"Few people who visit the noble ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are aware that they are visiting one of the truly great places of early English spirituality. Professor James Carley's scholarly work is a fitting tribute to this place of prayer."
George Carey, (former) Archbishop of Canterbury
"Some writers on Glastonbury have been wildly credulous and fanciful. Others have been determined to smash every legend and discredit even the history. James Carley is a professional historian who keeps his balance, giving an account which is sceptical where scepticism is called for, yet is also wise and sympathetic and conveys a sense of the place's unique spell."
Geoffrey Ashe, medieval and Arthurian historian
James Carley's book, now extensively revised and updated, is the first general survey of Glastonbury Abbey. Carley writes as a scholar and historian deeply versed in Glastonbury's own chronicles, but is equally aware of the intangible atmosphere of the place what John Cowper Powys called 'the immemorial mystery of Glastonbury'.
From obscure beginnings (it may have been a holy place well before the Saxon invasions) Glastonbury grew to be one of the greatest abbeys in England, patronised by kings and magnates alike. Throughout the Middle Ages it was a House unusually rich in relics and stories; Joseph of Arimathaea and Arthur, St Dunstan and a host of other saints were all associated with it.
At the Dissolution Glastonbury Abbey was completely destroyed, its treasures scattered to the four winds. James Carley explores the relics that remain, from the ruins of its buildings to the manuscripts from its library, to build up a picture of its intellectual and spiritual inheritance.
JAMES CARLEY is equally at home on both sides of the Atlantic: in his native Canada, where he is professor at York University, Toronto, and in England, with which he has close family ties and where his deep interest in English monastic libraries, King Arthur and medieval romances, and the great antiquary Leland all come together to make him an expert on the history of Glastonbury. Over many stays and long association with those most closely involved in the exploration off the historical, religious and archaeological richness of the Abbey and its lands, and drawn by the ancient sites, he has become an unraveller of mysteries as old as recorded history and a sensitive guide to the real importance of Glastonbury to the spirit of the English. He has recently completed a major study on the libraries of Henry VIII and the post-Dissolution fate of monastic books.
Preface, Introduction and Table of Dates
Part One: Abbots and History
1. Pre-Conquest Abbots: The Beginnings
2. After 1066: Growth and Consolidation
3. Beere and Whiting: Indian Summer and Fall
Part Two: Cultural Life
6. The Library
7. The Cemetery
8. Arthur, Avalon and the Bridge Perilous
Part Three: After the Fall
9. Antiquaries and Archaeologists
Epilogue, Sources, Acknowledgements, Index