King Arthur and the Church

Often portrayed as a paragon of Christian virtue, the real King Arthur was an embarrassment to the Church, writes Simon Andrew Stirling.

A page from a copy of 'Parzival' shows the title character, centre, with Arthur, c.1220. AKG Images/Bayerische Staatsbibliothek MunichCaesarius, a Cistercian monk at Heisterbach, near Bonn, told a revealing story in about 1220. The abbot at the time, Gevard of Heisterbach, was preaching when he realised that the monks of his chapter were dozing. Gevard suddenly exclaimed: ‘Listen, I have something new and wonderful to tell you! There was once a king whose name was Arthur ...’ Instantly the monks were rapt with attention. The abbot had proved his point: even the Cistercian brethren were more interested in the legends of Arthur than the Scriptures.

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