The Celts from Cornwall

The Arthurian Legend is part of the Breton identity.

Arthurian Legend - King Arthur in Tintagel - Cornwall
King Arthur in Tintagel – Cornwall

The Celts from Cornwall landed on the jagged shores of the Armorique Peninsula in the 5th century AD.

The newcomers changed the name of Armorica into Lesser Britain as a reminder of their country of origin Greater Britania – Great Britain.

The name evolved into Britannia, Britain and Brittany.

They had already converted to Christianity and the Church of Rome had officially adopted their leaders as Breton patron saints.

St-Samson, St-Malo, St-Brieuc, St-Tugdal, St-Paul, St-Corentin and St-Patern evangelized the region and founded seven bishoprics:

Dol de Bretagne, St-Malo, St-Brieuc, Tréguier, Léon, Cornouaille and Vannetais.

The Cornish Celts also brought with them their old Celtic traditions anchored in the depth of their Christian beliefs.

As a result, they gave rise to a unique culture that still defines the Breton identity.

However, they knew that local folks won’t abandon their pagan deities overnight.

They therefore assimilated them to local holy men who protected, healed and watched over people’s everyday life.

Arthurian Legend - Excalibur in Broceliande
Excalibur in Broceliande

Many people still invoke these patron saints today!

In the 8th century, the Cornish Celts invoked the appearance of the Archangel Michael in order to found Le Mont St-Michel Abbey.

They choose a rocky promontory jutting out of the large Baie du Mont-St-Michel.

They certainly saw it as an exact replica of St-Michael’s Mount Abbey, which they had left off the coast of Cornwall.

The similarity between the two abbeys is indeed so obvious that many people often still confuse them.

Arthurian Legend and mythical Forest of Brocéliande

The main heroes of the Celtic tradition became the protagonists of King Arthur’s mythical Quest of the Holy Grail.

Arthurian Legend - King Arthur's Round Table in Winchester
King Arthur’s Round Table in Winchester

Thus appeared Brocéliande, a magical forest and secret location where Merlin the Wizard and Vivian the Fairy lived. Two thousand years ago the dense forest of century-old oaks and beeches covered inland Brittany or Argoat.

Endless trails crisscrossed it and led to ancient burial mounds, menhirs and dolmens erected during the Neolithic.

The memory of the people who built them was already lost in the dust of time.

All that was left were their enigmatic megalithic structures, whose purpose was unknown.

These gave rise to the many myths and legends of the magical Forêt de Brocéliande.

The forest was therefore an ideal setting for the Arthurian Legend where Merlin the Wizard led King Arthur in his Quest of the Holy Grail.

Cromlech - magical circle in Foret de Broceliande
Cromlech – magical circle

The mythical and mysterious object had indeed magical properties that gave immortality, peace and harmony to the worthy men.

Arthur created his Round Table and gathered around it the most valiant knights of his kingdom.

Only the purest of them could bring back the Holy Grail and place it in the centre of the table.

Christianity recovered the Arthurian Legend and the myth of the Holy Grail, and assimilated it to the Chalice Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.

It became a symbol of divine grace available to those who reached the highest levels of spirituality.

Brocéliande, aka Forêt de Paimpont, is still a magical place full of fairies, magicians and pagan deities.

And abbeys, churches, chapels, crosses and crucifixes erected centuries ago still punctuate the Breton landscape.

Discover setting of the Arthurian Legend:

Forêt de Brocéliande,Tombeau de Merlin, Fontaine de Jouvence, Chêne des Hindrés, Château de Comper, Chêne d’Eon or Chêne à Guillotin, Fontaine de Barenton, Jardin aux Moines, Eglise du Graal in Tréhorenteuc, Miroir aux Fées and Arbre d’Or in the Val Sans Retour, Hostié de Viviane or Tombeau des Druides, Tombeau des Géants ou Roche à la Vieille, Abbey of Paimpont, Forges de Paimpont and Pierres Droites

Department of Ille-et-Vilaine
Coordinates Brocéliande: Lat 48.020709 – Long -2.169766

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