A Glastonbury Abbey Dream

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I don’t necessarily believe in the historical reality of the stories mainly associated with Glastonbury; Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur, but I do feel that entering into their mood in such a remarkable landscape is to experience a kind of what Dion Fortune would call soul poetry that can lead to a great exaltation and it is this quality that has helped them endure. I have put together images that evoke the history and mythology of Glastonbury Abbey, the early church, Joseph, the various saints connected with its traditions, leading through to the medieval majesty, the tragic dissolution, and the modern rebirth.

The accompanying music was always an easy choice for me. As I said in Mysterium Artorius

‘One piece of music has established itself for me as an ultimate soundtrack for a Glastonbury Abbey dream —–. It was Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis (who had provided Vaughan Williams with such magnificent inspiration), a composition for forty voices. Tallis was writing during the aftermath of the dissolution of the monasteries and his work seems full of a poignant nostalgia for a lost paradise. I have cultivated the feeling that an eternal form of Glastonbury Abbey exists on some other realm of perception. There, the monks continue their daily services. A celestial choir perpetually intones sacred prayers amidst this magnificent scene, as Grail light shines through the stained glass windows, infusing the place with supernal blessings. Spem in Alium completely catches the feeling of how I believe such a choir would sound. It was like the chanting of angels. I know that the liturgical recitations of the medieval monks would not have sounded the same. It doesn’t matter. Tallis takes me into a realm of unbearable beauty.’

 

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