Stupid hateful destruction of a celebrated Christian pilgrimage site

I believe that time in the public stocks might not be adequate for the party or parties responsible.

From CMR:

This is truly despicable and sad.

Vandals have destroyed one of the most celebrated Christian pilgrimage sites in Britain and chopped down a tree said to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea 2,000 years ago.

The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, Somerset, is visited by thousands every year to pay homage and leave tokens of worship. Those visiting today were moved to tears on finding the tree cut to a stump.

The sacred tree is unique in that it blossoms twice a year – at Christmas and Easter – and sprigs taken from the thorn are sent to The Queen each year for the festive table.



The Mail Online has some history

oliver cromwell

Christian legend dictates that Jesus’s great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, came to Britain after the crucifixion 2,000 years ago bearing the Holy Grail – the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

He visited Glastonbury and thrust his staff into Wearyall Hill, just below the Tor, planting a seed for the original thorn tree.

Roundheads felled the tree during the English Civil War, when forces led by Oliver Cromwell (pictured) waged a vicious battle against the Crown.

However, locals salvaged the roots of the original tree, hiding it in secret locations around Glastonbury.

It was then replanted on the hill in 1951. Other cuttings were also grown and placed around the town – including its famous Glastonbury Abbey.

Experts had verified that the tree – known as the Crategus Monogyna Bi Flora – originated from the Middle East.

A sprig of holy thorns was taken from the Thorn tree by Glastonbury’s St Johns Church on Wednesday and sent to the Queen.

The 100-year-old tradition will see the thorns sit on Her Majesty’s dinner table on Christmas DayVery very sad.

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  1. isabella says:

    This is horrible, but if it was discovered in time, horticultural experts may be able to root cuttings. I can do it in spring but this time of year they need somebody at a university or a gardener who seriously knows what they are doing. Will pray that they can save it, or better yet that a shoot arises from the stump.

  2. Titus says:

    I think there’s surely a typo in the article: how can there be a hundred-year-old tradition of cutting thorns from a tree only replanted in 1951? And it would be quite spectacular for the roots to have lived nearly four-hundred years in a closet. Surely the century there is off (1751, perhaps?).

  3. Gulielmus says:

    Despicable and barbaric, whatever one’s beliefs. The National Cathedral in DC has a “descendant” of the tree grown from a cutting, so perhaps that could provide a replacement.

  4. irishgirl says:

    This is terrible! I hope that there can be a way of restoring it from a cutting such as the one in Washington.

  5. Brad says:

    The Cenacle is desecrated constantly with graffiti and feces. It’s all demonic via human hands. But we don’t talk about unseen reality anymore, least of all exorcise the people who cut the tree and then watch as a nearby herd of swine goes nuts.

  6. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Apparently there are several other specimens in and around the town, so there is a chance to restore the tree again, as it had been restored p0st-Cromwell:

    Since there’s no claim of responsibility by Moslems, it would seem likeliest that the vandals were secularists.

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    Up, Lord, and let not man have the upper hand : let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
    Put them in fear, O Lord : that the heathen may know themselves to be but men.

  8. THREEHEARTS says:

    Glastonbury was or is the site of a huge catholic pilgrimage sponsored by the Diocese of Clifton.
    The major event there is now a rock and roll venue and the village/town is now a new age haven of shops

  9. THREEHEARTS says:

    I forgot to mention, “to answer the question of before 1951 the year of the Festival of Britain world’s fair”. A reason I seem to remember for the replant. The BBC every Christmas day played a commentary of the tree blossoming that year. I am not doing an April 1st. spaghetti tree hoax

  10. wolskerj says:

    Horrible and rather ominous, I think. It reminds me of NICE filling in Merlin’s Well in C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.

    I happened recently to read an essay by Hilaire Belloc in which he mentions Glastonbury:

    “I pass by Glastonbury once a year at least . . . . Every time I see that famous hill I marvel at the way in which England is now cut off from her living past.

    Glastonbury ought to be one of the half dozen most famous places in Europe. It was one of the half dozen most famous places . . . probably for thirteen or fourteen hundred years. It is now a place in which certain tourists, not many of them, come and gape at ruins; but it means nothing more to England at large. A handful of the educated classes know what it means, but England as a whole no longer remembers.

