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How the Gospel came to Britain #3

Interesting Histories of Glastonbury


                             by

                       Brian Williams
                           (1970)




CHALICE WELL AND THE SOMERSET ZODIAC

     AM writing this in a corner of the delightful gardens of the
Chalice Well at Glastonbury. A few yards in front of where I am
sitting is the famous well covered over today by the lid bearing
a symbolic design that was made for it fifty years ago. Below me
and to my right the garden slopes away, a blaze of colour with
wall-flowers and forget-me-nots, aubretias and tulips, and a
flowering cherry tree. A couple of trees sprung from the
Glastonbury Thorn are in full flower. A little to my left are two
yew trees, and I am reminded that in 1961, quite close to this
well, the stump of a yew tree was found twelve feet below the
present ground level: scientific examination showed it to have
been alive in A.D.300. Through the branches of the yew trees I
can see the Tor with St.Michael's tower outlined against the sky,
while Chalice Hill rises up behind me.

     This is a beautiful spot. The heavy rain earlier in the day
has given way to brilliant sunshine. All around the air is filled
with birdsong, pigeons cooing in the trees, a blackbird chinking
a little way off, and a thrush is singing in the distance. A
brimstone yellow butterfly has flitted across the path and
cabbagewhites flutter among the flowers, and the slight breeze
wafts a lovely fragrance from the mass of flowers. At this moment
it is hard to think of a more delightful spot.
     Just out of sight, a little lower down the garden, the water
gushes out of a pipe, flowing down a little channel and into a
pool, and colouring the stone red from its iron content. The
spring which feeds the well rises on the slope of Chalice Hill
and pours forth 25,000 gallons of water per day. That been doing
so for thousands of years and has never been known to fail. In
1921 and 1922 it was this spring and Chalice Well that saved the
little town of Glastonbury from drought.

     It was here at the foot of the Tor and around this well that
Joseph of Arimathaea and his companions must have built their
wattle huts more than nineteen hundred years ago, and here, we
believe, a Christian settlement continued until about A.D.400
when Patrick instituted the monastic life on a site adjacent to
the Wattle Church eight hundred yards away. Those early settlers
and those who took their place were called anchorites, and the
name was perpetuated in the Anchor Inn, an early building in the
vicinity of the well. William of Malmesbury (1080-1143) mentions
the well and here, if his record is to be accepted, the first
Christian baptisms were held, and King Lucius, who did so much to
spread the faith after the initial flush of enthusiasm had died
away, was himself baptised.
     King Lucius, also known as Llewrug Mawr, was the grandson of
Cyllinus and the great-grandson of Caratacus whom we shall write
about later. He was king towards the end of the 2nd century and
is said to have sent emissaries to Eleutherius, the Bishop of
Rome, with the request that missionaries be sent to Britain.
Eleutherius sent four missionaries, Dyfan and Fagan and Medwy and
Elfan (or it may have been that he sent only two, Medwy and Elfan
being the returned British emissaries), and the date of their
mission was probably A.D.183.
     William of Malmesbury in his "Antiquities of Glastonbury"
tells how these missionaries journeyed through Britain and came
to Glastonbury:

"There, God leading them, they found an old church built as 'twas
said, by the hands of Christ's disciples, and prepared by God
Himself for the salvation of souls, which Church the Heavenly
Builder Himself showed to be consecrated by many miraculous
deeds, and many mysteries of healing ... And they afterwards
pondered the Heavenly message that the Lord had specially chosen
this spot before all the rest of Britain as the place where His
Mother's name might be invoked. They also found the whole story
in ancient writings, how the Holy Apostles, having been scattered
throughout the world, St.Philip coming into France with a host of
disciples sent twelve of them into Britain to preach, and that
there, taught by revelation they constructed the said chapel
which the Son of God afterwards dedicated to the honour of His
Mother; and, that to these same twelve, three kings, pagan though
they were, gave twelve portions of land for their sustenance.
Moreover, they found a written record of their doings, and on
that account they loved this spot above all others, and they
also, in memory of the first twelve chose twelve of their own,
and made them live on the island with the approval of King
Lucius. These twelve thereafter abode there in divers spots as
anchorites - in the same spots, indeed, which the first twelve
inhabited. Yet they used to meet together continuously in the Old
Church in order to celebrate Divine worship more devoutly, just
as the three pagan kings had lone ago granted the said island
with its surroundings to the twelve former disciples of Christ,
so the said Phagan and Deruvian Fagan and Dyfan obtained it from
King Lucius for these their twelve companions and for others to
follow thereafter. And thus, many succeeding these, but always
twelve in number, abode in the said island during many years up
to the coming of St.Patrick, the apostle of the Irish " (Chapter
11).

