The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey according to William of Malmesbury's De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie


Essay, 2006

8 Pages, Grade: 1,7

Anonymous


Excerpt

Contents

1. Introduction

2. The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey according to William of Malmesbury’s „De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie”
2.1 The situation of crisis in Glastonbury after the Norman conquest
2.2 William of Malmesbury and the “De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie”
2.3 The legend of the prehistoric church “vetusta ecclesia”
2.4 The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the Abbey

3. Conclusion

4. List of work cited

1. Introduction

To be busy with the history of Glastonbury Abbey, you have to differentiate between the early history and the time after the Norman conquest. Especially on closer inspection of the early history a big problem takes place: All traditions like architecture, written and painted sources have been destroyed by the big fire of 1184. That is why the today known early history of Glastonbury Abbey is only based on myths and sources that had been written after the fire.

The most important is the “De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie” by William of Malmesbury.

2. The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey according to William of Malmesbury’s „De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie”

The vetusta ecclesia takes an essential part in the history of the abbey. Both, its meaning for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey and its legend, should be reflected in this essay, as well as the work of William of Malmesbury. First I want to give a short survey of the time after 1066.

2.1 The situation of crisis in Glastonbury after the Norman conquest

The Norman conquest had extreme effects on all of England. This is especially to understand by the extreme changes of the monastery everyday life in Glastonbury. The old Anglo-Saxon aristocracy was changed into Norman upper class, they had to speak French, native literature, prayers, songs and law disappeared and the Norman brought liturgies and a new holy calendar.1 All these changes led to a big loss of individuality for the monastery. For this reason the monks decided to hold on to their tradition and history and tried to keep as much as possible. There was also always a little rivalry with the other abbeys. Osbern (historic writer of Canterbury) wrote in his chronic that Dunstan would have been the first abbot of Glastonbury, which would mean that the abbey was not as old as they told it would be.2 So they monks wanted to give their monastery new and more prestige by the glory of its history, and so they instructed William of Malmesbury to write a chronic about the history of the monastery and the lives of the most important saints.

2.2 William of Malmesbury and the “De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie”

By way of compensation for the whole loss through the Norman conquest and the disastrous fire, the monks supported a new prestige for their abbey in any possible way. The most successful measure was already done before the fire: The monks instructed William of Malmesbury (1095-1143) to write a chronic of the abbey to prove its high age and to save the status of the institution.1 At this time, William of Malmesbury was already known as experienced historic writer and he was also interesting for the monks by his Norman and British origins, because he seemed to be a politically neutral observer. Later the monks were disappointed by him of being a bit to neutral. This we know today because he dedicated his work to Henry of Blois instead of the monks, who added some (in their opinion) missing parts later on their own (e.g. the Dunstan legend).2

The structure of the chronic started with an introduction, than there was the founding history followed of the whole history of the abbey, arranged from the first to the last abbot.

The original “De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie” does not exist any more, but there are five medieval copies, made between the 13th and the 14th century, describing the original work in a changed and added version.3

2.3 The legend of the prehistoric church “vetusta ecclesia”

“In the year of our Lord 63, St Philip, then preaching the word in France, sent twelve of his disciples into Britain […]. Their chief being, as it is reported, his dearest friend Joseph of Arimathea.”.4 When they arrived Glastonbury it was called Yniswitrin at that time. There they had a vision “by the Archangel Gabriel, to construct a church in honour of the Virgin Mary”.5 So they built a chapel with wood and plait straw, “misshapen in form but endowed abundantly with heavenly virtues.”6 These chapel was later known as the “vestusta ecclesia” (which is Latin for time-honoured church). After the death of all twelve disciples the place became unknown for many years.

[...]


1 Albrecht, Die Inszenierung der Vergangenheit im Mittelalter, 24.

2 Albrecht, Die Inszenierung der Vergangenheit im Mittelalter, 25.

3 Albrecht, Die Inszenierung der Vergangenheit im Mittelalter, 25.

4 Robert Willis, The architectural History of Glastonbury Abbey (Cambridge: Llanerch Enterprises, 1866) 2.

5 Willis, The architectural History of Glastonbury Abbey, 3.

6 Willis, The architectural History of Glastonbury Abbey, 3.

Excerpt out of 8 pages

Details

Title
The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey according to William of Malmesbury's De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie
College
Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Course
Die normannische Eroberung Englands (1066)
Grade
1,7
Year
2006
Pages
8
Catalog Number
V161740
ISBN (eBook)
9783640752713
ISBN (Book)
9783640752874
File size
414 KB
Language
English
Tags
William of Malmesbury, normannische Eroberung, vetusta ecclesia, De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie“, Glastonbury Abbey
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2006, The meaning of the vetusta ecclesia for the new prestige of Glastonbury Abbey according to William of Malmesbury's De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/161740

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