    What should we say if Italy dealt thus with the steep hill of Cassino, or France with the rock of St. Michael, or the Spaniards with Santiago? What should we say if Rheims meant no more to the French than Glastonbury does to the English?

    Yet Glastonbury meant much more than any of these. It meant much more even than Santiago. It was the premier shrine of all the west. It counted as an apostolic thing founded within a few years of the Crucifixion.”

    Perhaps the average Englishman no longer knows about these things, but it seem clear that someone still remembers.

  11. THREEHEARTS says:

    Sorry I’m doing it again. Tradition also tells us, (those who lived in Somerset or the Mendip Hills) that the Hymn Jerusalem was written from the belief that Joseph of Arimathea actually took Jesus as a young teenager to Britain with him and did visit Glastonbury. He, Joseph, did buy tin for the mines in the area. Just up the road is Priddy Pool the small lake where King Arthur’s Excalibur was tossed. A bottomless pool because one cannot stand up in because of the peat bottom rather like a quicksand. Just a little to the East is the Rock under which the write of the Rock of Ages sheltered during a rainstorm. The Area is famous also as the true home of Cheddar Cheese

  12. wolskerj, Which essay/book is that Belloc quote from? It was very beautiful.

  13. nhaggin says:


    The article is a little sloppy on details. There are multiple living descendants of the Holy Thorn which Cromwell chopped down; different trees have provided the bough for the monarch over the years.

  14. digdigby says:

    Don’t be so behind the times. What a lovely location for a Mosque!

  15. “Many of those trees were my friends creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves…. It is the orc-work, the wanton hewing – _rárum_ – without even the bad excuse of feeding the fires, that has so angered us….There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men bad enough for such treachery.” – Treebeard

  16. Jerry says:

    “Since there’s no claim of responsibility by Moslems, it would seem likeliest that the vandals were secularists.”

    One of the comments on the newspaper’s web site indicates there is some suspicion this was done by a developer who was denied permission to build flats on the site.

  17. CarpeNoctem says:

    Presuming it is not the spurned developer mentioned above, I would consider this a “hate crime”.

  18. AnAmericanMother says:


    There are multiple suspects. Somebody else floated the opinion that it was an act of revenge against the property owner, who was a principal in an investment firm that failed and lost its clients’ money. Or perhaps somebody was angered at the ceremony that took place the day before in which a sprig was cropped for the Queen.

    And of course there are the usual drunken yobs. I guess they could have climbed the tree to limb it at that height.

    Surely somebody would have heard a chainsaw?

    With any kind of luck the tree will regenerate with that much trunk and an undisturbed root system. Hawthorns are generally quite tough, in fact people make hedges out of them and cut them back severely on a regular basis.

  19. Magpie says:

    Gregg: I think it is more likely it was witches than Muslims. There are lots of Wiccans around that area. I don’t think most secularists would be bothered cutting a tree. There is a symbolic meaning to cutting a tree down and I therefore would say it was probably witches.

  20. Re: witches, it would have to be some awfully bad hats. Witches and occult fans are all pretty much in love with the Glastonbury Thorn, since they all have some theory that makes it belong to them. They are probably more distraught about this than Christians, since we don’t think the tree is some kind of god or magical conduit or remote controller for all the power of the island of Britain.

    I don’t really want to speculate about this one. Whoever did it is a hateful jerk.

  21. C. says:

    Clearly this is a Sign of sorts for Elizabeth. The tree cut down was planted in 1952, the year of her coronation; it was cut down the same day her son and his wife were attacked by her subjects in their car. Momentous events this year – hung election, Papal visit, Anglicanorum coetibus, engagement of Wills and Kate.

  22. Jakub says:

    Truly a fitting quote Sean P.

