Gerald of Wales: The Discovery of the Tomb of King Arthur

Gerald of Wales was a respected Welsh historian and chronicler. He wrote of the discovery of the tomb of King Arthur. The tomb, it is argued, is at Glastonbury Abbey. Gerald’s writing on the subject has fuelled the legend of King Arthur. The tomb was discovered late in the 12th century and it is claimed to be the burial place of Arthur and Guinevere. 

Site of King Arthur's Tomb at Glastonbury
Site of King Arthur’s Tomb at Glastonbury. Tom Ordelman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Now the body of King Arthur… was found in our own days at Glastonbury, deep down in the earth and encoffined in a hollow oak between two stone pyramids… two parts of the tomb, to wit, the head, were allotted to the bones of the man, while the remaining third… contained the bones of a woman…

there was found a yellow tress of woman’s hair still retaining its colour and freshness; but when a certain monk snatched it and lifted it with greedy hand, it straightaway all of it fell into dust…

the bones of Arthur…were so huge that his shank-bone when placed against the tallest man in the place, reached a good three inches above his knee…the eye-socket was a good palm in width…there were ten wounds or more, all of which were scarred over, save one larger than the rest, which had made a great hole

Eyewitness account as recorded by Gerald of Wales. Translation hosted on the University of Reading website.

Translations of Gerald of Wales’ account of the discovery of the tomb of King Arthur are subject to copyright. As a result, a full copy of the text cannot be added here. The links below provide access to more extensive versions. Some articles on the subject are also included to provide context and further information.

Fordham Medieval Sourcebook – The Internet History Sourcebook project hosts a copy of Gerald of Wales’ account.

The Camelot Project. A Robbins Library Digital Project. Translation of the text.

Medievalists.net – The Discovery of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury Abbey.

Speculum Journal of Mediaeval Studies (1934) – The Exhumation of King Arthur at Glastonbury. Though an old article, this has some interesting points in it. Particularly useful in identifying the propaganda surrounding such an event, which took place in 1191.

The University of British Columbia – King Arthur in History. An excellent resource for developing subject knowledge on King Arthur.

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