Perlesvaus and Graal romance
We have up to this point seen the way that Glastonbury was suddenly made prosperous after the arrival of Henry of Blois otherwise known as Monseigneur Blois (1101–1171), who became Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey from 1126. If we are correct in assuming that he is our Master Blihis that knew all about the stories of the Graal, then we must assume that the author referenced in the last chapter of the High History is copying the work of Henry of Blois and this is borne out by the copyist;
’For the Lord of Neele made the Lord of Cambrein this book be written, that never before this was treated in Romance but one single time besides this (this is the copy that Master Blihis put together, Perlesvaus) and the book that was made before that is so ancient that only with great pains may one make out the letter (this is the original copy in Latin that Melkin brought to France).And let Messire Johan de Neele well understand that he ought to hold this story dear, nor ought he to tell nought thereof to misunderstanding folk, for a good thing that is spread amongst bad people is never recorded faithfully'.
The Messire Johan, Seingnor of Neele, can only be ‘John de Nesle’ who was present at the battle of Bouvines in 1214. This ‘Seingnor of Neele’ can be found in Migne, Dictionnaire des Abbayes et Monastères, and the reference relates to the founding of the Abbaye aux Bois, near Nesle, in 1202 (or 1200) by‘Jean,seigneur de Neele, chatelain de Bouges (Bruges) et Eustachie de St.Paul (Pol), sa femme.’ Their marriage is also later confirmed, so we are referencing the same person.
This is written after the discovery of Arthur at Glastonbury and 30 years after the Glastonbury fire, but this is a copy of Henry’s ‘Perlesvaux’ written earlier around 1150. There are certain bits in the ‘high history’ that may have been used by Henry to convince people that Glastonbury was Avalon, even before the great necessity to do so after the fire by the subsequent Glastonbury polemicists. However he stuck to the story which for the most part revolves around a Chapel on a tidal Island near a valley and a river. Hardly an exact description of Glastonbury tor.
We must not forget that William of Malmesbury did not know where Avalon was, but if anyone could get away with this transformation, (or even later find it convenient to promote such a position), it would be the one person who knew all the tales of the Graal. Although Henry never directly sets out to say that Glastonbury is Avalon and can be seen to recount the tales of King Arthur and the Grail Keepers faithfully from Melkin’s text and previous oral accounts from troubadours, there are certain ways of persuading others, if one does not attentively take into account, the geographical descriptions in the Branches of the High History.
After all, to title the entire work Perlesvaus or‘through the vales’ indicates that all the stories in the Branches, take place in a certain region and revolve around geographical descriptions that apply to a kingdom specifically located by the title of the book; especially with the main protagonist called 'Perceval' (through this Valley). Some commentators have thought that a French version before Henry compiled his, might have been from a mistranslation of Pellesvaus or the vales of King Pelles the sometimes fisher king.
'You have the name of Perceval on this account, that tofore you were born, he (the lord of the moors)had begun to reave your father of the Valleys of Camelot, for your father was an old knight.
"Sir," saith she, "He was the son of Alain li Gros of the Valleys of Camelot, and is named Perlesvax."
"Wherefore Perlesvax?" saith the King.
"Sir," saith she, "When he was born, his father was asked how he should be named in right baptism, and he said that he would he should have the name Perlesvax, for the Lord of the Moors had reft him of the greater part of the Valleys of Camelot.'
The original story teller lets us know that by right of baptism his name is derived from his inheritance 'from among these valleys'. through Troubadour distortion this later account gets confused often, when the storyteller recounts about islands of the moors unless he is referring to Dartmoor tors. However the gist is that the Lord of the Moors seems to have overtaken some of the remenant of the Holy families lands in the time of Perceval, but the land that his father is giving him the title to (in name) is the land that stretches across or throughout the valleys (Perlesvaux).
As we posited earlier, Joseph could have owned the Island and there are accounts of Arviragus giving him it, but this may be of later fabrication or an incidental confirmation. We must not forget that Joseph must have been incredibly wealthy being a trader in a commodity that was so sought after in the Roman world and he had known where to source this material......operating a monopolistic enteprise to the Eastern mediterranean. If the Romans had known where Ictis was located, Pliny would have let us know. As we shall cover at the end of this investigation it is this Island that is mentioned in a charter as being accompanied by fisheries and Castles known as an area called Venn, (or Vales).
However, the worst misdirection that scholars have come up with is derived purely from the assumption that the Grail stories and the Perlesvaus in particular, have absolutely no historical basis and are thought of as poems or prose of a didactic nature. This can be seen here in an extract from Nitze:
'The Perlesvaus belongs to the second group and owes its origin to the religious dissentions in England between the Saxons, converts to Roman Christianity, and the Britons, adherents of the heretic Irish Church. The Grail and the Lance, we are told, were originally the national emblems of the Britons. As such they were cherished even after the Britons had accepted Christianity from the Irish. Finally, through the influence of St. Augustine and his followers, they were identified with Christian relics (those of Calvary), and thus they became symbols of the Church. In the Perlesvaus, they are the special insignia of the true faith and the bone of contention between Saxon and British Christians. The theme of the romance is clearly indicated in the words : 'effacer la mauvaise hi et exhausser la loi nouvelle' ; Perceval is the champion of the true faith, and his mission is to overcome and convert the infidels ; viz, the heretic Britons.'
James Carley, however, (without whom, much of the research on Glastonbury material would be unavailable), has formed the sceptical opinion that the Melkin prophecy is probably a fabrication and others have followed like Subdeacon Paul Ashdown ……'the enigmatic ‘Prophecy of Melkin’, included in the Chronica of the monk John ‘of Glastonbury’ (John Sheen) of 1342, which built upon the work of William of Malmesbury and Adam of Domerham. The previously unheard-of character of Melkin, who was ‘before Merlin,’ is presented in the same vaticinatory pseudo-Welsh tradition as the Arthurian seer (Merlin) as imagined by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the Latin is therefore deliberately cryptic. Here we read for the first time of the burial of Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, in a hidden tomb which will be revealed at a millennial future time before the Day of Judgement. He lies (as I have argued elsewhere ) in a folded linen shroud, probably to be identified with that of Christ, and with two vessels containing (presumably one of each) Christ’s blood and sweat’.
Yet translates the Prophecy:
The Isle of Avalon, avid before others in the world for the death of pagans, decorated at the sepulchre of them all with vaticinatory little spheres of prophecy, and in future it will be adorned with those who praise the Most High. Abbadare, powerful in Saphat, noblest of pagans, took his sleep there with 104,000. Among them Joseph named ‘of Arimathea’, took perpetual sleep in [a] marble [tomb]. And he lies in a doubled linen [cloth] by the southern corner of the oratory fashioned of wattles, above the powerful adorable Virgin, the aforesaid thirteen sphered [things] inhabiting the place. For Joseph has with him in the sarcophagus two white and silver vessels filled with the blood and sweat of the prophet Jesus. When his sarcophagus is found, it will be seen whole and undefiled in the future, and will be open to all the orb of the earth. From then on, neither water nor heavenly dew will can be lacking for those who inhabit the most noble island. For a long time before the Day of Judgement in Josaphat these things will be open and declared to the living.
It goes on to say: This rigmarole may well incorporate older elements but, in the form in which we have it, is datable to the aftermath of Edward I’s visit through the inclusion of the figure of Abbadare. As first suggested in 1981 by James Carley, he is to be identified with Baybars (in Arabic al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baybars al-Bunduqdari), Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Edward’s formidable adversary during the Ninth Crusade, who had captured the fortress of Safed, Melkin’s ‘Saphat,’ (and with it the Galilee) from the Templars in 1266, and died of poisoning in July 1277, in the year before Edward’s visit to Glastonbury. I have argued elsewhere that Melkin’s reference originated in some satirical lay which had consigned the deceased Baybars and his paladins to one of the alternative Mediterranean, Oriental or Antipodean locations of an Avalon which has here been repatriated, along (uncomprehendingly) with the Sultan, to its British origin.
Included among the sleeping ‘pagans’ (i.e., in contemporary usage, Muslims), perhaps because of his status as a wealthy Jew, is Joseph of Arimathea. Although ‘Melkin’ is the oldest source to tell of his burial at Glastonbury, his tomb’s exact location is clearly regarded as an occult secret. It seems most unlikely that John Sheen was himself the author of the Melkin doggerel. Indeed, he seems to have been the first to confuse the mysteriouslinea bifurcata, which I have interpreted as a shroud, with some kind of esoteric line in church or churchyard'.
So it is easy to see, with these pronouncements debunking the Prophecy (that short of being granted permission by the owners of the Island to show them where the entrance is, which we shall get to later), we need to look at further evidence provided by the second oldest authority…… from Henry Blois. This, although no-one has ever tried to fit the descriptions in any of the Branches to a location, seems a good way of confirming if Melkin, after all, has left directional instructions that also lead us to the Island described in the text.