  23. Tony Layne says:

    Shocked, sickened, saddened. The complete mindlessness of this outrage beggars description. No, my dear AmericanMother, I’m afraid “usual drunken yobs” won’t serve for an explanation, though I wouldn’t be surprised if alcohol were involved. This was pure malice aforethought.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:


    I’ve known people when drunk to do some outrageously stupid and offensive things. Like destroy something simply because it’s treasured by somebody else. Our (American) football fans, especially when there are strong college rivalries, do some idiotic things. A drunken University of Georgia fan tried to burn down Auburn (Alabama) University’s famous “Toomer’s Tree” after Georgia lost a big game to Auburn.×360.jpg

    – fortunately the tree was not seriously injured. And of course if Auburn fans didn’t have the odd tradition of swathing the tree in rolls and rolls and rolls of toilet paper after an Auburn victory there wouldn’t have been as much flammable material around for some drunk to set fire to. The clouts tied to the Glastonbury Thorn are much more proper – and more English.

    I agree with you though that there’s some sort of underlying animosity here. ‘Wine in – truth out.’

  25. Rob Cartusciello says:

    If God can redound Monte Casino, anything can happen.

    Succisa Virescit!

  26. Rob Cartusciello says:

    *rebuild (the problems of typing on a Droid on the Metro.

    Can anyone explain the ribbons around the tree?

  27. Sixupman says:

    St. Mary Magdalene the local church: TLM once a month and every Holyday. The PP also Celebrates TLM on occasions in Abbet Crypt. Traditionally minded priest having to accept a lay managed parish. Rcently re-ordered church to bring back Tabernacle to the High Altar. NOM lot very noisy before and after Mass – there used to be a notice in the narthex caling for silence, but it disappeared. Altar boys available, but just recently altar girls appeared. There used to be a vibrant convent school, now three houses and a block of retirement flats. Still several pilgrimages to the Abbey, one, a few years ago, ended in fisticuffs with pagan shopkeepers.

    Glastonbury, now a centre for all things pagan,black/white magic and the like.

  28. Warren says:

    The British penchant for gardening will likely undue the vandalism of a brutish countryman. A few clippings, well preserved, should suffice. Look for a off-shoot in a few years.

  29. q7swallows says:

    Ah but where, pray tell, are the loud voices of environmentalists who surge to the fore to protect every outrage done to “old wood”?

  30. AnAmericanMother says:


    It’s an old custom primarily in lowland Scotland and the west of England to tie “clouts” or little strips of cloth onto a traditionally holy tree or around a holy spring or well. The folks who see pagan traditions in everything are upset or pleased, according to their inclination, but it’s just another one of those old country practices that makes Britain such an interesting place.

  31. wolskerj,

    truly that Hideous Strength acted here. Let’s hope they’ve pulled down Deep Heaven on their heads.


    Great quote; truly apropos.

    Reading this story left me in tears.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    The more I think about this the more I’m pretty sure the tree is going to be o.k.

    Hawthorn is one of the trees – like beech, willow, and hornbeam – that is customarily “pollarded” in many places in England and on the Continent. Very heavy pruning back to the trunk at a height of six or eight feet off the ground. Some say it’s for firewood, some for browse for cattle, some for basket weaving (that would be the willows). Over time it produces a characteristic shape.

    You can see examples here (willow), here (elm) , and here (a VERY old oak).

    A deciduous tree with soft bark and fairly rapid growth rate ought to come roaring back. The literature also notes that pollarding tends to extend the life of the tree by keeping it in an artificially juvenile state.

    So while this is still a reprehensible and repulsive act, it probably won’t be fatal to the tree.

  33. techno_aesthete says:

    Reminds me of the removal of the cross in, was it California?, after the case had reached the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the cross could remain. Diabolical.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    Firstly, the person who owns the land was arrested for problems in the financial world. One theory is that a person who lost money through those problems cut down the tree. If that is the case, then a secularist, not a wiccan or those many occultists in the area, cut the tree.

    It is a very strong symbol of Catholicism is Great Britain, and probably is from Joseph of Arimathea. Legends are frequently born in truth. I am sad. I have a photo of myself and friends standing underneath the tree. God forgive the perpetrator and help the locals find a new shoot.

    It is also a natural disaster, as noted above.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    Also, Glastonbury is the site of the the Abbey, one of which Henry VIII hated the most. In fact, there are holy martyrs from that Abbey, from the 9th century as well as the 15th century. In addition, the oldest shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary north of the Alps was founded at Glastonbury. No small significant place….

