Devastated locals were preparing to stump up a cash reward today to catch those responsible for destroying one of the most sacred sites in Britain.
Cruel vandals felled the Holy Thorn Tree, which can trace its roots back 2,000 years to the death of jesus, in Glastonbury, Somerset on Wednesday night (8/12).
The tree is claimed to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, who prepared the burial tomb for jesus after lifting him off the cross.
Stunned members of the community were reduced to tears after branches of the shrub were hacked off and dumped around the base of its trunk.
Now it has emerged they are preparing a fighting fund in a bid to name and shame those responsible.
Locals were also placed on high alert over the other three sacred holy thorn trees in the town – taking it in turns to keep watch over the landmarks.
Glastonbury Town Mayor John Coles, 66, said: ”I have just come up from the town and everybody is asking me about it – they are all very sad.
”I have heard an unconfirmed sighting of a group of people dragging something along the hill at about 10.30pm at night, but we are not yet sure who is responsible.
”I have also had locals telling me they are collecting a cash reward to try and find whoever did this.
”I’m sure more people will come forward with more money to try and name and shame them.
”We hope it will loosen tongues in the area.”
Rev David MacGeoch, from St John’s Church in Glastonbury, said his parishioners were keeping an eye on the two Holy Thorn trees in its yard.
He said: ”We have told everyone to be vigilant. Our trees are quite well protected anyway but we are making sure there are people around to keep an eye on them.
”The police have been patrolling around the grounds.too.”
Experts had verified that the felled tree – known as the Crategus Monogyna Bi Flora – originated from the Middle East.
Christian legend dictates that Jesus’s great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, came to Britain after the crucifixion 2,000 years ago bearing the Holy Grail – the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.
He visited Glastonbury and thrust his staff into Wearyall Hill, just below the Tor, planting a seed for the original thorn tree.
Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads felled the tree during the English Civil War, when Parliament waged a vicious battle against the Crown.
However, locals salvaged the roots of the original tree, hiding it in secret locations around Glastonbury.
It was then replanted on the hill in 1951. Other cuttings were also grown and placed around the town – including its famous Glastonbury Abbey.
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they were still investigating the axed tree today and had made no arrests.