It can be seen in the Perlesvaus, (even though the various stories that Henry Blois is recounting seem intermingled) that the geography of the area seems to be constant. This can be explained by accounts that Henry heard orally maintaining these features as part of the logic of the story line or maybe he himself sourced some material in written form. The one puzzling feature about many of the Grail stories is that even though the stories may have different characters the core back drop is always similar. Melkin’s original work of different generations living in one locale i.e the vales south of Dartmoor is one way of looking at it.
Elucidation by the troubadours of Melkin’s Grail book may go far back, but thestories are never far from their geographical setting even though, once a locale is visualised, (as in our proposed location) the accounts may not accurately match spatially, as this was accounted as extraneous detail by the trobadours who focused more on character detail.
For those people who are still open-minded enough to accept that the original account of the Grail's arrival in Britain is historical; enough relevant material has survived attaching itself to the storyline, through troubadour embellishments and distortion, that lets us know that the Island of Avalon is certainly not at Glastonbury.
Even the specifics in accounts that have evolved would not flow in tandem with its original portrayal, if for instance the Castle is not opposite the Island of Avalon, as it appears in several varying accounts. In the several branches however, this castle belongs to different people like the Widow Lady, the Queen of Maidens the Fisher king and many others. This can be explained superficially as the generations changed so the muddle of relationships was exacerbated and with this muddle the castle on the shore was muddled with buildings on the island itself.
However the troubadour accounts have confused the castle with the Grail chapel on the Island opposite and even with Camelot. Whatever the confusion that has been caused by troubadours weaving their tales; directionally and spatially, there is enough incidental information that has been passed on to confirm the Grail romances do not take place at Glastonbury and have nothing in common with the topography which has survived in the storyline from Melkin's original Book of the Grail from which the entire compendium is derived.
What seems to have occurred is that Melkin originally is relating accounts that all transpired in the same area, around the Island of Avalon (situated in Devon)..... and troubadours have mixed the generations and stories that Melkin had originally laid down to explain the entire period from the arrival of Joseph up until the death of King Arthur.
This is not to say though, that Melkin’s Grail book is a purely factual account, even though most or all of his information that he wanted passed on to posterity still exists in one form or another, because I don’t think he ever outwardly stated that the 'Grail object' was Jesus (exept in his prophecy). Rather, he formed stories segmented into branches (probably focusing on characters in each generation) that subliminally transferred information, just as he adeptly has managed to do in his English prophecy. The understanding of the nature of the Grail was subliminally transmitted as he weaved together historical stories covering a period of about 4-5 hundred years.....from the time of Joseph through the generations of a royal ramily. He also related material pertinent to how these events play out in the elevation of Consciousness of Mankind (better known as the divine plan), but couched in didactic form to be acted out by our Grail Heroes. This is the mess that modern scholarship has pondered over; the answer to how Joseph of Arimathea is concomitant with King Arthur.
It must never be forgotten that Melkin, the originator of all Grail material did not want anyone at the time he was alive to know where Avalon was. This is borne out by the way he constructed his prophecy. So, he is hardly going to describe precisely where the island is in the Grail book or exactly the purport of his exposé, but every detail of what we have proposed as a total scenario (from crucifixion to Arthur) so far, is somewhere mentioned or subliminally related in the various texts. Melkin determined to set the rich tapestry of drama in the very vales in which they historically transpired and the original 'Grail Book' recorded the travails of a kingdom and bloodline through the Roman era.... up to and including the Saxon invasion. This at a much later date, as explained earlier, through the troubadours and courtiers, started to include in later editions or reworkings, Templar motifs and occasional references to certain more recent characters with cameo parts in the storyline.
Although Melkin’s prophecy was supposed to be a puzzle, it would appear as if the reference in the 'High History' to the difficulty in reading the Latin in Melkin’s original book could be one reason for the troubadours misunderstanding of his work. It also adds credence to age of the Volume. With the misunderstanding or misinterpretation came embellishment according to the tastes of the storyteller....... sometimes focusing on battle scenes by some and in other ways,if they had a particular interest or penchant.
The spiritual nature of the Grail may have been highlighted by some troubadours and in others ..... the quest or the particular relationships between warring relatives. The geographical topography is inescapable...... just as much as all the content in the storylines is set in a particular backdrop. Basically, the story is about a body and a cloth that got put in a tomb on an island by Joseph of Arimathea and this island is in Devon or the Vaus d'Avaron.
It is advised that the reader should read the various Branches of the Perlesvaus. After doing so, one can only conclude that what we have elucidated upon up until now, as regarding Joseph having brought a body to England and this body being presently on Avalon........ is exposed in many places throughout the text.
Let us firstly reassert that the 'High History' is given the authority of the original story from a certain Josephus. This is essentially due to the fact that Melkin asserts (in his Latin text) that his account is derived from original detail supplied by Joseph of Arimathea. The strange thing is that...... the writer of the High history refers to him as a 'narrator' not as Joseph 'the eyewitness', protagonist and author from which the record is derived. Obviously the reference is only refering to that part of the sequence of events that Joseph himself would have been able to relay while alive..... but the veracity of the authority of this account stems from Joseph and it to his authority that the author is appealing. Later the following accounts get unduly mixed with events that transpired after the death of Joseph yet it is to him the author appeals for his credibility.
'Now is the story silent of Perceval and cometh back to King Arthur, the very matter thereof, as testifies the history, that in no place is corrupted and the Latin lie not.
And all these adventures that you hear in this high record came to pass, Josephus telleth us, for the setting forward the law of the Saviour.'
How else could it have been related if it is not an historical record from Joseph himself that Melkin found in the tomb. If Joseph did not come to England then it is a remarkable coincidence that both the Perlesvaus story revolves around a tomb and a shroud on an Island called Avalon and Melkin's Prophecy (about the Island of Avalon) categorically states that, there in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, lies the body of Jesus along with the Shroud. It would even be a coincidence that Maurus has the 'Holy party' coming as far west as Marseille. But then having established Ictis as an Island that was known to deal in tin...... and have Joseph of Arimathea ingnorant of it, would be a coincidence in the extreme. Especially when Melkin is telling us they are buried up high in Ictis (supra ad Ictis). I believe the reference to 'Solomon's ship' in many of the Grail sagas is a reference to the mode of transport i.e the Tin trading ship used by Joseph to reach Ictis. This in itself would be no great feat of navigation for the Phonecian traders and Maurus' account of the Holy family being blown by chance to Marseille was just a rationalisation of early accounts that the family had passed by that way.
If the fact that Jesu's body (the Grail) was brought to England is not historical, then there is no Avalon anyway……… and no point in the monks at Glastobury trying to misrepresent Glastonbury to appear to be synonymous with a purely mythical island. If this were the case, it would be even more fantastic that a supposed fabricated text called the Prophecy of Melkin gives precise directions to an Island (that is also incidentally called Avalon), that so concisely geographically fits the description of Avalon as described in the 'High History' of the Grail. There is then the further coincidence of the same story that tells of a mysterious object that was brought to the same Island by Joseph of Arimathea. Further, it just so happens that the prophecy which is supposed to be a 13th or 14th century fabrication, tells us that Joseph and the Grail are buried within this fictitious Island.
Anyway, Joseph is appealed to as the authority of the High History. What most scholars tend to be misled by, is the fact that Melkin is also relating history after Joseph’s death that take into account the subsequent years and thus in their minds disqualifies Joseph of Arimathea, as being the one appealed to. Don’t forget that most scholars think there is no historical content in the Grail literature, but it all evolved as a twelfth century fiction. How, if one takes this view, were the French responsible for propagating such a fiction about a mythical island in Britain and what would be the reasoning behind it. How is it the topography of the island described in these French tales corresponds to the Island pointed out by this fictitious monk known for his Geometry?
Obviously, as we saw in the Alliterative poem from which we derived the eyewitness account of the Grail which we came across earlier, these must have come from Joseph himself, as this deals with the remainder of the holy family’s actual arrival in Britain and the incidents that transpired immediately afterward.
Josephus telleth us in the scripture he recordeth for us, whereof this history was drawn out of Latin into Romance, that none need be in doubt that these adventures befell at that time in Great Britain and in all the other kingdoms, and plenty enow more befell than I record, but these were the most certain.
It is Robert de Boron (his source being derived from Melkin’s book of the Grail) that says the final destination of the Grail (although not explicitly Joseph himself) - is 'En la terre vers Occident / Ki est sauvage durement / En vaus d'Avaron'...... in the land to the West, which is very wild, in the Vales of Avalon. These are the rugged and steep sided forested valleys that cover an area south of Dartmoor.
Scholars claim Robert de Boron wrote after Chrétien, but Robert says that he wrote his book before 1180, meaning he wrote his book around the time Chrétien was writing Eric and Enide and before he wrote Percival. Whoever scholars believe was the first medieval writer, Robert and Chrétien claim they were guided by a pre-existing book ....and so also does the Perlesvaus/High History account. So, it all comes down to Melkin...... as these writers are putting pen to paper probably 3-400 years after King Arthur died (a bit late to suddenly think about fabricating myths of a British king) and why are French troubadours supposedly inventing this material about an island in Britain?
