Callous vandals have destroyed one of the most celebrated Christian pilgrimage sites in Britain and chopped down a tree that can trace its roots back 2,000 years to the death of Jesus. The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, Somerset, is claimed to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, who prepared the burial tomb for Jesus after lifting him off the cross. Thousands visit the site near Glastonbury Tor to pay homage and leave tokens of worship – but many were left in tears on Thursday after finding the tree cut to a stump.
The sacred tree is unique in that it blossoms twice a year – at Christmas and Easter – and sprigs taken from the thorn are sent to The Queen each year for the festive table. Vandals had hacked off the branches of the iconic tree, leaving just part of the trunk remaining – and dumped the remains of its proud thorns on the ground. Police believe religious fanatics may have deliberately targeted the holy site - visited by thousands of pilgrims each year – overnight.
Locals wept openly at the foot of the historic tree, on the town’s Wearyall Hill opposite its world-famous Tor, as they struggled to contain their emotion. Katherine Gorbing, curator of Glastonbury Abbey, said: ”The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity. It holds a very special significance all over the world and thousands follow in the footsteps of Joseph Arimathea, coming especially to see it.
”It is the most significant of all the trees planted here and can be linked back to the origins of Christianity. When I arrived at the Abbey this morning you could look over to the hill and see it was not there. It’s a great shock to everyone in Glastonbury – the landscape of the town has changed overnight.”