  36. Supertradmum, a friend of mine who has made a pilgrimage to the Thorn, writes, regarding the martyrs from the Abbey: “Glastonbury is also the site of King Arthur’s tomb, and is where the Holy Grail was preserved until in was destroyed by King Henry VIII’s minions. Bl Richard Whiting, the last abbot, was hanged, drawn, and quartered with two companions at Glastonbury Tor overlooking the great abbey.

  37. Centristian says:

    Well, it’s an unfortunate vandalism, in terms of history, but in terms of religion…I’m not quite sure. This tree is said to be a horticultural descendant of a tree which began life as the staff of Joseph of Arimathea. *rolls eyes*

    I am not sure how significant it is that the seeds of one tree begat another, in the first place. To me, that means nothing at all. Secondly, Christian fairy tales are just as fictional as secular ones, and this ranks right up there with Jack and the Beanstalk, in my opinion.

    A historically significant tree was vandalized. Yes. Unfortunate. But no more can be lamented. Joseph of Arimathea’s staff did not turn into a tree in England, and even if it did, this is not even that tree. It’s allegedly that tree’s “offspring”.

  38. scargo says:

    If this doesn’t symbolize a modern day stump of Jesse than I’ll eat a pine cone. Something tells me we Catholics will suffer the same fate of this tree if we don’t start imitating Ewald Stadler REAL SOON!

  39. PostCatholic says:

    I’ll second that this ranks up there with Jack and the Beanstalk, but destroying a significant piece of the cultural patrimony of Glastonbury in an act of vandalism is still sad.

  40. Maria says:

    It is vaguely possible that some Council worker cut it back by accident thinking it was in need of a pruning.
    Horticulturalists know that Hawthorn thrives on pruning and be assured, it will grow back with a vengeance.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    Sean P. Dailey,

    I know and have seen the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere. I used to live in and teach in Bristol and got to Glastonbury several times then and later, when I lived in Sherborne. It is one of my favorite places. the desecration of the tree is devastating, and definitely an act of vandalism as well as an act of anarchy. Many martyrs are from Glastonbury, as Henry VIII particularly hated that Abbey. But, at least two of the area martyrs date from the 10th century.

  42. PaterAugustinus says:

    The Glastonbury Thorn is highly revered by many Orthodox Christians; an often unpublished fact, is that the Thorn tends to blossom on (or very near) the dates of Christmas and Pascha, but by the Orthodox Church’s calendar (i.e., the Julian Calendar). Some jurisdictions have moved to the Gregorian Calendar now (Greeks and Arabs), but the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Alexandria, and also the Russian and some other Churches (by far the majority), remain on the Julian Calendar. For those of us keeping the feasts by that calendar, the blooming of the Glastonbury Thorn is a welcome companion to our festivities.

    As one of our priests posted on another forum: thorn trees are remarkably resilient, and the Glastonbury Thorn has been saved after similar destruction before. In fact, he remarked that some of the hewn branches were still able to tender up some cuttings, and that the vandals have accomplished the opposite of their goal. The miraculous tree will doubtless survive, and its shoots will be more widely distributed. This will end up bringing greater glory to God, and more grace to men, than if they had left the tree alone!

    A similarly miraculous tree is the Oak of Mamre, where the Lord revealed himself to Abraham under the guise of three angels. In the Orthodox Church, the tradition has been that this tree will survive until the end of the world. For the past two millennia of Christendom, the tree has thrived. But, in the last century it has taken a turn for the worse, and only a few branches of the tree are still living…

  43. Pingback: Holy Land: Joshua’s Tomb vandalized with Arabic graffiti | Fr. Z's Blog – What Does The Prayer Really Say?

  44. wolskerj says:

    Sean P. Dailey -sorry for not checking back here sooner. The Belloc quote is from his essay “On Legend” which I found in Essays of a Catholic from TAN books. I would highly recommend it to those who pooh-pooh the legend of the Holy Thorn as a mere “Christian fairy tale.”
    Seriously – you swallow all that bit about a man rising from the dead and ordinary bread invisibly changing into the body of God himself but you can’t bring yourself to entertain the possibility that a 1st century Jew could travel from Judea to Brittania, or that a saint might perform miracles?
    You may be right, of course. But what a dull, flattened, one-dimensional world you live in.

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