The London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony – The Tree

The thorn tree on Wearyall Hill which had its branches cut off in 2010. Glastonbury Tor is in the background.

Picture and note from Wikipaedia

My favourite bit of the Opening Ceremony on Friday was the beginning, the rural scene. It showed a mound or hill with a tree on top. The mound was to represent Glastonbury Tor. I wrote about that yesterday. The tree represented the Glastonbury Thorn. The explanation follows:

Excerpt from Wikipaedia

‘The Glastonbury Thorn is a form of Common HawthornCrataegus monogyna ‘Biflora’[1] (sometimes incorrectly called Crataegus oxyacantha var. praecox), found in and around GlastonburySomerset, England. Unlike ordinary hawthorn trees, it flowers twice a year (hence the name “biflora”), the first time in winter and the second time in spring. The trees in the Glastonbury area have been propagated by grafting since ancient times.[1]

It is associated with legends about Joseph of Arimathea and the arrival of Christianity in Britain, and has appeared in written texts since the medieval period. A flowering sprig is sent to the British Monarch every Christmas. The original tree has been propagated several times, with one tree growing at Glastonbury Abbey and another in the churchyard of the Church of St John. The “original” Glastonbury Thorn was cut down and burned as a relic of superstition during the English Civil War, and one planted on Wearyall Hill in 1951 to replace it had its branches cut off in 2010.’


William of Malmesbury mentions Joseph’s going to Britain in one passage of his Chronicle of the English Kings, written in the 1120s. He says Philip the Apostle sent twelve Christians to Britain, one of whom was his dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea. William does not mention Joseph by name again, but he mentions the twelve evangelists generally. He claims that Glastonbury Abbeywas founded by them; Glastonbury would be associated specifically with Joseph in later literature. Cardinal Caesar Baronius,[13] the Vatican Librarian and historian (d. 1609), recorded this voyage by Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Marcella and others in his Annales Ecclesiatici, volume 1, section 35.

The accretion of legends around Joseph of Arimathea in Britain, encapsulated by the poem hymn of William Blake And did those feet in ancient time held as “an almost secret yet passionately held article of faith among certain otherwise quite orthodox Christians”, was critically examined by A. W. Smith in 1989.[14] In its most developed version, Joseph, a tin merchant, visited Cornwall, accompanied by his nephew, the boy Jesus. C.C. Dobson made a case for the authenticity of the Glastonbury legenda.[15]


Unfortunately in 2010, the tree was vandalised. Here is the report:

Excerpt from an article in the Daily Mail Newspaper December 2010.

‘Standing proudly on the side of an English hill, its religious roots go back 2,000 years. But a single night of vandalism has left an ancient site of pilgrimage in splinters.

The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury has been chopped down in what is being seen by some as a deliberately anti-Christian act.’

Read more:

What was your favourite part of the Opening Ceremony?


5 thoughts on “The London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony – The Tree

  1. To be honest, I didn’t see the whole opening. And I didn’t understand about the significance of the tree. Then our local TV started running political ads and such .. which I thought very inappropriate. You have presented a wonderful history lesson today. Hopefully, I can watch it again without all the distracting ads 🙂

    • Thank you. I’m glad it was worth my effort if someone enjoyed it. I am in England right now and my husband is in Tennessee (he’s American) so I asked him what bits of the ceremony he understood and which he didn’t and then decided to clarify some of it. He said there was an American commentator and he/she didn’t explain everything. I will be doing one or two more posts on it because I wanted those people who are interested to get the most out of it. We were lucky enough to watch it on the BBC over here so no adverts. thank goodness.
      I hope you enjoy the sporting events.
      We, here in England, just one a silver medal for the women’s cycling so I am feeling very happy this afternoon 🙂

  2. Yes, Star, I really need YOU to explain what the whole thing was about. it was pretty much lost on me… but you will fill in the details so I’ll understand it better. Thanks!

  3. I liked Mr Bean playing with the London Symphony Orchestra – thought it was well done. But I didn’t get to see the entire Opening Ceremony, so I may have missed many amazing things
    Thank you for explaining the tree – I didn’t quite get the significance of it at the time 🙂

  4. Pingback: London Olympic Opening Ceremonies Features Trees? » The Tree Geek

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s