According to medieval legend, King Arthur perished fighting the Saxons at the Battle of Camlann. He was then taken to the mystical island of Avalon by his half-sister/alleged lover, Morgan Le Fay, where he would sleep until Britain needed him again. But Arthur got a rude awakening when a bunch of monks supposedly uncovered his resting place at Glastonbury.
Glastonbury had a centuries-old reputation as a place, perhaps even the mythical Avalon itself. So when a tomb advertising the bodies of Arthur and his queen, Guinevere, showed up there, it seemed like a no-brainer. After all, as the medieval chronicler Gerald of Wales noted, Arthur was "a splendid supporter of the renowned monastery of Glastonbury" in his own lifetime (*coughpseudohistorycough*).
As the story goes, during the twelfth-century reign of Henry II, a bard informed the king that Arthur was buried at Glastonbury, which the monarch told the abbot. In 1184, the abbey at Glastonbury was ravaged by fire; fundraising efforts didn't bring in enough dollars to rebuild, sadly. In 1190, the abbot ordered the graveyard at Glastonbury to be excavated, at which point Arthur and Guinevere's tomb was just so conveniently discovered sixteen feet under!
A modern sign placed at Arthur's gravesite. Image via Image via Dan, Mary Jane and Scotty Hyde/Bucknell.
The discovery was suitably mystical. Gerald wrote that Arthur's "body was discovered at Glastonbury, in our own times, hidden very deep in the earth in an oak-hollow, between two stone pyramids that were erected long ago in that holy place." To properly honor their country's most famous monarch, the monks brought the tomb into the church and found a cross under it; the crucifix read as follows, a bold proclamation: "Here lies entombed King Arthur, with Guenevere his second wife, on the Isle of Avalon." Arthur's bones were huge, indicating he must've been a giant of his age.
Apparently, as Gerald said, Guinevere's body was found in the tomb with Arthur's. She had her own third of the tomb, which included "a yellow lock of feminine hair, entirely intact and pristine in color, which a certain monk eagerly seized in hand and lifted out; immediately the whole thing crumbled to dust." Gwen and Arthur's remains were later reburied in a nice marble sarcophagus in 1278. Modern individuals reason that these claims were false, designed to draw pilgrims to Glastonbury and funds to the monks' coffers. In fact, the Glastonbury guys made a whole point of stressing their home abbey's ancient origins, including playing up alleged associations with Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea, in order to draw crowds.