Thursday, 4 May 2006

The Last Abbot of Glastonbury

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

Today is the Feast of the English Martyrs.

Yesterday I honoured Blessed Richard Whiting, one of the earliest of these martyrs, when I briefly visited Glastonbury (en route for the M5 motorway). Given all the hype, Glastonbury is not a particularly attractive place - only a few surviving medieval buildings and too many New Age shops (with strange names such as 'The Psyhic Piglet'). It's a pity that the town has been 'taken over' by pagans and Holy Grail enthusiasts because it is a strongly Christian place. Glastonbury has many saints - not only St Joseph of Arimathea (who is supposed to have brought the Child Jesus and, later on, the Holy Grail to the town, and planted the 'Holy Thorn') but St Patrick, St David, St Collen, St Indract, St Brigit, St Neot and St Dunstan. There is also a shrine to 'Our Lady of Glastonbury' in the Catholic church.

It is the last of this long line of saints that interests us today - Blessed Richard Whiting, Glastonbury's last Abbot. Educated at Cambridge and ordained in 1501, he was nominated as Abbot by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525. At the Dissolution he refused to comply with the increasing demands of the King's men and was promptly condemned to death, without proper trial, for 'his cankerous and traitorous mind against the King's Majesty and his succession.' He was dragged up Glastonbury Tor on a hurdle and hanged, drawn and quartered on 15 November 1539. His head was displayed on the gatehouse of Glastonbury Abbey; his quarters in Wells (see yesterday's post). His Treasurer, Blessed John Thorne, and his Sacristan, Blessed Roger James, were also executed in a similar fashion.

May these brave witnesses intercede for us today and serve as models of fearless faith.



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