Most scholars recognise this incongruous fact, but rationalize the whole Grail edifice as having some relevance to Medieval religious squabbles. This might in part be the case with later infusion, but how is it that Joseph is giving first hand accounts (which obviously Melkin discovered) that pertains to events 1000 years before any of the troubadours wrote. Robert De Boron’s Le liuro de Josep de Arimthea translation from Portuguese says the book he used was ’secret’ and that:
‘I dare not and could not tell at the time of writing, but that I had the secret book before me wherein the histories are written by the great clerks of all time. Therein are the great mysteries, which are called the Graal’.
This would seem to be a reference to Joseph and Melkin in antiquity. Whether or not Henry is the compiler of the Perlesvaus from Melkin’s material, we can see that the island of Avalon was never meant as being applicable to Glastonbury except by those with a motive of self-promotion at Glastonbury. As we have discovered, much in Glastonbury was made to concur with Melkin’s prophecy, but from a different perspective, as we look through the text of the High History about allusions to Logres (supposedly Glastonbury) and the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary……we can see that, to the gullible, the link might be made, but most emphatically the Island of Avalon is in the sea and the description in the text fits Burgh Island. No matter how tenuous the connection in the High History that the region in which the story is set might apply to Glastonbury, it is surely how it has been understood for the last 800 years.
But before we move on specifically to the Perlesvaus passages, let us just have a look if the geography of Chrétien de Troyes is different and try to understand some of his descriptions that have been delivered unintentionally and yet seem to fit with the Perlesvaus version. Let us not forget however, neither Chretien or Henry Blois had a clue where Avalon was or its surrounding topography.
'He summoned the best artisans in the land, and commanded them to build a tower, and exert themselves to build it well. The stone was quarried by the seaside; for near Gorre on this side there runs a big broad arm of the sea, in the midst of which an island stood, as Meleagant well knew. He ordered the stone to be carried thither and the material for the construction of the tower. In less than fifty-seven days the tower was completely built, high and thick and well-founded. When it was completed, he had Lancelot brought thither by night, and after putting him in the tower, he ordered the doors to be walled up, and made all the masons swear that they would never utter a word about this tower.'
The Grail Chapel or Castle as it is variously known is on the Island of Avalon and the tidal causeway as at Burgh Island is the 'Bridge' of varying descriptions in many Grail versions. In the ‘Knight and the Cart’Chretien who really has never seen the sand causeway to Burgh Island is struggling to describe something in the text from which he is sourcing his material.
One is called the water-bridge, because the bridge is under water, and there is the same amount of water beneath it as above it, so that the bridge is exactly in the middle; and it is only a foot and a half in width and in thickness.
Copyright Francis Frith
Figure 78. The disappearing bridge that is once narrow and then widens.
'In this island no thunder is heard, no lightning strikes, nor tempests rage, nor do toads or serpents exist there, nor is it ever too hot or too cold. Graislemier of Fine Posterne brought twenty companions, and had with him his brother Guigomar, lord of the Isle of Avalon'. Chrétien.
Let us now look at the Perlesvaus. Opposite Avalon was a castle that must have been in ‘Bigbury on sea’ and this, with the Folly hill site became known as Camelot. As we have discussed Camelot never existed as a place and thus it existed in two places in the Perlesvaus. This may have been confused with where Arthur had held court (either at Avalon or in Tintagel), nevertheless the original transcriber had seen this word in Melkin’s text and included it as being synonymous with a place name.
'Behind the castle was a river, as the history testifieth, whereby all good things came to the castle, and this river was right fair and plenteous. Josephus witnesseth us that it came from the Earthly Paradise and compassed the castle around and ran on through the forest as far as the house of a worshipful hermit (Shipley Bridge) and there lost the course and had peace in the earth. All along the valley thereof was great plenty of everything continually, and nought was ever lacking in the rich castle that Perceval had won. The castle, so says the history, had three names. One of the names was Eden, the second, Castle of Joy, and the third, Castle of Souls. Now Josephus saith that none never passed away therein but his soul went to Paradise'.
Showing what might be the location of the house of the worshipful Hermit at Shipley Bridge at the start of the Avon valley as it leaves the moors.
The Text starts:
'Hear ye the history of the most holy vessel that is called Graal, wherein the precious blood of the Saviour was received on the day that He was put on rood and crucified in order that He might redeem His people from the pains of hell. Josephus set it in remembrance by annunciation of the voice of an angel, for that the truth should be known by his record of good knights, and good worshipful men how they were willing to suffer pain and to work for the setting forward of the Law of Jesus Christ, that He has willed to make new by His death and by His crucifixion'.
The High history is an account of the travails of family relations connected to the holy family that arrived in Britain and the adventures of knights and property owners that occupied the region around the south coast of Devon in particular, but with references extending through Somerset and Cornwall. These include accounts in Arthur’s court at Tintagel and escapades to Penzance and as far up as the kingdom of Logres which is accounted by most to be synonymous with Glastonbury. Protection of castles by knights and services offered to damsels in distress that interact with colourful characters from across the English channel and the Channel Islands are integrated into an account of Joseph’s effect on having brought such a sacred object to the region.
These adventures or‘Histoires’ fit in through the ages from the time the Grail was brought to Avalon up until the Death of king Arthur. The whole history, if it is not looked at as some intellectual exercise in conceptual critique and as having some deeper meaning………is just a record of the comings and goings of interrelated families that were established originally in the old Law of the residue of the tin mining Jews and the blood relatives of Jesus.
‘God hath guided and led the ship by day and by night until that she arrived at an island where was a castle right ancient, but it seemed not to be over-rich, rather it showed as had it been of great lordship in days of yore’.
‘Certes, I know not to tell you, for the tomb hath been here or ever that my father's father was born, and never have I heard tell of none that might know who it is therein, save only that the letters that are on the coffin say that when the Best Knight in the world shall come hither the coffin will open and the joinings all fall asunder, and then will it be seen who it is that lieth therein.'
There are two things to note that can only be accounted to Melkin directly that he purposely obfuscates……… the exact location of Avalon and the precise nature of the Grail. The first he has given so precisely in his prophecy once it is decoded and also, by faithfully transcribing details of the lay of the land in the valleys of Avalon. The second he has hinted at by having the questor’s not asking the question ‘Who does the Grail serve’.
We are told it is achievable as this covers the aspect of its relevance to consciousness, but this leaves only one response subliminally and must be that ‘it serves Jesus’………as Joseph of Arimathea is involved and the Grail is intimately connected to Jesus which ever form it takes. However by posing this question, this subconsciously releases the real question that is behind the essence of the Grail quest as presented in all its literal forms…… ‘Who is the Grail’? The Grail is Jesus who serves all of Mankind.
As we have already determined by the prophecy, Jesus is buried in Avalon, so let us see whether the Grail is the body of Jesus that sometimes is subterranean to the Grail chapel in the Island of Avalon. It would be an extraordinary coincidence if the faked twelfth century prophecy that says the shroud and the body of Jesus are on Avalon, concurs with French Grail material that speaks of a tomb, a shroud and of Joseph of Arimathea also on the Island of Avalon. We should look into the text and see if the High History points to an Island that is the same as pointed out in Melkin’s prophecy.
It would be very strange if it wasn’t the same island that both are referring to, since both sources derive from Melkin.
This high history witnesses to us and records that Joseph, who makes remembrance thereof, was the priest who first sacrificed to the body of Our Lord and for this, one ought to believe the words that come from him. You have heard tell how Perceval was of the lineage of Joseph of Abarimacie, whom God so greatly loved for that he took down His body hanging on the cross………Ab Arimacie shows the original scribal error from the latin ‘of Arimathea’ by Henry.
What the ‘High History’does not ever explicitly express is the names of the people in the historical sense and everyone abides in a castle or hermitage throughout. Whereas the Fisher king seems to be Joseph of Arimathea, the dolourous wound in connection to the loss of a son or nephew and the dripping spear always suggests Jesus. The tomb in which no one knows who the knight is that lies therein; is sometimes understood to be Joseph of Arimathea, or explicitly explained as Lohot, the son of King Arthur, but never Jesus, as this is the intended subliminal meaning being hinted at. The Widow lady who has a castle right opposite the Island of Avalon up on Folly Hill that overlooks Bantham is never mentioned as being Mary Magdalene and is purposely obfuscated as being synonymous with the Virgin Mary, at times defined by where her castle is in relation to Avalon and under which pseudonym she goes under in the various branches (such as the queen of Maidens or Widow Lady). Melkin as we have discussed is probably of this royal line and has cameo parts as the Hermit.
The hazardous tides that are relentless at the heads where the river Avon exits in view of the of the Island of Avalon underneath the position of the Widow's Castle.
We Know that the river mouth is not far from the Castle as the river, spendeth itself in the sea is it most foul and most horrible, so that scarce may ship pass that is not wrecked.
So we know that there is a Chapel and holy house on Avalon sometimes referred to as the castle of the Fisher king and the island is close by the mainland because.... 'after Perceval and his cousin leave Gohaz all sorrowing on the rock,
Perceval hath rowed until that he is come nigh a castle that was burning fiercely with a great flame, and can see the hermitage upon the sea hard by.
