Monday, October 3, 2011

King Arthur's Final Resting Place

It's a beautiful day in England.  You should be jealous that you're not here with me : )

When we last left young Arthur, he had assumed his rightful place as King of the Britons ("King of the who?"  "The Britons."  "Who are the Britons?"  Sorry, bit of Monty Python there for ya.) with Merlin and Sir Ector among his chief advisers.  Arthur soon assembled a court made up of the noblest knights in the land, and set about making a set of laws for the protection of everyone but especially fair maidens.  His knights rode across the land, righting wrongs as they discovered them, and the kingdom prospered.

In due time, Arthur met and fell in love with Guenevere, daughter of King Leodegrance of Gwynedd, and they were married.  Guenevere proved herself to be a strong queen and a good compliment for Arthur, and she was much beloved among the entire populace.  Arthur set about ridding his land of the threat of Saxon invasion, and through the course of twelve great battles he defeated the Saxons so soundly that he ushered in a new period of peace and prosperity called the Pax Arthuriana.  King Arthur and Queen Guenevere ruled the land from their magnificent court at Camelot, and the people loved them.

However, there is always at least one malcontent who cannot see anything good without wanting to besmirch it.  Thus Mordred, a young knight who was the bastard son of a northern lord, came to Camelot and began wreaking much mischief.  When Arthur was away from Camelot, he left his bravest knight, the good Sir Lancelot, to protect the Queen in his absence; this had been their practice for a number of years and Guenevere and Lancelot were close friends.  Mordred saw this and spread the rumor that Guenevere and Lancelot were lovers, although this was not true; Mordred had such a silver tongue that the other young knights left at court, who were his cronies, believed what he said and the rumor caught like wildfire.

Arthur returned to Camelot in great haste when the rumors reached him and found the court in an almighty uproar.  Mordred and arrested Lancelot and the Queen, saying that he had caught them in a compromising position, and Arthur was unable to secure their release because Mordred had ensconced himself in the castle with the help of his friends.  Soon there was nothing for Arthur to do but attack his own castle, which he did with great reluctance; the court was split apart with the older knights siding with Arthur and the younger, more impressionable crowd siding with Mordred.  In the fray, Lancelot overpowered his jailors and escaped with the Queen, spiriting her away for her own safety before returning himself to fight on Arthur's side.

When the battle was done, many were dead.  Lancelot lived, and he found that King Arthur had killed Mordred but was himself mortally wounded.  Lancelot took the king to the monastery at Glastonbury, where he had left Guenevere, so the king was able to see his wife one last time before he left this world.  They had had no children to inherit the kingdom after them, and the kingdom was in a shambles anyway; Guenevere declined to return to court and instead took the veil and became a nun at Glastonbury.  Lancelot left for his native Brittany and lived for some years as a quiet hermit, never to return to England again.

The Saxons took advantage of the power vacuum left after Arthur's fall, and they soon overran the whole of England, bringing the country into the Dark Ages.  There were some of the folk who remembered the glory days of Camelot and they say that King Arthur was not killed, but merely ensorcelled to sleep until England should have need of him again.  This is why he is called "the Once and Future King".

I love an excuse to use words like besmirch.  And ensconced.  And ensorcelled.  And I left out the icky part about Mordred being a child of incest because eww.  Actually I left out lots of parts, like the Round Table and the Holy Grail, but this was just a quick-and-dirty version anyway.

So you know where we went after leaving Cornwall:  the ruins of the abbey at Glastonbury.  This was once one of the richest monasteries in England until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539; the abbey's library was destroyed and the buildings heavily damaged.  Successive generations of Glastonbury residents carried off the stones for other buildings, but enough is left at the abbey site to give an idea of its former grandeur.  The first place we went into was a small chapel which was I think built on the site after the Dissolution, so it's not nearly as old as the other buildings on the site (or at least, what remains of them).

Then Lee took this picture while I went to check out the restroom facilities.

I think it's pretty cool, I like the contrast between the bright yellow stalk and all the texture on the wall behind it.  Anyway, after that, we wandered through the ruins and I took a bazillion pictures.

And they lean to the left!  I think I need to drink more V-8.

Here's Ree with some of the hydrangeas growing up by the wall that encircles the abbey grounds.

I'm being artsy with the cross in the background.

This is the door leading into the lady chapel, which is the most complete building left on the site other than the abbot's kitchen.  A lady chapel is usually the largest chapel in a cathedral and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, hence the term lady chapel.  Much of the stone used in the abbey buildings was beautifully carved.

Taken from inside the lady chapel, which is like three stories tall but open to the sky.  Seems like the floors and ceilings are the first things to go in old ruined buildings.

More carving, 'cause I thought it was pretty.

Looking across the lady chapel.

And here's a view of it from the outside.  It was kind of hard to get a picture of the whole thing where you can tell how big it is, and I wish that the other buildings were still in existence because the main cathedral was a LOT bigger.

Part of the cathedral.  One of the things I like about England is they have all these ruins, many of which are 500-1,000 years old, and people will bring picnic lunches out to the ruins and just sit for a spell.

I liked the lighting in this picture.

So here's a sign above the reputed site of King Arthur's grave.  The cathedral at Glastonbury burnt down in 1184, which was some 650 years after Arthur's time, and the monks needed to raise a great quantity of money to finance the reconstruction of the abbey.  Therefore, the abbot of Glastonbury commissioned a search and claimed to find the graves of Arthur and Guenevere, which naturally helped to bring in many more visitors and money to reconstruct the church.  King Arthur has been strongly associated with Glastonbury for many, many years so this turned out to be a really good PR move on the abbot's part; the new cathedral was grander than ever.

Until Henry VIII destroyed it all.  Grrr.

Maybe this picture kinda shows you how tall the ruins are : )  And dangit, this one leans to the left too.  You'd think all the buildings in England are like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it's ME that leans apparently.

Here's a wider shot of that same piece.

 Last one for today; here's the carved stone around the doorways in that bit of ruins.  Reminds me of a crimped pie crust...mmm, pie...yeah, I've been craving pie lots since I re-watched both seasons of Pushing Daisies.  This week though I've watched all five Superman movies (I am really looking forward to Man of Steel that's in production now) and I just watched the first episode of Lois & Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman.  The effects are cheesy but that only added to the hilarity factor.  I like me some cheesy movies and TV shows.  Now that it's October, I should start watching both Ghostbusters movies and Young Frankenstein in constant rotation.  Which is no hardship, I love those movies!


CCsMom said...

Well, fooey -- it didn't post my comment. I said I was wondering why some of these tall structures don't come tumbling down because it looks as though they have NO support whatsoever. Just got back in from a walk. It's dark outside and nearly 8:00 p.m. Even though I may not comment right away, I AM reading your posts. So keep writing. They are very interesting and can't wait to see some of this stuff my own self. Love you!

Giffysk8s said...

Well, yes, I AM very jealous that I'm not there with you! Not only to see all the cool old stuff, but to eat pie and watch awesome shows, too. :)

LOVE your narrative! Your should seriously consider writing travel guides. You are way more interesting and entertaining than most of the ones I've read!

Those stained glass windows are beautiful! And I love your artsy shot with the cross in the background. Too cool!

Off to read your newest post!

Tanya said...

So jealous! :) I love the history you know and share and I love your photos!