     Lucves is mentioned by many other authorities, including
Bede (670-735) who tells us in his "Ecclesiastical History of the
English Nation":

"Lucius, king of the Britons, sent a letter to (Eleutheriusl),
entreating that by his command he might be made a Christian. He
soon obtained his pious request, and the Britons preserved the
faith, which they had received, uncorrupted and entire, in peace
and tranquility until the time of the Emperor Diocletian" (J. M.
Dent, Everyman's Edn., page 9).

     It is to King Lucius that the national conversion of Britain
to the Christian faith is usually attributed. Four centres of
early British Christianity - Glastonbury, London, Llandaff and
Gloucester - have traditional associations with him and the story
of the Eleutherian mission survives in the names of three
churches in Glamorganshire, Llanfedwy (i.e. Medwy's), Merthyr
Dyfan (Dyfan the Martyr), and St.Fagan's, also Llanlleirwg
(Llewrug's or Lucius') Church, now St.Mellon's, near Cardiff.
     The association of King Lucius with London has come down to
us through the Church of St.Peter's, Cornhill, which claims to be
London's oldest church foundation, the first seat of the Bishops
of that city, and founded by King Lucius himself. There was a
plate in the vestry of the church which read:

"Bee it known to all men that in the year of Our Lord God 179
Lucives, the first Christian king of this land, then called
Britaine, founded ye first Church in London, that is to say, ye
Church of St.Peter-Upon-Cornehill and bee founded there an
Archbishop's See and made that Church ye Metropolitane and Chiefe
Church of this kingdome and so it endured ye space of 400 years
and more, unto the coming of St.Avstin the Apostle of England,
the which was sent into this land by St.Gregorie, ye Doctor of ye
Church, in the Time of King Ethelbert and then was the
Archbishop's See and Pall removed from ye said Church of St.
Peter-Upon-Cornehill unto Dorobernia that now is called
Canterburie and there it remaineth to this day and Millet, a
monke which came into this land with St.Avstin, hee was made the
first Bishop of London and his See was in St.Paul's Church and
this Lucives king was the first founder of St.Peter's Church-
Upon-Cornehill and hee reigned king in this land after Brute
(Brutus of Troy) 1245 years and in the year of Our Lord God 124
Lucives was crowned king and hee was buried (After some
Chronicles hee was buried at Gloucester in that Place where ye
order of St.Francis standeth now)."

     This plate was put up after the Great Fire of London in 1666
and is a modernised translation of a much older plate, which is
quoted by Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656) and must have been put up
between 1268 and 1313. (The 'Place where ye order of St.Francis
now standeth' at Gloucester was not founded until 1268, but Ralph
de Baldoc, a Bishop of London, mentions a copy of the plate and
he died in 1313).

     But the name of King Lucius is also associated with
Glastonbury Tor as he is reputed to have built a church dedicated
to St.Michael at its summit. In the last Chapter we showed that 
the Christian faith replaced the former pagan worship, it was the
natural thing to erect a church on those "high places"1 where
formerly pagan rites were practised, and this was what King
Lucius did.

