John of Glastonbury
John (Seen) of Glastonbury
(1393-1464CE), a monk of Glastonbury Abbey, claimed that King Arthur was
descended from Joseph, listing the following imaginative pedigree through
King Arthur's mother:
Helaius, Nepos Joseph, Genuit Josus,
Josue Genuit Aminadab, Aminadab Genuit Filium, qui Genuit Ygernam, de
qua Rex Pen-Dragon, Genuit Nobilem et Famosum Regum Arthurum, per Quod
Patet, Quod Rex Arthurus de Stirpe Joseph descendit.
By the time that John of
Glastonbury was writing, Grail and Arthurian legends were already fairly
developed, and so this lineage may have resulted from an attempt to connect
the two and connect it to Glastonbury to bolster their claims. The lineage
can be found in no other source.
John of Glastonbury gathered all of
the extant sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey,
and published them in one book, entitled Cronica sive Antiquitates
Glastoniensis Ecclesie (Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
Glastonbury). He relates the
story of Joseph as covered in the Book of Nicodemus and adds that Joseph and
his son Josephes were disciples of St. Philip by whom they were baptized.
While St. John was at Ephesus, Joseph remained with Mary and was present at
her Assumption. Fourteen years later, he went to St. Philip in Gaul. Then
Philip sent twelve of his disciples to preach the faith in Britain and he
placed at their head Joseph and his son Josephes.
The legend says that Joseph
brought with him two cruets in which some of the sacred blood and the water
which flowed from the wounds of our Blessed Lord was miraculously preserved.
It was John that published the 6th century Melkin poem
that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ. The
Grail has not yet made its way into the story. The implication of the
lineage was not lost on later writers who picked up and developed the theme:
by right of descent, a relic of importance claimed to have been brought by
Joseph to Britain, fell into the hands of King Arthur though inheritance.
Avallon is entered by a band of Twelve:
Joseph's arms, a green cross
raguly with the blood drops and the two 'ampulae' are seen in many places in
Glastonbury: the 16th century glass in the south window of St
John's church on High Street, in stone on the outside of St Patrick's
chapel at the Abbey, at the back of Sharpham Manor and on the church of St
Benignus, Benedict Street.
Joseph, Arimathaea's flower, is chief of them;
And with his father cometh Josephes.
So to these Twelve Glastonia's rights are given.
In Pynson's Life of Joseph of Arimathaea we read:
And when our lorde in the sedony was drest
This blood in two cruettes Joseph did take.
John of Glastonbury
states that on Wearyall Hill there was "a monastery of holy
virgins" which is also the first reference to a women's community in
the area. He then relates a story concerning the visit of King Arthur to
Beckery where he had a vision of Mary. As a result of this vision, King
Arthur became a Christian and changed his coat of arms from a red dragon to
one showing Mary and Child.
John of Glastonbury. The Chronicle of
Glastonbury Abbey: An Edition, Translation, and Study of John of
Glastonbury's Cronica sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie. Ed. James P.
Carley. Tr. David Townsend. Rev. ed. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1985.