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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2000 year old tree, symbol of Christianity, cut down by vandals in U.K.

The rare thorn tree in Glastonbury, England, before it was vandalized .
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Christian Landmark Tree Cut Down In U.K.

Legend has it that the rare thorn tree on a hill in southern England had ties to the earliest days of Christianity, and pilgrims often left offerings at its base. In more recent times, local children honored its current incarnation each year by cutting sprigs to place on Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas dining table.

Now British police want to know who sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. And they want to know why.

Glastonbury, 125 miles west of London, is best known for its annual rock music festival, which has drawn artists such as Bruce Springsteen since the 1960s. Its mysterious landscape — including the Glastonbury Tor hill, which is believed by some to have magical qualities — has drawn pagan worshippers for many years.

Katherine Gorbing, the director of Glastonbury Abbey, said the tree originally came from the Middle East and is a type of thorn tree common in Lebanon as well as in Europe. It typically lives about 100 years, but Gorbing said locals have kept Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree going by taking grafts and clippings from it to plant new trees when the existing one neared the end of its natural life.

"It's a sacred tree," she said. "Not only for the Christian church, but for many other people."
The tree itself, located near the summit of Wearyall Hill, is visible from many parts of rural Somerset.

Local historians said the tree — or one of its ancestors — has been chopped down at least once before, by a soldier using an ax during the 1642-51 English Civil Wars.

Experts say the tree could recover in about 10 years if it was in good health at the time of the attack.
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