Dion Fortune, inspired by energies of Glastonbury and psychic communication with the Company of Avalon, acquired a plot of land that was once part of an old orchard at the foot of the Tor, and set about forming a spiritual community. In 1924 a cluster of huts were erected, and Chalice Orchard, as she named it, came into being, serving both as a pilgrimage centre or “hostel for Avalonians,” and a sanctuary for meditation and ritual work. Here she gathered a small group, the Community of the Inner Light, which was to develop into one of the most influential magical orders of the 20th century, and is still in existence today under the name of the Society of the Inner Light.
In 1987, Helene Koppejan purchased 8 Market Place to add to her other properties in the Glastonbury Experience (GE). This property, located in the rear courtyard of the GE, consisted of two shops in Market Place, the rooms above and two rooms behind including the rooms above them. One of the rooms in the back courtyard was a kitchen but the other was an attractive stone walled space with an ancient fireplace. This was offered, at no rent, to a new group of volunteers who established The Bridget Chapel - a non-denominational space open to all and used for quiet contemplation. As is so often the case in Glastonbury, the original enthusiasm began to die down and eventually, whilst the chapel was kept open, for much of the time there were no volunteers present. It gradually became a hang-out’ for travellers, cannabis smokers and indifferent music makers; this became unacceptable to the other shopkeepers in the GE and the chapel was closed. It is now home to the Library of Avalon and Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre.
A Purpose Built Space
One of the ideas that emerged was that; ‘There should be a place where people could be on their own in silence or share in spiritual practices with others. This place could be a building or an open space. It would be open to people of all beliefs and faiths. Ideally this place would be in the Abbey Grounds to honour the energies that are present there’
In 1994, the idea of a space, open to all, began to take a more coherent shape and Barry and Kathy shared a number of sessions where they received strong guidance about the shape and setting of a new building be called the Temple of Avalon. These sessions were later published as ‘Glimpses though the Veil’.
From these meetings various ideas took shape. A group was formed to take the plan forward and in 1996, Professor Keith Critchlow was retained to produce drawings for the new building. By now the building was being called the Sanctuary.
In due course drawings were produced. These were for a circular building with seven chapels leading off the large central domed area. There would be a crypt and modern sustainable materials would be used throughout. The vision was that the building would be set amongst trees and gardens in the Abbey grounds. The proposed site was obviously contentious, as the Abbey Trustees had not been consulted.
Barry Taylor writes “One rather amusing bit of synchronicity occurred around this time. We had dowsed the site of the Sanctuary which appeared to be in an open space between two large trees in the South East corner of the Abbey grounds. Having satisfied ourselves that this was the place, we were amazed when, very shortly afterwards, large diggers moved in to start excavating what is now the duck pond on the exact site of our proposed Sanctuary. The pond was eventually dug to a considerable depth necessitated by the slightly sloping ground. We could not help smiling at the thought that our ideas might have created the duck pond as a reaction.” .
Quite a lot of enthusiasm was generated for the Sanctuary and an energetic group continued for some time. Eventually, in an all too familiar Glastonbury fashion, the originating group disagreed about the underlying principles of the Sanctuary and the project was shelved.
The New Millenium - Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre and Sanctuary
Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre first opened in 2007. Since it began, the interfaith work amongst the more seventy -plus spiritual paths upheld in Glastonbury began to make a real difference within the town. The concept of providing an indoor sacred space, not affiliated to any one belief, became a reality in 2014 with the development of the Sanctuary at 10B High Street.
The Centre’s ethos of “Unity through Diversity” underlined their vision and the main room of the Centre was transformed into a neutral and nurturing space allowing Glastonbury residents, pilgrims and visitors to share their experiences and learn about different beliefs.
Despite a wide support network, from all around the world, funding was an ongoing issue leading to the Centre, and the Sanctuary, having to vacate its premises at the end of September 2015. The team feel confident they will be able to find alternative options for presenting their pilgrim and visitor support. The creation of a new Sanctuary space is however more challenging but they hold onto the concept and feel that during the time of the Sanctuary serving Glastonbury, the concept has been grounded into a reality and the team at Glaston Centre will continue to focus and fund raise for a new Sanctuary in the future.
- A Pilgrim in Glastonbury – 2010 – Abbey Press – ISBN 0-9533203-6-7