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10 things you may not know about the Glastonbury Holy Thorn

Glastonbury Abbey's famous Holy Thorn has been shortlisted in the Tree of the Year contest.

While the votes are being cast, here are ten things you might now know about this famous flowerer:

  • The Holy Thorn spends Christmas with the Queen - the custom of sending a cutting to decorate the Royal festive table dates back to the 17th century
  • It bears flowers and berries at the same time - unlike ordinary hawthorn trees, it flowers at Christmas time as well as in the spring
The tree flowers twice a year, at Easter and Christmas
  • The belief that the Glastonbury Holy Thorn blossomed on Christmas Day created great stress in 1753, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted to bring Britain into line with Europe and eleven days were dropped from the month of September:

A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual.

– Gentleman's Magazine, 1752
  • It is associated with legends about Joseph of Arimathea and the arrival of Christianity in Britain
  • The "original" Glastonbury Thorn was cut down and burned as a relic of superstition during the English Civil War.
  • Legend has it that as the thorn was cut down, its thorns blinded the axe man in one eye
One was planted on Wearyall Hill in 1951 to replace the tree burned in the 17th century Credit: ITV News
  • Since then, the tree has been vandalised multiple times
  • The original tree has been propagated a few times, with one tree growing at Glastonbury Abbey and another at the Church of St John
  • In 1965, the Queen erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with the following inscription:

The cross, the symbol of our faith, the gift of Queen Elizabeth II, marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its origin

– Inscription


Holy Thorn in the running for Tree of the Year

The Holy Thorn in Glastonbury Credit: ITV News

The Glastonbury Holy Thorn is one of ten trees shortlisted to be England's tree of the year.

In an annual ceremony the holy thorn is cut from the tree at Glastonbury Abbey and given to the Queen.

The public will vote on the final ten - which the Woodland Trust has whittled down from 200 nominations.

To see all the shortlists and vote for your favourite tree click here.

Cutting a sprig from the Holy Thorn for the royal Christmas table Credit: ITV News
  1. Eli-Louise Wringe

Holy Thorn sent to the Queen

It's a tradition which dates back hundreds of years - school children and church leaders turned out in Glastonbury for the annual cutting of the Holy Thorn. A sprig from the tree- which flowers twice a year- is sent to the Queen. It plays an important part in Royal festivities.