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Seminar on Glastonbury Abbey – a great success

IMG_7167 Fuse

On 2 February Abba Seraphim chaired a well attended day seminar on “Glastonbury Abbey – Influence and Legacy” organised by the British Orthodox Church. It was held at the Abbey House in Glastonbury, across the lawns of which the impressive ruins of the mediaeval abbey stand. It was a crisp and sunny day and both the abbey and the town were bathed in sunlight.  It was universally agreed that all four lectures were both informative and engaging and during the intervals in the proceedings, there was a relaxed and sociable interchange between lecturers and ‘seminarians’.

Dr. Cheryl Green opened proceedings by talking about the Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project, which has been analysing and reinterpreting the records of previous excavations made between 1908-1979. Her enthusiasm was matched by her helpful plans and matching slides as she explained some of the exciting discoveries and possibilities opened up by the project. Professor Michelle Brown, who engaged her audience with her brilliant knowledge and command of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, showed how the wider cultural context impinged on Glastonbury Abbey and introduced documents known to have emanated or been kept at the Abbey before its Dissolution. Dr. Tim Hopkinson-Ball, whose previous studies on Glastonbury have dealt with its more recent history, showed a facile command of its mediaeval history and concentrated on the pre-eminence of the Marian cultus at Glastonbury.  Dr. Adam Stout, who has previously dealt with Glastonbury’s little known 18th century history traced the development of the traditions concerning St. Joseph of Arimathea and how they were used as religious propaganda by both Catholic and Protestants. The last two speakers have both made notable contributions and original research to much neglected aspects of Glastonbury’s rich history.


It is hoped to publish some of the papers in the Glastonbury Review.

Among British Orthodox clergy present were Father Simon Smyth, Father Martin Lee (Sidmouth) and Deacon John Stuart (Exeter).

Following the conclusion of the seminar, Father Thomas Cook, a priest of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, led Vespers at St. Margaret’s Church in Glastonbury.

Glastonbury Abbey – Influence and Legacy

Glastonbury Abbey – Influence and Legacy

A seminar at

Abbey House, Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury

Saturday 2 February 2013, 10 am – 4.30 pm.

 The last few years have been and exciting time for Glastonbury archaeology and history, with the rediscovery and reinterpretation of material from historic excavations, new surveys of the Abbey grounds and architectural remains, and the exploration of new directions in historical understanding. Here a group of distinguished scholars at the cutting edge of Glastonbury research present an overview of the Abbey’s role in national life from its shadowy beginnings to the dawn of the Romantic era.

Registration: £15, payable by cheque to ‘British Orthodox Church’

BOC Secretariat, 10 HeathwoodGardens, Charlton, London, SE7 8EP


Welcome and Introduction: H.E. Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury. 

New archaeological perspectives from the Historic Excavations of Glastonbury Abbey

Dr. Cheryl Green

The Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project is analysing, reinterpreting and making available the entire unpublished archaeological archive from the excavations conducted between 1908 and 1979. The paper outlines the historic excavations and the scope of this project before introducing some of the new discoveries and re-evaluations in relation to the mid- to late Saxon period.




Glastonbury‘s Role in Late Saxon England

Prof. Michelle Brown

Michelle P. Brown, Professor Emerita, University of London, and former Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library will speak about Glastonbury Abbey in the Anglo-Saxon period and its contribution towards the material culture of the reform movement of the tenth century.


Sandwich Lunch


IESVS: MARIA: The Late Medieval Cultus of the Virgin at Glastonbury.                                                                           

Dr. Tim Hopkinson Ball

Through the story of its foundation, a church explained its existence and proclaimed its sanctity, both to itself and to the wider world. This paper explores the Virgin’s centrality to Glastonbury’s self identity in the high Middle Ages, especially in relation to lived spirituality at the abbey and the monastery’s putative founder, St Joseph of Arimathea.


Afternoon Tea


After Arimathea

Dr. Adam Stout

Joseph of Arimathea, lionised as a proto-Protestant in Elizabethan England, was consequently put firmly in his place by Catholics keen to assert the primacy of Rome. Adam Stout looks at how the political and religious changes of the next century or so saw this potent figure re-adopted by the Catholic cause amid Jacobite claims to speak for the whole nation

Summary: Paul Ashdown.


Britain and the Early Church

Abba Seraphim was among a number of distinguished speakers at a day conference entitled, “Britain and the Early Church. Exploring the origins of British Christianity”, presented under the auspices of the Fellowship of Saint Alban & St. Sergius. The lectures were held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton in 14 July. A number of Orthodox jurisdictions were represented: Father Chrysostom MacDonnell (Antiochian Orthodox Deanery) spoke on “After the Romans Left”, tracing the cultural and religious growth of the Insular Church; Father John Nankivell (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira) led a discussion exposing the ‘myth’ of Celtic Christianity whilst Father Andrew Phillips (Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia) gave an extensive historical overview in  “The Saints of the Isles and the Isles of the Saints.” Academic contributions were made by Professor Paul Cavill of the University of Nottingham, who spoke on the “Veneration of the Cross in England” from its Constantinian origins; whilst Professor Michelle Brown of the University of London highlighted many exciting discoveries about cross-cultural links from ancient manuscripts. Abba Seraphim concluded with a talk, “Alter Orbis: British Christianity & the Roman Imperium.”  In his welcome to those attending, Father Stephen Platt, General Secretary of the Fellowship, commended Angelos Stanway, who had planned and organised the day single-handedly.  Members of the British Orthodox Parish at Portsmouth and Southampton Mission showed their support by attending.

Medieval Manuscripts – Inaugural Lecture

On 22 June 2010 Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Trevor Maskery, joined a packed audience at London University’s Senate House to hear Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies, deliver her inaugural lecture on “Manuscripts from Anglo-Saxon Mercia: the Staffordshire hoard, other recent finds and the ‘new materiality’ in book history”. The lecture’s unwieldy title represented the range of resources (archaeology, stone carving, ancient metalwork as well as manuscripts) which historians now have at their disposal, but with Professor Brown as a dextereous and entertaining guide, the lecture was engaging and instructive. The previously “lost” kingdom of Mercia, whose pagan kings slaughtered their Christian neighbours, now appears to have been the source of many fine manuscripts and to have been been subject to cultural influences from both Europe and the East.

Professor Brown is a respected authority on the early Christian history of Britain and shares her specialist knowledge and enthusiasm generously. Her book, “How Christianity came to Britain and Ireland” (2006) is one of the best introductions to the subject. As a close neighbour to Abba Seraphim, ongoing discussion and debate on these topics have been both edifying and congenial.  Pictured with Abba Seraphim and Professor Brown at the lecture is Canon David Abraham from the Fursey Pilgrims, an ecumenical group dedicated to the study of the life and times of St. Fursey.

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