Vandals Kill 'Holy' Tree Supposedly Grown from Joseph of Arimathea's Staff

glastonbury thorn photo

Image credit: Jez Cope, used under Creative Commons license.

From illegal tree killings to boost real estate values, to Berkeley tree protesters' controversial actions, chopping down even one tree can stir up a lot of anger. But when that tree is also a religious icon that is said to have grown from a staff belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, and maybe even Jesus himself, you can be sure that folks will be upset. And that's just what has happened in Glastonbury, England, where vandals have chopped down the famous Glastonbury Thorn. Maev Kennedy over at The Guardian reports that the Glastonbury Thorn was chopped down on the 8th of December—the day that each year a sprig is cut from a tree in a nearby churchyard grown from a cutting from the thorn, and sent to the Queen to decorate her Christmas dinner table. (Photos of the felled Glastonbury Thorn can be seen at Glastonbury Online.)

The Glastonbury Thorn itself was located on a remote hillside on the edges of the town, where according to legend it had flowered every Christmas day for 2,000 years, since Joseph of Arimathea thrust the staff he brought from the Holy Land into the soil and it supposedly broke into blossom.

While the legend may seem somewhat unlikely, there is no doubt that this was a profoundly important religious and spiritual symbol for many people, and a historically significant tree too, as Kennedy explains:

"It is not the first time the tree has been targeted, but thorn trees are famously resilient. In the middle ages, like the abbey below believed to hold the graves of King Arthur and Guinevere, it became a major pilgrimage site - and therefore was regarded as an object of Romish superstition in the religious turmoil in which the last abbot of Glastonbury was hanged in 1539 on top of Tor Hill. It was felled by Parliamentarians during the civil war, but regrown from cuttings saved by townspeople."

The police are appealing for witnesses to the crime. Meanwhile it seems certain that the tree will be replanted, as cuttings from the Glastonbury Thorn thrive in gardens and churchyards across the town,

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