Glastonbury Tor is a large hill located in Glastonbury, Somerset, England, with a roofless St. Michael's Tower on its summit. Tor is a local word of Celtic origin meaning 'rock outcropping' or 'hill'. The Glastonbury Tor has a striking location in the middle of a plain called the Summerland Meadows, part of the Somerset Levels. The plain is actually reclaimed fenland out of which the Tor once rose like an island, but now, with the surrounding flats, is a peninsula washed on three sides by the River Brue.
In early-medieval times there was a small monks' retreat on top of the Tor, founded probably in the time of St Patrick in the mid-400s. This was followed in the early 1100s by a chapel, St Michael de Torre. This was destroyed in a powerful earthquake in 1275 and rebuilt in the early 1300s. The tower is all that remains today.
There are many myths and legends associated with the Tor. It has been linked to Avalon and also with King Arthur, since the alleged discovery of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's neatly labeled coffins in 1191. With the 19th-century resurgence of interest in Celtic mythology, the Tor became associated with Gwyn ap Nudd, who was first Lord of the Underworld, and later King of the Fairies. The Tor came to be represented as an entrance to Annwn or Avalon, the land of the fairies.
A persistent myth of more modern origin is that of the Glastonbury Zodiac, an astrological zodiac of gargantuan proportions said to have been carved into the land along ancient hedgerows and trackways. The theory was first put forward in 1927 by Katherine Maltwood, an artist with an interest in the occult, who thought the zodiac was constructed approximately 5,000 years ago. However, the vast majority of the land said to be covered by the zodiac was under several feet of water at the proposed time of its construction.
The Tor is now owned and cared for by the National Trust and there is free access to the public at all times.
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