Glastonbury Tor is a tor near Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset, topped by the roofless St Michael's Tower, a Grade I listed building. The site is managed by the National Trust and has been designated a scheduled monument. The Tor is mentioned in Celtic mythology, particularly in myths linked to King Arthur, and has several other enduring mythological and spiritual associations.

The conical hill of clay and Blue Lias rises from the Somerset Levels. It was formed when surrounding softer deposits were eroded, leaving a hard cap of sandstone exposed. The slopes of the hill are terraced, but the method by which they were formed remains unexplained.

Archaeological excavations during the 20th century sought to clarify the background of the monument and church, but some aspects of their history remain unexplained. Artefacts from human visitation have been found, dating from the Iron Age to Roman eras. Several buildings were co...Read more

Glastonbury Tor is a tor near Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset, topped by the roofless St Michael's Tower, a Grade I listed building. The site is managed by the National Trust and has been designated a scheduled monument. The Tor is mentioned in Celtic mythology, particularly in myths linked to King Arthur, and has several other enduring mythological and spiritual associations.

The conical hill of clay and Blue Lias rises from the Somerset Levels. It was formed when surrounding softer deposits were eroded, leaving a hard cap of sandstone exposed. The slopes of the hill are terraced, but the method by which they were formed remains unexplained.

Archaeological excavations during the 20th century sought to clarify the background of the monument and church, but some aspects of their history remain unexplained. Artefacts from human visitation have been found, dating from the Iron Age to Roman eras. Several buildings were constructed on the summit during Saxon and early medieval periods; they have been interpreted as an early church and monks' hermitage. The head of a wheel cross dating from the 10th or 11th century has been recovered. The original wooden church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275, and the stone Church of St Michael was built on the site in the 14th century. Its tower remains, although it has been restored and partially rebuilt several times.

 The plaque fitted to the wall inside the ruin of St Michael's Church atop Glastonbury TorPre-Christian

Some Neolithic flint tools recovered from the top of the Tor show that the site has been visited, perhaps with a lasting occupation, since prehistory. The nearby remains of Glastonbury Lake Village were identified at the site in 1892, which confirmed that there was an Iron Age settlement in about 300–200 BC on what was an easily defended island in the fens.[1][2] There is no evidence of permanent occupation of the Tor, but finds, including Roman pottery, do suggest that it was visited on a regular basis.[3]

Excavations on Glastonbury Tor, undertaken by a team led by Philip Rahtz between 1964 and 1966,[4] revealed evidence of Dark Age occupation during the 5th to 7th centuries[5][6] around the later medieval church of St. Michael. Finds included postholes, two hearths including a metalworker's forge, two burials oriented north–south (thus unlikely to be Christian), fragments of 6th-century Mediterranean amphorae (vases for wine or cooking oil),[7] and a worn hollow bronze head which may have topped a Saxon staff.[8][9][10]

Christian settlement

During the late Saxon and early medieval period, there were at least four buildings on the summit. The base of a stone cross demonstrates Christian use of the site during this period, and it may have been a hermitage.[11] The broken head of a wheel cross dated to the 10th or 11th century was found partway down the hill and may have been the head of the cross that stood on the summit.[12][13][14] The head of the cross is now in the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.[15]

The earliest timber church, dedicated to St Michael,[16] is believed to have been constructed in the 11th or 12th century; from which post holes have since been identified.[17][18] Associated monk cells have also been identified.[18]

In 1243 Henry III granted a charter for a six-day fair at the site.[19]

St Michael's Church was destroyed by an earthquake on 11 September 1275.[20] According to the British Geological Survey, the earthquake was felt in London, Canterbury and Wales,[21] and was reported to have destroyed many houses and churches in England. The intensity of shaking was greater than 7 MSK, with its epicentre in the area around Portsmouth or Chichester, South England.[20]

 Ruins of the second St Michael's Church

A second church, also dedicated to St Michael, was built of local sandstone in the 14th century by the Abbot Adam of Sodbury, incorporating the foundations of the previous building. It included stained glass and decorated floor tiles. There was also a portable altar of Purbeck Marble;[22] it is likely that the Monastery of St Michael on the Tor was a daughter house of Glastonbury Abbey.[19]

