Glastonbury Abbey, Arches of the North Aisle

Object Details


Glastonbury Abbey, Arches of the North Aisle


Roger Fenton (English, 1819 - 1869)




Glastonbury, England (Place created)




Albumen silver print


35.4 x 42.7 cm (13 15/16 x 16 13/16 in.)

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The French government's commissions to document and preserve their national historical monuments through photographs greatly impressed Roger Fenton. In the early 1850s he began to photograph England's historical and architectural splendors.

The Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary at Glastonbury was one of the oldest abbeys in England. The graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, the legendary rulers of post-Roman Britain, were allegedly discovered in the cemetery at Glastonbury, and their bones were reburied in the abbey church. After a disastrous fire and centuries of strife within the church, the monasteries at Glastonbury were dissolved and the abbey became a quarry, although some ruins, like the ones in this view, remained.

The ravages of time and the force of nature are evident. Fenton's photograph evokes the passage of time: the lush cascade of ivy spills over the remaining transept arch, devouring the ruins and metaphorically reclaiming what is left of the abbey for the past.

Roger Fenton: The Orientalist Suite (July 16, 1996 to October 6, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), July 16 to October 6, 1996
All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852 - 1860 (October 17, 2004 to January 2, 2006) (48)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), October 17, 2004 to January 2, 2005
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 1 to April 24, 2005
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 21, 2005
  • Tate Britain, (London), September 21, 2005 to January 2, 2006