     No one knows exactly how old Chalice Well is or even how it
got its name. The well is evidently of Druidic origin and must
have played an integral part in ancient pagan rituals of sunlight
and water, with the Tor rising above it as the 'high place' and
focal point of a great pagan sanctuary. Today the well shaft is
built of massive stones and appears to have been constructed in
the early 12th century. That would have been only a few years
after the great Abbey fire of 1184 and it must have been
constructed to provide an improved water supply to the Abbey.
     One of the curious features of the well is the fact that at
the foot of the western wall of the well shaft is an archway
leading into a pentagonal chamber. The purpose for which this was
built we can only speculate at the moment. There is so much that
has still to be found out. The stones of the well are even
ripplemarked like those of Stonehenge according to Sir Flinders
Petrie, and Stonehenge has yet to yield up all its secrets. When
some of these questions are answered we shall know a lot more
about the origins of this Island race and it will confirm what
the revelation of the Bible already tells us.

     No one knows for certain how Chalice Well got its name. The
name does not appear in any document before the early thirteenth
century, and then as 'Chalcivelle', and the entrance to the well
is still today in Chilkwell Street. Perhaps it is a corruption of
the word 'chalybeate,' i.e. "iron-bearing" -  which describes the
mineral content of the water. The water has curative properties
and Chalice Well drew enormous crowds of people in the
mid-eighteenth century when a certain Matthew Chancellor reported
how he had been healed of asthma after drinking a glass of this
water on seven successive Sundays. Many other healings were
reported and some still are today.

     Here, as so often in Glastonbury, history, tradition and
romance are inextricably woven together. The usually accepted
belief is that Chalice Well derives its name from the chalice or
cup of the Lord's Suppers 2 which Joseph of Arimathaea is
supposed to have brought with him and which he is alleged - for
reasons we can only surmise - to have buried in Chalice Hill. But
there seems to be no historical foundation for the story, and
certain it is that legends of the chalice or graal were current
long centuries before the Christian era. In Eastern tradition it
was the pagan cup of plenty, the fount of life, health and
blessing, and it had its origin in ancient vegetation rites.

     However, mention of the chalice or graal naturally brings to
mind not only Joseph of Arimathaea but also King Arthur and his
Knights of the Round Table. Arthur was a British general who
lived in the sixth century and died A.D.540. He was buried at
Glastonbury, his Queen Guinevere beside him, and their tomb was
discovered there in 1191. In the coffin was a leaden plate in the
form of a cross with the inscription in Latin, "Hic jacet
sepullus inclytus Rex Arthurus in Insula Avalonia," which means,
"Here lies interred in the Isle of Avalon the renowned King
Arthur". The remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were
reinterred in the Great Church of the Abbey and the fragmentary
remains of the shrine were discovered in 1934; this spot is still
marked in the turf today.
     Camelot, the traditional seat of King Arthur, is now firmly
established as South Cadbury, only twelve miles from Glastonbury.
Excavations there in 1967 revealed that a prehistoric rampart had
been refortified in the 5th-6th century for military use. Digging
was re-commenced in 1968 and will continue in 1969.
     Now in "La Queste del Saint Graal," we read the following
statement concerning King Arthur's Round Table:

"The Round Table was constructed, not without great significance,
upon the advice of Merlin. By its name the Round Table is meant
to signify the round world and round canopy of the planets and
the elements in the firmament, where are to be seen the stars and
many other things." 

And what is truly astonishing is that here in the Somerset
countryside, a huge representation of the Zodiac has been
artificially constructed by means of prehistoric earthworks and
water-courses. This enormous map of the stars modelled against
the hills and river beds of Somerset, must have been laid down
nearly 5,000 years ago, but was only discovered in 1925 when
aerial photographs revealed for the first time the huge effigies
resembling Zodiacal creatures, arranged in a circle ten miles
across and more than thirty miles in diameter. Evidently the
reason why we can still trace them is because the land on which
they lie was the property of the Abbey, and the monks were
scrupulously careful to preserve the ancient landmarks and
waterways. But who constructed the Somerset Zodiac? And who was
responsible for Stonehenge?

