H/T: Daily Mail (here)
Were anti-Christians behind pilgrimage site attack? 2,000-year-old Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury is cut down
Standing proudly on the side of an English hill, its religious roots go back 2,000 years. But a single night of vandalism has left an ancient site of pilgrimage in splinters.
The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury has been chopped down in what is being seen by some as a deliberately anti-Christian act.
A feature of the skyline surrounding the Somerset town, the tree has been visited by thousands retracing the steps said to have been taken by Joseph of Arimathea, who some say was Jesus’ great uncle.
According to legend, Saint Joseph travelled to the spot after Christ was crucified, taking with him the Holy Grail of Arthurian folklore.
He is said to have stuck his wooden staff – which had belonged to Jesus – into the ground on Wearyall Hill before he went to sleep. When he awoke it had sprouted into a thorn tree, which became a natural shrine for Christians across Europe.
To add to its sacred status, the tree ‘miraculously’ flowered twice a year – once at Christmas* and once at Easter. It survived for hundreds of years before it was chopped down by puritans in the Civil War, but secret cuttings of the original were taken and planted around the town. (*It blooms on January 7th; Ed note).
It is from one of the new plants that a replacement tree was planted in the original spot over 50 years ago.
Yesterday residents of Glastonbury wept as they surveyed the damage done to the tree on Wednesday night. Katherine Gorbing, curator of the town’s abbey, said: ‘The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity.
‘It is the most significant of all the trees planted here and can be linked back to the origins of Christianity.
‘When I arrived at the Abbey this morning you could look over to the hill and see it was not there.
‘It’s a great shock to everyone in Glastonbury – the landscape of the town has changed overnight.’
Every winter a sprig of thorns from one of the town’s trees is sent to the Queen to be used as a table decoration on Christmas Day.
Glastonbury mayor John Coles, 66, took part in the annual cutting ceremony last week using the tree at St John’s Church.
Yesterday he recalled watching a tree being planted on Wearyall Hill in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. Although that specimen died, it was replaced the following year and stood firm until this week. Mr Coles said: ‘It’s the saddest thing I’ve seen in Glastonbury. Some of the main trunk is there but the branches have been sawn away. I am absolutely lost for words.’
Experts had verified that the tree – known as the Crategus Monogyna Bi Flora – originated from the Middle East.
Avon and Somerset police have begun an investigation but because there was no tree preservation order on the Holy Thorn, it means the vandals are unlikely to be prosecuted. The land on which the Holy Thorn stood is owned by Edward James, who was arrested this week in connection with an investigation into failed currency exchange firm Crown Currency Exchange, of which he is a director.
According to the administrator’s report, Crown Currency collapsed owing £16million with little more than £3million in the bank. Last night there was speculation that the attack on the Holy Thorn may have been part of a vendetta against him.