Account of the Discovery of King Arthur's Grave: Ralph of Coggeshall


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Ralph of Coggeshall
An Account of the Discovery of King Arthur's Grave from the English Chronicle, c.1220

In "Chronicon Anglicanum," a history of England covering the years 1187 to 1224, Ralph of Coggeshall gives us a terse description of an event that took place at Glastonbury Abbey in 1191 (or 1190 depending on which account you read). Ralph's version is much less detailed than Gerald of Wales', but contains a few new details. For example, Gerald tells us that the digging effort was instigated by Henry II who had it from a Welsh bard that Arthur's body was buried between two pyramids, there. Ralph avers that the monks were digging because of the desire of another monk to be buried in that particular spot in the cemetary.

Another variance with Gerald's account is in the Latin form of the name, Arthur, purportedly carved into the burial cross found in the vicinity of the coffin; Ralph calls him Arturius, Gerald names him Arthurus.

The location of the cross, itself, is also a matter of some difficulty. Ralph tells us that the cross was "placed" on the coffin; Gerald, in "Liber de Principis instructione," c.1193, says that the cross was attached to a slab found underneath the coffin, and in "Speculum Ecclesiae," c.1216, he tells us that it was attached to the slab, but that the slab was found at the seven foot level and the coffin at the sixteen foot level.
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1191: This year were found at Glastonbury the bones of the most renowned Arthur, formerly King of Britain, buried in a very ancient coffin, about which two ancient pyramids had been built: on the sides of these was in inscription, illegible on account of the rudeness of the script and its worn condition. The bones were discovered as follows: as they were digging up this ground to bury a monk who had urgently desired in his lifetime to be interred there, they discovered a certain coffin, on which a leaden cross had been placed, bearing the inscription,

Here lies the famous King Arturius, buried in the Isle of Avalon.
For this place, which is surrounded by marshes, was formerly called the Isle of Avalon, that is, the isle of apples.



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