‘the sweetness of his castle wherein I have often done service in the chapel where the Holy Graal appeareth’.
We know that the Fisherman’s castle of Avalon is in the Sea....
"Sir," says the Queen, "just as he challenges me for my castle , so I am in aid of King Fisherman, and every week cometh he from an island that is in this sea……”
What is the castle?"
"Sir, the good King Fisherman's, that is surrounded with great waters and plenteous in all things good, so the lord were in joy'.
We Know that the Widow Queen can see the Island and has her vessels down in Bantham Harbour, ‘She takes Perceval by the hand and leads him to the windows of the hall that were closest to the sea.
"Sir," she says, "Now you can see the island, there, where your uncle comes to in a galley, and in this island he stays until he has seen where to aim his blow and laid his plans. And here below, see, are my galleys that defend us thereof.’ Her Castle is on the cliffs above Bantham harbour entrance i.e the heads where the river mouth flows into the sea.
Both Chretien and the Perlesvaus describe the trip down through the forest when both Perceval and Lancelot meet people in a boat on the river that give the same instructions to the Grail Castle. In both stories, to be able to talk, their contact point in reality must have been along the Tidal road in Aveton Gifford and hence the ensuing topographically correct directions to Bigbury on sea and Avalon.
Perceval is in search of his mother, when he comes to a river 'en la vallee d'une engarde'.
The river is swift and deep, and he fears to cross it. Proceeding along the bank to a cliff, which apparently blocks the road (the end of the tidal road), he suddenly beholds a boat on the river, in which are two men. Perceval enquires the way of those in the boat and is directed, by the fisher, to the top of the cliff from where, he is told, he will see a castle in the valley beyond, 'près de rivière et près de bois'.
The Tidal road where those fishing could converse with those making their way out to the island of Avalon. The hills in the background are those to be climbed (mountains) before descending down to the island and the Widows Castle.
Perceval rides to the summit of the cliff but perceiving at first only land and sky, he blames the fisher for misdirecting him. Finally, however, the tower of a castle hard by comes to view. Perceval is not long in reaching the castle where he is royally welcomed by the host of the castle, who is in fact the fisher. The misdirection that the fisher was maligned for..... can be explained by the fact that when one clears the summit after ascending up from the Tidal road, one cannot see the Folly hill site for some considerable time, until one starts to descend toward Bigbury on Sea where it will have come into plain view.
The View looking down on the river from the top of the hill on the way out to Burgh island as per the directions given by the fishermen. The river valley is tidal and one can float up and down with the tidal flow in a boat very leisurely.
We find the passage for comparison in Lancelot's Grail quest by Chreteien, although the river is now called a stream which highlights the freedom with which the troubadours inconsequentially included or changed the relevant topographical features because this same episode is derived from the common source of Melkin's Grail book:
Lancelot comes one day to a stream flowing through a meadow. The meadow, which is skirted by a forest on two sides, is covered with flowers. In front of him, on the stream, Lancelot sees a boat in which there are two white-haired knights and a damsel, holding a human head in her lap. In the centre of the boat there is a knight catching many fish. The boat has a smaller one in tow into which the knight is throwing his fish. At the sight of the group, Lancelot stops to ask where he might find shelter nearby. In reply, they direct him to a castle beyond a mountain. In a short time Lancelot has reached the foot of this mountain, and comes upon the cell of a hermit, where he enters the cell to confess his sins.
So both lancelot and Perceval arrive at the Grail castle in Bigbury on Sea which as we know has the island of Avalon and the Grail chapel just opposite. Too much of a coincidence that both Grail searchers, from different raconteurs, find the same Grail castle both recieving similar instructions. The instructions were recieved along the tidal road where at the end of the tidal road, one would have to rise up the hill (mountain) to get to Avalon or Bigbury on sea. Certainly arriving at the summit all one sees is ‘land and sky’ until going further down where the castle was situated and suddenly comes into view.
What this shows is that by the similarity of storyline containing circumstances that can be transposed onto a geographical location with conversational text that include instructions that concur with the topographical features, that when followed lead to Avalon; is also a confirmation that originally this particular account is set on the river Avon, which just coincidentally has the island at the mouth of the river and this same island is the one that Melkin refers to as Avalon and his geometry points us right to it. What we understand to be the first Grail literature may indeed be derived from a conglomeration of accounts compiled by Henry Blois as he is appealed to as one that knows all the stories, but these accounts appealed to a much older source in Joseph of Arimathea himself as their authority and therefore evidence there was a common source before Henry, who obviously was Melkin. It is Melkin's words that say the authority for the Perlesvaus is derived from Joseph of Arimathea and it must be from him we have recieved the accounts up to the time of King Arthur since by his prophecy he is showing us the same Island location.
The view looking back down towards were perceval or Lancelot would have met the fishermen before climbing the hill out toward the Island of Avalon. This is on the same route that the carts of tin would have taken out to the Island of Ictis as it was known before Melkin renamed it Avalon.
The Lonely Forest, which would have enveloped Avalon in all the vales below the moors, is mentioned in the Perlesvaus as ‘la soteinne forest’ or ‘la forest souteinne’ or by Chretièn as ‘De la foriest soutaine’. We can deduce that both Chretien and Henry Blois are sourcing from a common source that supplies the same topographical detail that holds together their stories, which, unless they can be identified as being applicable to a certain locality, they might just seem incidental.
The Elucidationwas conceived as a prologue to Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished romance Perceval, le Conte du Graal, but actually gives details that offer contradictory material so it is doubtful that it is was written at the same time. In the elucidation it cites a Master Blihis as a source for its contents. As we have discussed Henry Blois would not want to have it known that he wrote this material and even gives himself a cameo role when Gawain defeats the knight Blihos Bliheris. Sent to Arthur's court, Blihos(H. Blois), reveals that the maidens descend from the Maidens of the Wells. Arthur and his knights then seek out the Fisher King and his castle. If Henry 1098-1171 who as we have said was well connected and heard all these tales in his formative years in France is the most likely candidate. He is very likely to have put together a volume that thereafter in the Elucidation was credited as one source for Chrètien who between 1160 and 1172 served at the court of his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Another reason for the peculiarity of the mix up of Avalon and Glastonbury is that it was never tidal nor had beaches,
‘He dared no longer endure his blows, but rather he turns quickly toward his galley, and leaps straight in. He pushes out from the shore incontinent, and Perceval follows him right to the beach, feeling low that he has got away from him’.
Where the Queen of the Maidens castle is supposed to be, relative to Glastonbury tor, is not fathomable, nor is the fact that this saga is taking place by the sea where a Castle looks down on the Island of Avalon.
"Sir," says the hermit, "I know not who he is, save only that the sea is hard by here, where the ship runs past often wherein the knight is, and he goes to an island that is under the castle of the Queen of the Maidens,
How can Glastonbury ever have been misconstrued as existing by the sea when we know the castle, sometimes synonymous with Camelot has an island opposite and has cliffs below it . It exists beside a river as certain knights rode to it while others were seen rowing down river to it.
‘He rode until he came to the castle of the Queen of the Maidens. When she knew that it was Messire Gawain, she made thereof great joy, and pointed him out the island whither Perceval had gone, and from where he had driven his uncle’.
‘Thereof has Messire Gawain right great joy, and so departs from the knight and the knight from him, and goes back toward the sea a great gallop. But Messire Gawain saw not the ship into which he entered, because it was anchored underneath the cliff. The knight entered into it and put out to sea as he had wont to do’.
How can anyone seriously confuse these descriptions as happening near Glastonbury. How can Glastonbury tor be confused with this location. It can only occur if the Grail stories are accounted as fictitious. If they are, then so is Avalon. So why, one must ask, is Glastonbury occupying itself complying with certain features in Melkin's riddle, trying to convince the world that it is a fictional Island in a fabricated tale. The only reason for doing this is because they knew Melkin was from Antiquity and the Island of Avalon was a reality.
The Folly Hill site which back in the fourth or fifth century was where the castle of the Queen of Maidens or the Widow Lady existed, where one can see the Island, but has cliffs below it.
‘Lords, think not that it is this Camelot whereof these tellers of tales do tell their tales, there, where King Arthur so often held his court. This Camelot that was the Widow Lady's stood upon the uttermost headland of the wildest isle of Wales by the sea to the West. Nought was there save the hold and the forest and the waters that were round about it. The other Camelot, of King Arthur's, was situate at the entrance of the kingdom of Logres, and was peopled of folk and was seated at the head of the King's land, for that he had in his governance all the lands that on that side marched with his own.’
The translator has obviously translated Celtica or Galles as pertaining to Wales, but as one can see the peninsula where Avalon exists is the uttermost headland of the Devon and the Island (which is right by the widow's castle) is the headland described as the 'Avaron' in the vales of the west i.e to the south of Dartmoor and has a river right beside it.
