Wednesday, 28 October 2015
King Arthur and the Church
Abbot Gevard, who, during a sermon to his English chapterhouse monks noticed several bethren sleeping - some even began to snore. "Listen brethren, listen," he cried out. "I have something new and important to tell you: There was once a king named Arthur." Seeing his somnolent audience rouse itself, he scolded them: "When I was speaking to you about God, you fell asleep, but you all woke up and began to listen with eager ears" with the naming of Arthur.
The Fabulous Dark Cloister:Romance in England after the Reformation. Tiffany J. Werth
I love the idea that the monks were roused from their slumbers by the mention of Arthur's name. He somehow caught the imagination of a nation and has held it captive ever since.
The last time I talked about Gildas, and how Arthur had somehow fallen out with the Church. This was something I had to try and find out about.
But, remember, Arthur, according to Bede, was a Christian..he carried the image of the Virgin Mary into battle.
So what happened?
I am going to introduce you to an early 6th Century abbot-bishop who went by the name of Padarn. Padarn founded St Padarn's Chruch in Llanbadarn Fawk.....Wales.
Church of St Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr
Padarn, it seems, had a little bit of a run in with Arthur. Check this out.
'When Padarn was in his church resting after so much labour at sea, a certain tyrant, Arthur by name, was traversing the regions on either side, who one day came to the cell of saint Padarn the bishop. And while he was addressing Padarn, he looked at the tunic, which he, being pierced with the zeal of avarice, sought for his own. The saint answering said, "This tunic is not fitting for the habit of any malign person, but for the habit of the clerical office." He went out of the monastery in a rage. And again he returns in wrath, that he might take away the tunic against the counsels of his own companions. One of the disciples of Padarn seeing him returning in fury, ran to saint Padarn and said, "The tyrant, who went out from here before, is returning. Reviling, stamping, he levels the ground with his feet". Padarn answers "Nay rather, may the earth swallow him." With the word straightway the earth opens the hollow of its depth, and swallows Arthur up to his chin. He immediately acknowledging his guilt begins to praise both God and Padarn, until, while he begs forgiveness, the earth delivered him up. From that place on bent knees he begged the saint for indulgence, whom the saint forgave. And he took Padarn as his continual patron, and so departed.'
This extract make Arthur sound like a spoilt little child, stamping his feet and having a bit of a tantrum when he could not have what he wanted. It doesn't sound very heroic, does it? Did Geoffrey of Monmouth, glamourise the life of Arthur in The History of the Kings of Britain? Was he, in fact, dishonourable? Little more than a bully? Or was the Church merely trying to discredit him...had he in fact become too popular? Did the people, like the monks, prefer to hear the stories of Arthur rather than the words of God? I'll leave it up to you to decide.
See you soon.