy Islands

Having just made the previous post, I’m now getting into my stride. What better thing to do on a dreary wet Sunday than blogging! I said in the last post that I might return to the subject of Glastonbury’s Holy Islands, and so I have. Here, for starters, is a gallery of photos of some of them.

Having posted the photos, I realise some of them need explanation, so here goes:

‘Bride’s Mound’ is the lighter green shape between the two rows of hedge trees. This location was also known as Little Ireland, as a lot of the Irish saints fetched up here.

Godney is in the middle of the third picture, and Meare above that.

‘Marchey from Barrow’: difficult to distinguish Marchey which is a mound rather than a hill. Dead centre in this photo is the ruin on Marchey, and the mound extends to the left and right of this.

‘Drawing on Barrow Hill’ has Nyland in the top right corner. From this vantage point you can clearly see how straight the line is that joins Avalon (St John’s Tower), Godney, Barrow and Nyland. What I haven’t yet explained is that it seems that each island had a chapel and/or a hermit living on it, and all were greatly revered by the monks. Indeed, as holy islands they were exempt from tax as recorded in the Magna Carta. So my theory is that the monks kept a good eye on the islands, and  could easily identify them, in a line, from St John’s Tower. This tower is unusually high, and features prominently in the landscape, as in ‘St John’s from Marchey.’ It reminds me of a watch tower…And all four locations line up with the altar in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey. Beautiful symmetry.

Three of the islands, however, don’t line up at all. If you want to know what that is about, John Michell’s book ‘New light on the ancient mystery of Glastonbury’ might help. My suggestion is that you acquire an Ordnance Survey map and set forth with a sketchbook and wellies. It’s lovely out there.

  1. Many thanks for the pictures and information. I was fascinated by your prints of the islands and these photographs are a good adjunct to them. I loved the exhibition and will return soon to look again at the beautiful work produced by this group of talented creators.

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