These coastal scenes and escapades show that the whole drama is played out in Valleys or the vales of the west which matches the topography of the area we have been investigating since the beginning of this expose and are clearly the valleys and rivers running off southern Dartmoor. This is the area known as ‘Vennshire’ in the Charter signed by Edward the Confessor for the Monks of Mont-Saint-Michel, bestowing the Island called ‘St. Michael by the sea’ and this entire area south of Dartmoor....... but we will get to that later.
‘She followeth him weeping, and pointeth out to him the Valleys of Camelot and the castles that were shut in by combes and mountains, and the broad meadow-lands and the forest that girded them about.’
The forest which is so prevalent throughout the text would have enshrouded the whole Southern peninsula as a forested belt from Dartmouth round to Plymouth in the Dark ages, bordered by the coastline meadows to the south and the moors to the north.
‘She hath ridden so far of her journeys that she is come to the Valley of Camelot, and seeth her mother's castle that was surrounded of great rivers, and seeth Perceval, that was alighted under the shadow of a tree at the top of the forest in order that he might behold his mother's castle.’
Devon is renowned for its red soil.
Gildas (Concerning the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) says at this time the king of the Summer Region (i. e., Somerset) was Melwas, who had wickedly abducted Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur, and had brought her to his fortress at Glastonbury Tor, an invulnerable position because of 'the fortifications of thickets of reed, river and marsh.' We know from various other accounts that the land around the tor flooded at times but there are no reference to ships visiting and no beaches. It seems incredible how the Glastonbury establishment found it so easy to con so many into thinking Avalon was synonymous with Glastonbury tor.
We have a Knight from the ‘Red Launde’ and a 'Lord of the Moors' who feature in this rich Perlesvaus text which unintentionally divulges the real location.
This story telleth how he conquered him and by what means, and how Galobrus of the Red Launde came to King Arthur's court to help Lancelot, for that he was of his lineage. This story is right long and right adventurous and weighty, but the book will now forthwith be silent thereof until another time.
The View of the entrance to Salcombe harbour with the red land to the left within the vales of Devon
If Glastonbury became synonymous with Arthur’s kingdom it is only through occasional sentences such as this:
‘for King Arthur sendeth me in quest of him, and Lancelot hath also gone to seek him in another part of the kingdom of Logres’.
Again we are made to assume that the story has its authority of a Josephus as a narrator, rather than the real authority of Joseph:
‘And all these adventures that you hear in this high record came to pass, Josephus tells us, for the setting forward the law of the Saviour’.
Of the most Holy Graal here beginneth another branch in such wise as the authority witnesseth and Joseph that made recoverance thereof, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
It is almost as if the whole fable is designed so that subconsciously one makes the necessary connections to figure out who is who. Even where the narrator is concerned as being exterior to the textual content, this supposedly unknown source (which is consistenly appealed to as the ultimate authority) bears the same appellation as the only Joseph who could have supplied the account of the Grail’s arrival, but Joseph now becomes a separated persona from the Fisher king.
‘and he came, as you have heard, of the most holy lineage of Josephus and the good King Fisherman’.
‘Josephus recordeth us by this evil king that was so traitorous and false and yet was of the lineage of the Good Soldier Joseph of Abarimacie. This Joseph, as the scripture witnesseth, was his uncle, and this evil king was brother-german of King Fisherman, and brother of the good King Pelles that had abandoned his land, in order that he might serve God, and brother of the Widow Lady that was Perceval's mother, the most loyal that was ever in Great Britain. All these lineages were in the service of Our Lord from the beginning of their lives unto the end, save only this evil King that perished, so evilly as you have heard’.
The Geneology is a can of worms...... probably not originally, but through the oral transference from memory which would pay less attention to the accuracy of relationship and more to the actions carried out by the various characters.
It must not be forgotten that Melkin has seen the Shroud and called it the ‘duo fassula’ in his English prophecy, but throughout the Perlesvaus icons change situations, the Perilous chapel shape shifts as the Grail chapel amongst other appellations and changes in location, but also the Shroud is mentioned in many ways. Nowhere is the text ever explicit in saying that the body over which the image on the cloth was formed is now in England.
"Sir," she says, "I have made vow thereof, and moreover a holy hermit hath told me that the knight that makes war upon us may not be overcome by another knight, except that I bring him some of the cloth wherewith the altar in the chapel of the Grave-yard Perilous is covered. The cloth is of the most holiest, for our Lord God was covered therewith in the Holy Sepulchre, on the third day when He came back from death to life.
Here we have one of the only connections with the Lady chapel at Glastonbury that are made through the Grail chapel existing on an island and also paying respect to his sweet mother or ‘Our lady’ that confirms the ‘virginem adorandam’ as being synonymous with the Lady chapel, which we know was latterly dedicated to conform with Grail descriptions and comply with Melkin's prophecy.
‘The damsel signs herself of the cross and commends her to the Saviour and to His sweet Mother. She looks before her to the head of the grave-yard, and sees the chapel, small and ancient. She hits her mule with her whip, and comes toward it and gets off. She entered within and found a great brightness of light. Within was an image of Our Lady, to whom she prays right sweetly that She will preserve her senses and her life and enable her to depart in safety from this perilous place.’
‘But or ever the King departed he made the head be brought into the Isle of Avalon, to a chapel of Our Lady that was there, where was a worshipful holy hermit that was well loved of Our Lord.’
‘He cutteth off the half of the cloth wherein he is enshrouded, and the coffin beginneth to make a crashing so passing loud that it seemed the chapel were falling. When he hath the piece of the cloth and the sword he closeth the coffin again, and forthwith cometh to the door of the chapel.’
‘He was named Ahuret the Bastard," saith the knight; "And he had but one arm and one hand, and the other was smitten off at a castle that Messire Gawain gave Meliot of Logres when he succoured him against this knight that lieth in the coffin. And Meliot of Logres hath slain the knight that had assieged the castle, but the knight wounded him sore, so that he may not be whole save he have the sword wherewith he wounded him, that lieth in the coffin at his side, and some of the cloth wherein he is enshrouded; and, so God grant me to meet one of the knights, gladly will I convey unto him the damsel's message.’
The cloth is prevalent throughout in many places, but the point of the stories which obviously came from Melkin seems to be to mention the Icons like the tomb, above which a chapel was built, the Grail which is Jesus’ coffin, the shroud, the sepulchre with an unknown occupant, Joseph of Arimathea and the royal line that stems from him. Really, the intended purport is to subtly intonate the widow as Mary Magdalene and the following bloodline. Never at any time does Melkin directly say anything to confute the Roman dogma of a resurrected body by implying that the Grail is the body of Jesus or that the Widow or Queen of Maidens was either Jesus' mother or his wife.
‘You are her affiance and her succour, and therefore ought you to remember that the good knight Joseph of Abarimacie, that took down your Body when it hung upon the rood, was her own uncle. Better loved he to take down your Body than all the gold and all the fee that Pilate might give him. Lord, good right of very truth had he so to do, for he took you in his arms beside the rood, and laid your Body in the holy sepulchre, wherein were you covered of the sovran cloth for the which have I come in hither.’
‘Josephus telleth us of a truth, that never did none enter into the chapel that might touch the cloth save only this one damsel.’
‘For the good King Fisherman is dead that made every day our service be done in the most holy chapel there where the most Holy Graal every day appeared, and where the Mother of God abode from the Saturday until the Monday that the service was finished. And now has the King of Castle Mortal seized the castle in such sort that never since then has the Holy Graal appeared, and all the other hallows are hidden, so that none knoweth what hath become of the priests that served in the chapel, nor the twelve ancient knights, nor the damsels that were therein.’
Photo taken from the top of Burgh Island
As for the geographical location of Avalon as an Island by the sea…… it is expressed not only in the prophecy of Melkin itself ‘Marmore’, but by the various descriptions in the High History. Each branch has its own twist, but the island of Avalon is tidal by the sea with beaches, to which sea going vessels frequent, and is situated on the headland of an area full of valleys.
‘Perceval is far from land so that he seeth nought but sea only, and the ship speedeth onward, and God guideth him, as one that believeth in Him and loveth Him and serveth Him of a good heart. The ship ran on by night and by day as it pleased God, until that they saw a castle and an island of the sea. He asked his pilot if he knew what castle it was. "Certes," saith he, "Not I, for so far have we run that I know not neither the sea nor the stars." They come nigh the castle, and saw four that sounded bells at the four corners of the town, right sweetly, and they that sounded them were clad in white garments. They are come thither.’
‘So soon as the ship had taken haven under the castle, the sea withdraweth itself back, so that the ship is left on dry land. None were therein save Perceval, his horse, and the pilot. They issued forth of the ship and went by the side of the sea toward the castle, and therein were the fairest halls and the fairest mansions that any might see ever.’
‘I saw the Graal," saith the Master, "or ever Joseph, that was uncle to King Fisherman, collected therein the blood of Jesus Christ. Know that well am I acquainted with all your lineage, and of what folk you were born. For your good knighthood and for your good cleanness and for your good valour came you in hither, for such was Our Lord's will, and take heed that you be ready when place shall be, and time shall come, and you shall see the ship apparelled.’