St Michael's Church survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when, except for the tower, it was demolished.[5] The Tor was the place of execution where Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, was hanged, drawn and quartered along with two of his monks, John Thorne and Roger James.[23] The three-storey tower of St Michael's Church survives. It has corner buttresses and perpendicular bell openings. There is a sculptured tablet with an image of an eagle below the parapet.[24]

Post-dissolution  Interior of St Michael's Tower

In 1786, Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead bought the Tor and funded the repair of the tower in 1804, including the rebuilding of the north-east corner.[5][25] It was then sold to the Very Rev. Hon. George Neville-Grenville and included in the Butleigh Manor until the 20th century. The last owner of the Tor was Robert Neville-Grenville who wished to give the Tor to the National Trust along with the Glastonbury Tribunal.[26] After his death in 1936 it was sold to The National Trust who raised money by Public Subscription for its upkeep.[27][28]

The National Trust took control of the Tor in 1937, but repairs were delayed until after the Second World War.[25] During the 1960s, excavations identified cracks in the rock, suggesting the ground had moved in the past. This, combined with wind erosion, started to expose the footings of the tower, which were repaired with concrete. Erosion caused by the feet of the increasing number of visitors was also a problem and paths were laid to enable them to reach the summit without damaging the terraces. After 2000, enhancements to the access and repairs to the tower, including rebuilding of the parapet, were carried out. These included the replacement of some of the masonry damaged by earlier repairs with new stone from the Hadspen Quarry.[25]

 A proposed flag for Somerset (designed by Dil Roworth) featuring Glastonbury Tor and St Michael's Tower, which came third in the 2013 Somerset County Gazette competition to create a county flag for Somerset.[29]

A model vaguely based on Glastonbury Tor (albeit with a tree instead of the tower) was incorporated into the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As the athletes entered the stadium, their flags were displayed on the terraces of the model.[30][31]

^ "Glastonbury Lake Village". Somerset Historic Environment Record. South West Heritage Trust. Retrieved 18 November 2007. ^ Adkins & Adkins 1992, p. 70. ^ Rahtz & Watts 2003, p. 71. ^ "Excavation (1964–1966), Glastonbury Tor". Somerset Historic Environment Record. South West Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ a b c Cite error: The named reference nhlesm was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Rahtz & Watts 2003, pp. 71–78. ^ "Extracts from the Tor Excavations Booklet". Chalice Well. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2013. ^ Castleden 1999, p. 55. ^ "Prehistoric, Roman and Post-Roman occupation, Glastonbury Tor". Somerset Historic Environment Record. South West Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ Walmsley 2013, p. 15. ^ "Late Saxon and medieval occupation, Glastonbury Tor". Somerset Historic Environment Record. South West Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ Rahtz & Watts 2003, p. 78. ^ Abrams & Carley 1991, p. 33. ^ Koch 2006, p. 816. ^ "Frome Hoard finds new home at the centre of new Somerset Museum". Culture 24. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ Rahtz & Watts 2003, p. 80. ^ "Church of St Michael, The Tor, Glastonbury". Somerset Historic Environment Record. South West Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ a b Rahtz & Watts 2003, p. 79. ^ a b Rahtz & Watts 2003, p. 83. ^ a b "Historical Earthquake Listing". British Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2007. ^ Musson 2003, pp. 1.14–1.16. ^ Rahtz & Watts 2003, pp. 80–81. ^ Stanton 1892, p. 538. ^ Cite error: The named reference nhlelb was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b c Garner 2004. ^ "Mr. Neville Grenville". The Times. 22 September 1936. p. 16. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 9 May 2023. {{cite news}}: Check |url= value (help) ^ "MISCELLANEOUS SOMERSET RECORDS, COMPILED BY ANN HEELEY OF BUTLEIGH [UNLISTED COLLECTION]". somerset-cat.swheritage.org.uk. Retrieved 3 May 2023. ^ "Obituary of Robert Neville-Grenville" (PDF). 1936. ^ "Winner of Somerset flag competition revealed". Somerset County Gazette. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2023. ^ "Glastonbury Tor's starring role in London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony". This is Somerset. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013. ^ Waite, Richard. "Glastonbury Tor, a village green and a farmyard — Olympic opening ceremony plans revealed". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
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Glastomichelle - CC BY-SA 4.0
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