Legends of King Arthur written in forgotten crypt at Oxford Castle, say researchers

By Culture24 Reporter | 29 April 2013

A now-crumbled chapel on the site of Oxford Castle is almost certain to have been the setting where the Legends of King Arthur, ensconced in the 12th century History of the Kings of Britain, were written.

A photo of dimly lit stone walls within an ancient chapel crypt
The Legends of King Arthur dwell among a crypt within the grounds of Oxford Castle© Continuum
Announcing a week of family quests and Sword in the Stone-style activities around the Normal castle in celebration of their discovery, experts said Geoffrey of Monmouth would have conceived the work, known as Historia Regum Britanniae, while serving within the grounds which would become the castle prison.

“Geoffrey of Monmouth was a serving canon in St George’s Chapel, on the site of what is now Oxford Castle,” explained Helen Fulton, a Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of York with particular knowledge of Arthurian literature.

“He would have been based there when he wrote his famous Latin chronicle, Historia Regum Britanniae, around 1136.

“It was Geoffrey who introduced the figures of King Arthur and Merlin to a wide medieval readership.

“He paved the way for the enormous popularity of the Arthurian legends in later centuries, right up to modern times."

Guided tours of the site take in the Saxon stone-built St George’s Tower and a Georgian prison wing before descending into the “atmospheric” crypt, where the remnants of the ancient chapel now lie.
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