"Sir," saith he to Messire Gawain, "I am the King for whom you slew the giant, whereby you had the sword wherewith St John was beheaded, that I see on this altar. I made baptize me before you and all those of my kingdom, and turn to the New Law, and thereafter I went to a hermitage by the sea, far from folk, where I have been of a long space. I rose one night at matins and looked under my hermitage and saw that a ship had taken haven there. I went thither when the sea was retreated, and found within the ship three priests and their clerks, that told me their names and how they were called in baptism.
We should also be aware of how often the word rich is used in the text and in regards to castles and objects and clothing and tombs etc...... this most probably by foreign trade in tin. Robert de Boron however has 'Rich Fishermen' and Bron has the title Rich Fisher King. It is all fairly idecipherable as regards to how characters interrelate, but I think the fact that the Fisher king dies in the Perlesvaus reflects the death of Joseph of Arimathea and the commencement of family quarrels.
The Pilchard inn on Burgh Island.
'All along the valley thereof was great plenty of everything continually, and nought was ever lacking in the rich castle that Perceval had won'.
As we know the Pilchards were plentiful even in Pytheas' time and the 'Plenty' that surrounds the Island, could refer to the fishing or tin. The river valley today abounds in fish, mussels and oysters. We know they are at the Grail castle and in the tin district of Devon by the fabrication of Bells that causes much wonderment elsewhere in the text, but it is the forested land of the vales, south of Dartmoor, that provides the backdrop for many of the encounters.
She departeth from the castle and goeth the speediest she may toward the Valleys of Camelot.
She followeth him weeping, and pointeth out to him the Valleys of Camelot and the castles that were shut in by combes and mountains, and the broad meadow-lands and the forest that girded them about.'
Figure 68a. The combes of Devon and the various river valleys of the area described as the vales of Avalon or Vaus d'Avaron.
The description of a journey leaving the forest as they enter onto the uninhabited moors is just one example:
‘They were right well lodged the night and lay in the hold until the morrow, when they departed thence, and rode right busily on their journeys until they came into a very different land, scarce inhabited of any folk, and found a little castle in a combe’.
The coffin, tomb or sepulchre features heavily as an icon throughout the various branches:
......and how none might know yet who lay in the coffin until such time as the Best Knight of the world should come thither, but that then should it be known. Perceval would fain have passed by the chapel, but the damsel says to him: "Sir, no knight passes hereby save he go first to see the coffin within the chapel.’
‘He showeth them the tomb of King Fisherman, and telleth them that none had set the tabernacle there above the coffin, but only the commandment of Our Lord, and he showeth them a rich pall that is upon the coffin, and telleth them that every day they see a new one there not less rich than is this one. King Arthur looketh. at the sepulchre and saith that never before hath he seen none so costly. A smell issueth therefrom full delicate and sweet of savour. The King sojourneth in the castle and is highly honoured, and beholdeth the richesse and the lordship and the great abundance that is everywhere in the castle, insomuch that therein is nought wanting that is needful for the bodies of noble folk’.
‘For otherwise never would the coffin have opened, nor would any have known who he is that you now see openly.’
‘She makes her chaplain take certain letters that were sealed with gold in the coffin. He looks thereat and reads, and then says that these letters witness of him that lies in the coffin that he was one of them that helped to un-nail Our Lord from the cross. They looked beside him and found the pincers all bloody wherewith the nails were drawn, but they might not take them away, nor the body, nor the coffin, according as Josephus tells us, for as soon as Perceval was forth of the chapel, the coffin closed again and joined together even as it was before’.
‘About a couple of bowshots above the bridge(the tidal causeway) was a chapel fashioned like the one at Camelot, wherein was a sepulchre, and none knew who lay therein’.
He goeth forth and findeth the bridges broad and long, and goeth his way a great pace beside a great river that runneth in the midst of the valley.
the first bridge is a bowshot in length and in breadth not more than a foot. Strait seemeth the bridge and the water deep and swift and wide. He knoweth not what he may do, for it seemeth him that none may pass it, neither afoot nor on horse’.
The bridge which disappears as one looks back on the way to the Grail Chapel and which Gawain crosses on his way to the Grail Castle is called the ‘pont de l’Anguile’. This could have been Melkin’s appelation for the bridge of the 'Angel island' or 'Ange Ile', but whatever way it is construed or embellished as being more than one; it was originally the sand causeway. It was probably Melkin himself who obscured this detail because as we know, it was him that has obscured this entire area from being recognised until now.
‘Thereupon, lo you, a knight that issueth forth of the castle and cometh as far as the head of the bridge, that was called the Bridge of the Eel, and shouteth aloud: "Sir Knight, pass quickly before it shall be already night, for they of the castle are awaiting us."
"Ha," saith Messire Gawain, "Fair sir, but teach me how I may pass hereby."
"Certes, Sir Knight, no passage know I to this entrance other than this, and if you desire to come to the castle, pass on without misgiving."
Messire Gawain hath shame for that he hath stayed so long, and forthinketh him of this that the Hermit told him, that of no mortal thing need he be troubled at the entrance of the castle, and therewithal that he is truly confessed of his sins, wherefore behoveth him be the less adread of death. He crosseth and blesseth himself and commendeth himself to God as he that thinketh to die, and so smiteth his horse with his spurs and findeth the bridge wide and large as soon as he goeth forward, for by this passing were proven most of the knights that were fain to enter therein. Much marvelled he that he found the bridge so wide that had seemed him so narrow’.
Sand ‘eels’ are still dug up for bait on the beach below the island at low tide and the size of the bridge is ever changing.
Thereupon the Widow Lady ariseth up and her daughter likewise, and they go over the bridge of the castle and see Messire Gawain that was yet looking on the coffin within the chapel.
The bridge, seems to be thin and then get wider which possibly is the analogy of the tidal causeway to the island, but again, back to the coffin that is ever prevalent throughout:
‘The Widow Lady had made bear thither the body that lay in the coffin before the castle of Camelot in the rich chapel that she had builded there. His sister brought the cerecloth that she took in the Waste Chapel, and presented there where the Graal was. Perceval made bring the coffin of the other knight that was at the entrance of his castle within the chapel likewise, and place it beside the coffin of his uncle, nor never thereafter might it be removed. Josephus telleth us that Perceval was in this castle long time, nor never once moved therefrom in quest of no adventure; rather was his courage so attorned to the Saviour of the World and His sweet Mother, that he and his sister and the damsel that was therein led a holy life and a religious.’
A 'cerecloth' is a waxed or oiled cloth used for covering bodies but uncannily by adding a ‘d’which, surely given Melkin’s penchant for subliminal information, would have been a ‘cedre’ cloth or cedar cloth, especially as we are informed it was sweet smelling.
He beholdeth the sepulchre, that was right fair, and forthwith the sepulchre openeth and the corners parted and the stone lifts up in such wise that a man might see the knight that lay within, of whom came forth a smell of so sweet savour that it seemed to the good men that were looking on that it had been all embalmed. They found a letter which testified that this knight was named Josephus.’
In this instance the tomb is Joseph’s even though no one knows who is in it. You can see how things have got so mixed up that the narrator who is supposedly Josephus is now synoymous with Joseph of Arimathea. The smell of the coffin that is remarked upon many times in the text, is the embalming cedar oil that the Grail ark contained. As always, in the text, the coffin ‘who no one knew who was inside’,is said to contain Joseph the Fisher king or the son of Arthur a knight, but never Jesus. One of the branches features two coffins which indicates it was after Joseph of Arimathea's death.
‘At the tomb shall we be well able to see whether it be he!"
They go to the chapel right speedily, and Messire Gawain seeth them coming and alighteth. "Lady, saith he, "Welcome may you be, you and your company."
The Lady answereth never a word until that they are come to the tomb. When she findeth it not open she falleth down in a swoon. And Messire Gawain is sore afraid when he seeth it.’
‘The coffin was rich and the tabernacle costly and loaded of precious stones. And the priests and knights bear witness that as soon as the body was placed in the coffin and they were departed thence, they found on their return that it was covered by the tabernacle all dight as richly as it is now to be seen, nor might they know who had set it there save only the commandment of Our Lord’.
‘She followeth him weeping, and pointeth out to him the Valleys of Camelot and the castles that were shut in by combes and mountains, and the broad meadow-lands and the forest that girded them about.’
When considering Arthur’s Kingdom, it does, as we have maintained before, seem to cover the whole extent West of Saxon Wessex. So Cardoil was Tintagel in Cornwall which also doubled as the court of Camelot as well as the Folly Hill Camelot where the Widows castle was situated and the ‘Fu venuz de vers Carlion / Li rois Artus et tenu ot / Cort molt riche a Camaalot’, from Chrétien provided the link to Caerleon of South Wales for the Welsh protagonists and polemisists.
Could it be that Master Blihis, wrote the Perlesvaus before Chrétien de Troyes? Most scholars think that the Perlesvaus is the continuation of Chrétien de Troyes unfinished ‘Perceval, the Story of the Grail’, but what is more likely is they were both using Melkin’s book or common troubadour sources. This next excerpt shows that the descriptions are relatively accurate because this is still how Tintagel looks today.
