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35 34 The FALL OF The Abbey the great divorce By the start of the 16th century Glastonbury Abbey had become a power to be reckoned with and among the wealthiest of Britain s 800 monasteries. When, in 1529, Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, his petition was denied by the Pope. three years later a new Archbishop of canterbury, cranmer, declared Henry s marriage to catherine invalid and Anne was quickly crowned queen. this led to excommunication by the Pope. In response the Act of supremacy was passed by Parliament, declaring Henry supreme head of a new church of england, breaking with Rome. Most of the abbots and monks, including Richard Whiting, the incumbent Abbot of Glastonbury, took the oath to the King upholding the new Act. But Henry did not stop there. During the next seven years over 10,000 monks and nuns were driven out of their monasteries and the buildings seized by the crown to fill Henry s depleted coffers. Among the last to suffer this enforced dissolution was Glastonbury. the fate of Richard Whiting was particularly savage. In 1539 he was arrested and found guilty of various trumped up charges, such as stealing and concealing the abbey s treasures. He was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. on november 15th he was dragged up the tor bound to a hurdle, and executed beside st Michael s church with two of his monks. Later he was cut down and dismembered, his head being stuck on a pike and displayed at the abbey gateway and his limbs exhibited in Bath, Wells, Ilchester and Bridgwater. Above The Prospect of Glastonbury Abbey as drawn by William Stukeley in 1723. Below A view of the Joseph Chapel, looking east, from Frederick Ross s 1882 book Ruined Abbeys .
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