Glastonbury was formally established as a monastery sometime in the period between 673CE and 688CE, when the abbey was built. However, the site had existed independently as a Christian religious center for at least a century, if not longer. On the site of the present day abbey, legend claims that a wattle and daub church had stood. One legend states that this ancient church was founded in 167 CE by the priests Phagan and Deruvian while on their mission to the isle from Pope Eleutherius. However, until some point following the great fire in 1184 CE, the abbey claimed even older origins involving the Apostle Philip and his missionary efforts in Gaul. A purported 5th Century Charter claimed that the Old Church was founded by the disciples of Philip and James and was merely rediscovered by Phagan and Deruvian. This version was not supported by Malmesbury's "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae", but Malmesbury did support that the old church was the the earliest ecclesia in the island in his "de Gestis Regum Anglorum".

   The more ancient and magical legend claims that Joseph of Arimathea founded the church when he brought the holy grail to Avalon. Mentioned only in passing in the gospels, Joseph of Arimathea is one of the prominent individuals in the apochryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. It tells of Joseph's imprisonment following the crucifixion and of his miraculous release by a risen Jesus. The golden legend associates him with the resurrected Christ, with Mary Magdalene, and the missions of the apostle Philip. The legend claims that Joseph journeyed on missions to Gaul, accompanying Lazarus and the Magdalene to the Marseilles area in 48 CE. By the twelfth century with the work of Robert de Boron in his Joseph d'Arimathie and in the later Grail legends, Joseph journeyed from Gaul to Britain in 63 CE and founded the ancient church at Glastonbury. As the guardian of the Holy Grail, he founded the line of Grail Kings that would protect the grail until its disappearance near the end of Arthur's reign. Malmesbury, in his writings, makes no mention of Joseph in relation to Glastonbury, but there were continuations by monks that added Joseph in, claiming that Malmesbury was not aware of the existing legends linking Joseph to the Tor. In the legends, Joseph carried a staff cut from the thorn that had provided the crown for Jesus on the cross. When Joseph arrived on the tor, he thrust the staff into the ground and from it grew the holy thorn of Glastonbury.

Chalice Well

Arthur's Grave at Galstonbury