They came thitherward and saw that the enclosure of the castle was sunk down into an abysm, so that none might approach it on that side, but it had a right fair gateway and a door tall and wide whereby one entered. They beheld a chapel that was right fair and rich, and below was a great ancient hall. They saw a priest appear in the midst of the castle, bald and old, that had come forth of the chapel. They are come thither and alighted, and asked the priest what the castle was, and he told them that it was the great Tintagel. "Damsel," saith he, "My name is Arthur, and I am of Tincardoil."
Arthur and Lancelot have heard the tidings, there will they be. He goeth thitherward as fast as he may, and as straight, and scarce hath he ridden away or ever he met a squire that seemed right weary, and his hackney sore worn of the way. Messire Gawain asked him whence he came, and the squire said to him. "From the land of King Arthur, where is great war toward, for that none knoweth not what hath become of him. Many folk go about saying that he is dead, for never since that he departed from Cardoil, and Messire Gawain and Lancelot with him, have no tidings been heard of him; and he left the Queen at Cardoil to take his place, and also on account of her son's death, and the most part say that he is dead.
‘The knights that may not leave Cardoil lest Briant of the Isles should seize the city, they sent me to the kingdom of Logres.’
But Camelot was not at Tintagel and the Grail was not there but on an Island near the other Camelot. As we have discussed already the inclusion of Camelot in the story is solely its connection as ‘Shirei ha Ma'a lot’ and thus the unsure nature of the meaning of the word becoming a place, but having two different locations. It was Melkin who had included the occult material from the Hebrew texts found in the tomb which had been brought by Joseph, but the deeper meaning of the ascension of the steps to the temple eventually was portrayed as the quest for the Grail itself.
"Sir," saith Lancelot to the King, "So it please you, and Messire Gawain be willing, I will go back toward Cardoil, and help to defend your land to the best I may, for sore is it discounselled, until such time as you shall be come from the Graal."
The central theme and many accessory episodes are similar to Chrètien’s Perceval and its first two continuations. However the story of the Chess board is elongated in Gautier’s continuation of Perceval, but barely mentioned in Perlesvaus, the Welsh text making no mention of the board. How this allusion to the chess board fits in,(thinking historically) as it is not just an arbitrary icon, is not clear; unless in the subliminal sense the chess board originally in the book of the Grail was alluding to the valleys of Avaron as the board where Kings, Queens, Holy men(Bishops), Knights and Castles, (which all the grail literature incorporates) was somehow incorporated in some misunderstood sense as part of the story from its original potent meaning. Chrètien’s exemption could be for many reasons, but Gautier’s embellishment does imply the Perlesvaus as primary and of equal or older than Chrètien. I think that Henry heard much of his Grail material in the court circles of France as a youngster and may have put alot of material together from memory. It would seem that in the end the Grail which may have moved from the Island at one time and was located in a chapel above ground was in the end secreted due to outside and family feuds.
He hath won the land that belonged to good King Fisherman from the evil King of Castle Mortal, that did away thence the good believe, and therefore was it that the Graal was hidden.
At what stage after Joseph's arrival these feuds appear is not certain, as all the characters seem so interchangeable along with how they are related, but the offspring of the Holy family are concerned with the guardianship of the Grail and known as Grail Keepers.
Even Dugdale's account who follows the Glastonbury tradition seems to think St. Philip is responsible for 'Despatching' Joseph. This however could be of a later tradition where Joseph leaves Sarras (Avalon) and goes off to Proselytise. Even though Dugdale thinks the Island he refers to is Glastonbury he confirms the Small Island which by the time he wrote had become synonymous with Glastonbury Tor : " About sixty-three years after the Incarnation of our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea, accompanied by eleven other disciples of St. Philip, was despatched by that Apostle into Britain, to introduce in the place of barbarous and bloody rites, long exercised by the bigotted and besotted druids, the meek and gentle system of Christianity. They succeeded in obtaining from Arviragus, the British king, permission to settle in a small island………”
William of Malmesbury also tells us how Joseph of Arimathea was sent over by St. Philip, and how a king of Britain, whom he does not name, gave Joseph and his companions the island called Ynyswitryn, where, by admonition of the Archangel Gabriel appearing to him in a vision, he built a chapel which he dedicated to the Virgin. This Island originally had been called Sarras or Avalon. William, however, makes no allusion to the Graal, Josephes, Mordrains, and Sarras or to Lancelot or Gawain, or even to the prophecy of Melkin. Obviously (as we have discussed previously), he thinks any other tradition about Joseph bringing with him holy relics i.e the Graal is a frivolous invention and basically just associates the old church with Joseph but omits to inform us of whole legend of Joseph.
William gives short shrift to Arthur and does not want to mention Sarras or Avalon because of its connection with what he believes to be fabalized Graal material. After Arthur's last battle he was brought for the most part down the Tamar as William of Malmesbury portrays and this account might even be from a source extant in England, as we know Melkin had written another book about Arthur that is not the Grail Book. However William's reluctance to associate himself with this material is probably the reason he does not mention Melkin's prophecy.
Illuc post bellum Camblani vulnere lesum duximus Arcturum nos conducente Barintho, equora cui fuerant et celi sydera nota. Hoc rectore ratis cum principe venimus illuc, et nos quo decuit Morgen suscepit honore, inque suis talamis posuit super aurea regem fulcra manuque sibi detexit vulnus honesta inspexitque diu, tandemque redire salute posse sibi dixit, si secum tempore longo esset et ipsius vellet mendicamine fungi. Gaudentes igitur regem commisimus illi et dedimus ventis redeundo vela secundis.
‘To that place after the battle of Camblan we brought Arthur, hurt by wounds, with Barinthus leading us, to whom the waters and the stars of the sky were known. With this guide for our raft we came to that place with our leader, and with what was fitting Morgan did honor to us, and in her rooms she placed the king upon a golden couch and with her own honourable hand she uncovered his wound and inspected it for a long time, and at last she said that health could return to him, if he were with her for a long time and wished to undergo her treatment. Therefore rejoicing we committed the king to her and returning gave sails to the assisting winds.’
Wherever William obtained his account from, he surely would not have envisaged Glastonbury as the place where Arthur was sailed to, when he was wounded. What we can understand is that Avalon was a remote location and he was left there to try to heal (maybe assisted by the miraculous) and this is how all the rumours started, as only a few knew where he was. Obviously he did not survive and was buried on the island as the story goes, alongside Guinevere and the other illustrious occupants.
Derived from the same source as to Arthur’s destination after the battle of Camlann is Thomas Malory’s account in his Morte D'Arthur as seen here in this short exerpt:
‘Now put me into that barge,’ seyde the kynge.
And so he ded sofftely, and there resceyved hym three ladyes
with grete mournyng. And so they sette hem downe, and in one
of their lappis kyng Arthure layde hys hede. And then the quene seyde,
“A, my dere brothir! Why have ye taryed so longe frome me?
Alas, thys wounde on youre hede hath caught overmuch coulde!"
And anone they rowed fromward the londe, and sir Bedyvere
behylde all tho ladyes go frowarde hym. Than sir Bedwere cryed
“A, my lorde Arthur, what shall becom of me, now ye go frome
me and leve me here alone amonge myne enemyes?”
“Comforte thyselff,” seyde the kynge, “and do as well as thou
mayste, for in me ys no truste for to truste in. For I must into the
vale of Avylyon to hele me of my grevous wounde. And if thou
here nevermore of me, pray for my soule!”
But ever the quene and ladyes wepte and shryked, that hit was
pité to hyre. And as sone as sir Bedwere had loste the
syght of the barge he wepte and wayled, and so toke the foreste
and wente all that nyght. (Malory, Vinaver edition p. 716).
Both Goeffrey’s account('sed et inclytus Arturus letalier vulneratus est,qui… ad sananda vulnera sua in insulam avalloniam evectus') given around 1138 and this one from Malory probably stem from an entry in the tenth century Annales Cambriae under the year 539 which states in a matter of fact way that Arthur and Mordred fell in the Battle of Camlann. Even by 1150 the Vita Merlini relating that Arthur was taken to Avalon refers to Avalon as Insula pomorumwhich shows that at this early date...... the change of location of Avalon was already a transformation in progress.
We hear in the Perlesvaus that before Arthur’s death, Guinevere was buried in Avalon....... and thus the necessity to include her presence into the fabrication of Arthur’s disinterment at Glastonbury.
‘There were three hermits therewithin that had sung their vespers, and came over against Lancelot. They bowed their heads to him and he saluted them, and then asked of them what place was this? And they told him that the place there was Avalon. They make stable his horse. He left his arms without the chapel and entereth therein, and saith that never hath he seen none so fair nor so rich. There were within three other places, right fair and seemly dight of rich cloths of silk and rich corners and fringes of gold. He seeth the images and the crucifixes all newly fashioned, and the chapel illumined of rich colours; and moreover in the midst thereof were two coffins, one against the other, and at the four corners four tall wax tapers burning, that were right rich, in four right rich candlesticks. The coffins were covered with two pails, and there were clerks that chanted psalms in turn on the one side and the other.’