     The Zodiac, by which we mean the apparent path traversed by
the planets across the heavens, seems to find its chief
connotation today in the daily horoscopes published in the
newspapers. Notice God's condemnation of Babylon with its 
"astrologers ... stargazers ... monthly prognosticators"3 - but
it was not always so. The true spiritual significance of the
Zodiac is that it is the divine plan of the ages written in the
stars.

     The writers of the Bible recognised and understood the
revelation of God in the heavens. Notice, in the oldest book of
the Bible, the Lord asks Job, "Canst thou bind the sweet
influences of PLEIADES, or loose the bands of ORION? Canst thou
bring forth MAZZAROTH in his season? or Canst thou guide ARCTURUS
with his sons?"4
     These refer, of course, to well-known star groups. But
notice the word 'Mazzaroth.' In the margin it is translated "the
twelve signs" and it means the ZODIAC.

     The Zodiac, when correctly interpreted, starting from Virgo
the Virgin and ending with Leo the Lion, tells the whole wondrous
story of man's creation and redemption. These twelve signs and
their supplementary constellations tell us of the setting aside
and training of the chosen Israel race, and of its becoming, by
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the nucleus of the Kingdom of
God upon earth. So, though little known or understood today,
there is a revelation of God in the Zodiac, and that same
revelation has been incorporated in the Great Pyramid,5 and most
especially in the Bible, the inspired Word of God.


     But the story Which the Bible tells, and the Pyramid also,
was written in the stars aeons before either had come into
existence. And that is why the psalmist says, "The heavens
declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His
handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night
sheweth knowledge. THERE IS NO SPEECH NOR LANGUAGE, WHERE THEIR
VOICE IS NOT HEARD. Their line is gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a
tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of
his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His
going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto
the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof"6

     It is to this witness and revelation of the stars that Paul
alludes. "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias
saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, HAVE THEY
NOT HEARD? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and
their words unto the ends of the world".7

     It is not surprising to learn that, according to Josephus
(Jewish Pharisee historian of the first century A.D. - Keith
Hunt) the signs of the Zodiac were emblazoned on the standards of
the twelve tribes of Israel, and these same Zodiacal signs were
incorporated in the floor of the Chapel of St.Mary at
Glastonbury!

     And so this wonderful Glastonbury Zodiac laid out over a
vast tract of land ten miles across also witnesses, not to the
return of King Arthur the Sun King, but to THE RETURN OF THE LORD
JESUS CHRIST,8 and the Quest for the Holy Graal tells not of a
legendary chalice but of ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS 9 who one
day soon will come again to set up His Kingdom and to RULE this
earth.10

     I began by writing of a WELL and a MOUNTAIN, Chalice Well
and Glastonbury Tor. Let me conclude this Chapter with another
Mountain and another Well.

     The Bible says, "And it shall come to pass in the last days,
that the MOUNTAIN of the LORD's house shall be established in the
top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and
all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say,
Come ye, and let us go up to the MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD, to the
house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and
we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the
law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge
among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall
beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into
pruninghooks : nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more".11

     "And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise Thee
though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and
Thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust,
and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my
song; He also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye
draw water out of the WELLS OF SALVATION. And in that day shall
ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon His name, declare His doings
among the people, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing
unto the LORD; for He hath done excellent things: this is known
in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for
great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee".12

     Jesus said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and
drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out
of his belly shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER".13
     "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will
give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the WATER OF
LIFE freely ".14
     "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that
heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And
whosoever will, let him take the WATER OF LIFE freely".15

     May you TODAY know the reality of those RIVERS of living
water!

1.Numbers 22:41 
2.Matthew 26:27 
3.Isaiah 47:13
4.Job 38:31-32
5.Isaiah 19:19-20
6.Psalm 19:1-6
7 Romans 10:16-18 
8.Acts 1:11
9.1 John 5:11-12 
10.Luke 1:32-33
11.Isaiah 2:2-4 
12.Isaiah 12:1-6 
13.John 7:37-38
14.Revelation 21:6 
15.Revelation 22:17

                     ....................

TO BE CONTINUED


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