Legends of the part played by Joseph of Arimathea in the conversion of Britain are closely connected with Glastonbury, the monks of which foundation showed, in the 12th century, considerable literary activity, and it seems a by no means improbable hypothesis that the present form of the Grail legend may be due to a monk of Glastonbury elaborating ideas borrowed from Fecamp. This much is certain, that between the Saint-Sang of Fecamp, the Volto Santo of Lucca, and the Grail tradition, there exists a connecting link, the precise nature of which has yet to be determined.
The Eastern Division, lying to the east of the zone of New Red Sandstone, may be defined on the west by a slightly curved line drawn from the estuary of the Tees through Leicester and Stratford-on-Avon to the estuary of the Severn, and thence through Glastonbury to Sidmouth.
The abbey obtained charters in the 7th century, but the town received its first charter from Henry II., who exempted the men of Glastonbury from the jurisdiction of royal officials and freed them from certain tolls.
As personal dependents of the lord native villeins were liable to be sold, and we find actual sales recorded: Glastonbury Abbey e.g.
According to the legends which grew up under the care of the monks, the first church of Glastonbury was a little wattled building erected by Joseph of Arimathea as the leader of the twelve apostles sent over to Britain from Gaul by St Philip. About a hundred years later, according to the same authorities, the two missionaries, Phaganus and Deruvianus, who came to king Lucius from Pope Eleutherius, established a fraternity of anchorites on the spot, and after three hundred years more St Patrick introduced among them a regular monastic life.
From the decadent state into which Glastonbury was brought by the Danish invasions it was recovered by Dunstan, who had been educated within its walls and was appointed its abbot about 946.
The town lies in the midst of orchards and water-meadows, reclaimed from the fens which encircled Glastonbury Tor, a conical height once an island, but now, with the surrounding flats, a peninsula washed on three sides by the river Brue.