"Sir," says Lancelot to one of the hermits, "For whom were these coffins made?" "For King Arthur and Queen Guenievre." "King Arthur is not yet dead," says Lancelot.
"No, in truth, please God! but the body of the Queen lies in the coffin before us and in the other is the head of her son, until such time as the King shall be ended, unto whom God grant long life! But the Queen bade at her death that his body should be set beside her own when he shall end. Hereof have we the letters and her seal in this chapel, and this place made she be builded new on this wise or ever she died." But no semblant of grief durst he make other than such as might not be perceived, and right great comfort to him was it that there was an image of Our Lady at the head of the coffin.’
Here we have the evidence that the queen is buried in Avalon (which is next to one of the Camelots) and king Arthur is off to Tintagel (the other Camelot).
‘Of Meliot the story is here silent, and saith that King Arthur and Messire Gawain have ridden so far that they are come into the Isle of Avalon, there where the Queen lieth. They lodge the night with the hermits, that made them right great cheer. But you may well say that the King is no whit joyful when he seeth the coffin where the Queen lieth and that wherein the head of his son lieth. Thereof is his dole renewed, and he saith that this holy place of this holy chapel ought he of right to love better than all other places on earth. They depart on the morrow when they have heard mass. The King goeth the quickest he may toward Cardoil’…..,
‘The King sojourned at Cardoil of a long space. He believed in God and His sweet Mother right well. He brought thither from the castle where the Graal was the pattern whereby chalices should be made, and commanded make them throughout all the land so as that the Saviour of the world should be served more worshipfully. He commanded also that bells be cast throughout his land after the fashion of the one he had brought, and that each church should have one according to the means thereof. This much pleased the people of his kingdom, for thereby was the land somewhat amended.’
Josephus telleth us that as at this time was there no bell neither in Greater Britain nor in Lesser; but folk were called together by a horn, and in many places there were sheets of steel, and in other places clappers of wood. King Arthur marvelled him much of this sound, so clear and sweet was it, and it well seemed him that it came on God's behalf, and right fain was he to see a bell and so he might.
Here we witness the advent of Bells made obviously of bronze. In this era, the copper mines of Dartmoor were in full production and this may well have been some of the reason that the Monks of Mont-Saint-Michel so craved the area of Venn which they cajoled Edward the Confessor to hand over to them before the Norman conquest. The tin and copper were highly sought after later across Europe for bell making.
We can see here that the Camelot of the Queen of Maidens or the Widow’s castle of the Folly hill site, (which we know was in sight of the Island of Avalon) is overlooking the chapel on the Island. Also on the Island is the same house of religion or monastery attested to have been on Burgh island at one time and later was to become known as ‘St. Michael by the sea’.
‘His mother remained long time, and his sister, at Camelot, and led a good life and a holy. The lady made make a chapel right rich about the sepulchre that lay by the forest and Camelot, and had it adorned of rich vestments, and established a chaplain that should sing mass there every day. Since then has the place been so builded up as that there is an abbey there and folk of religion, and many bear witness that there it is still, right fair.’
The Abbey is obviously synonymous with the rumoured monastic buildings of which no trace persists from the sixth century. As mentioned before the more recent St. Michael chapel leaves no physical trace either. The head of the forest where Avalon exists is the same as the island that exists at the head of hazardous tides.
‘They rode until they came to the head of the forest and caught sight of the sea that was nigh enough before them, and saw that there was a great clashing of arms at the brink of the sea. A single knight was doing battle with all them that would fain have entered into a ship, and held stour so stiffly against them that he toppled the more part into the sea. They went thither as fast as they might, and when they drew nigh to the ship they knew that it was Perceval by his arms and his shield. Or ever they reached it, the ship was put off into the midst of the sea, wherein he was launched of his own great hardiment, and they went on fighting against him within the ship.
The Island of Avalon in Bigbury Bay.
It seems that in the end, reading between the lines, that most of the holy family that were the offspring of either Joseph or Mary Magdalene were also buried in the same vault under the Grail chapel. From thereafter because the rich and varied transformations of the characters, the icons and the geographical references that became so intermingled……… the Island of Avalon became not a part of history but a part of Legend.
The Widow Lady had made bear thither the body that lay in the coffin before the castle of Camelot in the rich chapel that she had builded there. His sister brought the cerecloth that she took in the Waste Chapel, and presented there where the Graal was. Perceval made bring the coffin of the other knight that was at the entrance of his castle within the chapel likewise, and place it beside the coffin of his uncle, nor never thereafter might it be removed. Josephus telleth us that Perceval was in this castle long time, nor never once moved therefrom in quest of no adventure; rather was his courage so attorned to the Saviour of the World and His sweet Mother, that he and his sister and the damsel that was therein led a holy life and a religious. Therein abode they even as it pleased God, until that his mother passed away and his sister and all they that were therein save he alone. The hermits that were nigh the castle buried them and sang their masses, and came every day and took counsel of him for the holiness they saw him do and the good life that he led there. So one day whilst he was in the holy chapel where the hallows were, forthwith, behold you, a Voice that cometh down therein: "Perceval," saith the Voice, "Not long shall you abide herein; wherefore it is God's will that you dispart the hallows amongst the hermits of the forest, there where these bodies shall be served and worshipped, and the most Holy Graal shall appear herein no more, but within a brief space shall you know well the place where it shall be."
When the Voice departed, all the coffins that were therein crashed so passing loud that it seemed the master-hall had fallen. He crosseth and blesseth him and commendeth him to God. On a day the hermits came to him. He disparted the holy relics among them, and they builded above them holy churches and houses of religion that are seen in the lands and in the islands. Joseus the son of King Hermit, remained therein with Perceval, for he well knew that he would be departing thence betimes.
Perceval heard one day a bell sound loud and high without the manor toward the sea. He came to the windows of the hall and saw the ship come with the white sail and the Red Cross thereon, and within were the fairest folk that ever he might behold, and they were all robed in such manner as though they should sing mass. When the ship was anchored under the hall they went to pray in the most holy chapel. They brought the richest vessels of gold and silver that any might ever see, like as it were coffins, and set therein one of the three bodies of knights that had been brought into the chapel, and the body of King Fisherman, and of the mother of Perceval. But no savour in the world smelleth so sweet. Perceval took leave of Joseus and commended him to the Saviour of the World, and took leave of the household, from whom he departed in like manner. The worshipful men that were in the ship signed them of the cross and blessed them likewise. The ship wherein Perceval was drew far away, and a Voice that issued from the manor as she departed commended them to God and to His sweet Mother. Josephus recordeth us that Perceval departed in such wise, nor never thereafter did no earthly man know what became of him, nor doth the history speak of him more. But the history telleth us that Joseus abode in the castle that had been King Fisherman's, and shut himself up therein so that none might enter, and lived upon that the Lord God might send him. He dwelt there long time after that Perceval had departed, and ended therein. After his end, the dwelling began to fall. Natheless never was the chapel wasted nor decayed, but was as whole thereafter as tofore and is so still. The place was far from folk, and the place seemed withal to be somewhat different. When it was fallen into decay, many folk of the lands and islands that were nighest thereunto marvel them what may be in this manor. They dare a many that they should go see what was therein, and sundry folk went thither from all the lands, but none durst never enter there again save two Welsh knights that had heard tell of it. Full comely knights they were, young and joyous hearted. So either pledged him to other that they would go thither by way of gay adventure; but therein remained they of a long space after, and when again they came forth they led the life of hermits, and clad them in hair shirts, and went by the forest and so ate nought save roots only, and led a right hard life; yet ever they made as though they were glad, and if that any should ask whereof they rejoiced in such wise, "Go," said they to them that asked, "thither where we have been, and you shall know the wherefore.
The High History witnesseth us that when the conquest of the castle was over, the Saviour of the World was right joyous and well pleased thereof. The Graal presented itself again in the chapel, and the lance whereof the point bleedeth, and the sword wherewith St John was beheaded that Messire Gawain won, and the other holy relics whereof was right great plenty. For our Lord God loved the place much. The hermits went back to their hermitages in the forest and served Our Lord as they had been wont. Joseus remained with Perceval at the castle as long as it pleased him, but the Good Knight searched out the land there where the New Law had been abandoned and its maintenance neglected.
Here endeth the story of the most Holy Graal. Josephus, by whom it is placed on record, giveth the benison of Our Lord to all that hear and honour it. The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the head of the hazardous tide, there where King Arthur and Queen Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that are therein, that have the whole history thereof, true from the beginning even to the end. After this same history beginneth the story how Briant of the Isles renounced King Arthur on account of Lancelot whom he loved not, and how he assured King Claudas that reft King Ban of Benoic of his land. This story telleth how he conquered him and by what means, and how Galobrus of the Red Launde came to King Arthur's court to help Lancelot, for that he was of his lineage. This story is right long and right adventurous and weighty, but the book will now forthwith be silent thereof until another time.’