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Monks invented King Arthur’s grave in order to rake in mad medieval tourist cash

Monks invented King Arthur’s grave in order to rake in mad medieval tourist cash

File this fact about the legend of King Arthur under “strange but true.”

King Arthur started as a folk tale in the late 5th century—who may or may not have been based on a real-world Anglo-Saxon-beating warrior. Over the centuries, the legend evolved into a cultural touchstone with its own mythology. And by the late 12th century, the myth was compelling enough that medieval monks at Glastonbury Abbey used it for their own ends: to rake in tourist dollars.

There was a reason Glastonbury needed the money. Once upon the 7th century, the monastery was famed for its glassworks, where the monks melted down and remade stained glass. The glassworks and the land surrounding it became a wealthy tourist attraction in its own right. It had survived the Norman invasion of 1066. But it didn’t survive a fire in 1184, one that “destroyed nearly all the buildings and treasures that the monks had amassed, converting a famous attraction into a smoking ruin overnight,” according to Ars Technica.

Those monks were out of a monastery, but not out of ideas. 

Glastonbury monks spread word that they had “found” the skeletons of King Arthur and Guinevere—and had brought the bones to the new church grounds. That was enough for ye olde tourists. They flocked to the new church. 

Want more proof that “finding” the bones of the mythic Arthur and Gwen was a cash grab? According to Archeology magazine, when the monks rebuilt their church, they eschewed then-modern 12th century designs in favor of “antiquated and retrospective elements, apparently to deliberately feign antiquity.”

In other words, they aged the hell out of their monastery, to keep with the olde England theme. Back in the 12th century.

The monks of Glastonbury Abbey were far from the only ones to sell English mythos to the masses. You need only to look at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas to know that the more things change, the more they remain the same. 

Via Ars Technica.

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