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Get to know A Bit About Britain - an idiosyncratic view of places to visit in Britain, British history - and stuff. Warts and all. Where shall we go today?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chalice Well

Chalice Well, about Britain, Glastonbury
The Vesica Pool
The water flows red from a natural spring at the foot of Chalice Hill in Glastonbury.  It is said to be infused with, or at the very least represent, the blood of Christ.  Or maybe it was rusty nails from the Cross - I can’t decide.  Anyway, it was here, stories tell, that Joseph of Arimithea buried the Holy Grail, the cup Christ used at the Last Supper and in which drops of His blood were caught at the Crucifixion.  Thus Joseph contributed to a neatly marketable legend that kept King Arthur’s knights, and a whole lot of other people, rather busy down the centuries.  Of course, everyone knows this is utter tosh; the Holy Grail is in lots of different locations – under the Louvre, Rosslyn Chapel, the Dome of the Rock and, naturally, Fort Knox – to mention but a few popular resting places.  Or, it isn’t a cup at all, but the blood of Christ Himself.  Or, the cup, or chalice, was a symbol pinched from earlier Celtic tales of a magical cauldron that has morphed into an essential part of Christian mythology.

Chalice Well, about Britain, Glastonbury
The Chalice Well

It’s easy to mock; the fact is that the Holy Grail is one of the most enduring legends we have.  And if you happen to be passing Glastonbury, the Chalice Well is as good a place as any to include in your own personal (and dare I say probably fruitless) quest.

What is not in doubt is that the Chalice Well is considered by many to be a holy well and has, so they say, been regarded as such for at least 2,000 years.  Some see it as a representation of the divine female, with nearby Glastonbury Tor representing the divine male (discover a bit aboutGlastonbury Tor).  The waters of the well, rich in iron oxide (hence the colour) have long been reputed to have miraculous healing properties, even being the essence of life, a gift from Mother Earth.  I feel much same way about beer.  Apparently, the well produces 25,000 gallons a day, never dries up and the water is naturally radioactive.

So here’s a place that should leave you with a nice, warm, glow.

Chalice Well, about Britain, Glastonbury
The water flows red
The Chalice Well is located within charming gardens that exude a quiet tranquillity, and which are visited by both casual tourists and people of faith from all over the world.  Even the most hardened cynic could find spiritual peace in them.  They are beautifully tended, rich in symbolism and you can whiz round in less than an hour, or take your time and enjoy the experience.  They are in the care of the Chalice Well Trust, established in 1959 by Wellesley Tudor Pole to safeguard the Chalice Well for visitors and pilgrims.  There is a silent minute each day at 12pm and 3pm, marked by the ringing of an old school bell.  The loos are clean and you'll find a dead useful shop where you can stock up on crystals, magic jewellery, spiritual reading matter and other essentials.

The Chalice Well and Gardens are on Chilkwell Street (A361), Glastonbury, Somerset.  Park in town or at the Rural Life Museum in Bere Lane.  Visit the Tor at the same time.

Visit the Chalice Well Trust website.

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Hi - thanks for dropping into A Bit About Britain. New material is now being posted to and most of the material here will gradually be updated and moved over to that new site. Please drop in there, click on the blog page, and take a look round. TTFN - Mike.