Posted on

Was King Arthur a Church Father?

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention … Well, that’s not all I was doing. I also wanted to place Arthur correctly in history, if indeed he was an historical figure. The best and most influential of the legends of the Holy Grail were written down in the Middle Ages, and their authors decked them out with all the trappings of a medieval court — medieval customs, armor, weaponry, and so on. Hollywood has picked up on this, and most of the Arthur flicks have dressed him in the mail of the medievals.

But if Arthur was, once upon a time, a real-life British warlord, as at least one early history indicates he was, then he lived not in the thirteenth century but in the fifth. It was in the age of the Fathers that he “bore the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders” in battle. He was a contemporary of Benedict, not Aquinas. And his piety would have had a style more accurately called patristic than medieval.

What does all that have to do with the Holy Grail? More than Dan Brown or Monty Python would have you believe. Buy The Grail Code to find out. You’re invited, too, to find out on your own, by visiting and immersing yourself in one of the best and best-organized online libraries of Arthurian lore. As I say this, I bow to my co-author, Chris Bailey, from whom so many of these good gifts come.

8 thoughts on “Was King Arthur a Church Father?

  1. At least we did learn something from Monty Python…Never go to Camelot for it’s a silly place! ;-)

  2. My esteemed co-author often says that MP made the best of the Arthur movies.

  3. Just stopped by and wanted to note. Perhaps you should’ve mentioned the lates movie about Arthur – “King Arthur” – of only last year or so, which places him as accurately as possible historically – in the 5th century. And in the movie, he interracts with the Bishop Germanus (who ordained Patrick?) and in one exchange, mentions a friend of his by the name of Pelagius and his talk of freedom. Very interesting. Interesting portrayal of Roman Britain which was then being taken over by the Saxons – deals also with the leftover Celtic people who had not yet converted to Christianity. Interesting movie if not only for that. Pax vobiscum.

  4. Mike:
    Question:on continential Europe do we have any grail stories? I’m vaguely thinking of the Chason de Roland (I know it’s about Charlemange’s defaet of the arabs in 732 but I’m wondering if a quest story isn’t somehow intgreated) I don’t think Ramon Llull wrote any stories on the Grail.

  5. Oh yes. In fact, Don Quixote was familiar with all the King Arthur legends! They were quite popular in Spain and Italy, Germany and, of course, France. We touch on this in The Grail Code. The continental phenomenon is covered more extensively in Richard Barber’s book The Holy Grail : Imagination and Belief .

  6. If Alan liked KA, de gustibus. For my part, I want two hours of my life back.

    Historically, it’s an atrocity. To name but three howlers–(1) the Saxons landed in the south of Britain, not up by Hadrian’s Wall–hence the southern English regions of Wessex (West Saxons), Essex (East Saxons) and Sussex (South Saxons); (2) the Roman legions had abandoned Britain by 409 at the latest (the film has this happen around 500 and Rome itself had fallen by the time Arthur is mooning over it (476).

    Then there’s the matter of turning St. Germanus of Auxerre (a soldier, to be sure) into a corrupt politico. And Pelagius was not a proto-Jefferson preaching about equality, though I’ve pretty much given up on the ability of modern film to convey theological concepts accurately.

    Zero stars.

  7. Bummer. I’ve never actually seen an Arthur movie I really, really liked, though Excalibur had some great visual scenes.

  8. Mike:
    Thanks again. Hmm now that you mention it. I do vaguely remember an entremes in Tirant lo Blanc which featured King Arthur- dead and being transported by his sister (the way Martorell described her is quite vivid) Don Quijote- it,s been a while since I read it again. :)
    Guess I’ll have to but your book and the one you recommend.
    Thanks again


Comments are closed.