Thursday, October 13, 2011

Caerleon ~ Dark Age Capital of Wales? ~ David Nash Ford

The town of Caerleon is mentioned so often in King Arthur's story, that it has become synonymous with his very name. If it were his Capital City, surely it is the true Camelot.

The Tradition: Stories of King Arthur holding court at Caerleon stretch back to the time ofGeoffrey of Monmouth and further still to the oral traditions set down in the Mabinogion. Geoffrey says of Caerleon:

"Situated as it is in Morgannwg, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea, in a most pleasant position, and being richer in material wealth than other townships, this city was eminently suitable...The river which I have named flowed by it on one side, and...On the other side, which was flanked by meadows and wooded groves, they had adorned the city with royal palaces, and by the gold-painted gables of its roofs it was a match for Rome. What is more, it was famous for its two churches. One of these, built in honour of the martyr Julius, was graced by a choir of most lovely virgins dedicated to God. The second, founded in the name of the blessed St. Aaron, the companion of Julius, was served by a monastery of canons, and counted the third metropolitan see of Britain. The city also contained a college of two hundred learned men, who were skilled in astronomy and the other arts and so by their careful computations prophesied for King Arthur any prodigies due at that time."

Caerleon was especially noted for "Arthur's Table", a huge grass-covered raised oval hollow around which King Arthur and his knights often sat. At one meeting there, King Arthur appointed St. Dyfrig as Archbishop of St. Aaron's Cathedral in Caerleon. He was later succeeded by St. Dewi (David) who removed the archdiocese to Mynwyr (St. Davids). It was to St. Julius' that Queen Gwenhwyfar retired after the Battle of Camlann, and here she apparently died.

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