Guillaume Kerfontaine

The forest of Brocéliande:

Beachfront markets of Britain, or Paimpont?

Since the beginning of the 19th century, the majority of the commentators place the forest of Brocéliande in Brittany, in the West of Rennes, equating to the current forest of Paimpont. Curious identification as this when we know that the foundational texts of the Arthurian (XII and XIII centuries) myth say Brocéliande bordering the sea of Cornwall and Petite Bretagne abroad (on a defensive line erected as early as the 11th century on the initiative of the Dukes of Brittany, by Dol, Combourg, ferns, glass-enclosed and fortified to Nantes). In the language of the XII century, the markets of Britain cannot have another meaning. Around 1200, the "tale of the Lady of the fountain", relying on a more ancient Welsh source which will be also covered by Chrétien de Troyes, located the Brocéliande Castle near the ocean.

Paimpont, clearly does not meet these criteria. Better: there is no locality is here named "Brocéliande" or "Brecheliant", or any of the older forms of the name.

The first historic diversion occurs in the 15th century. In 1467, Guy XIV of Laval, Lord of Tinteniac, Becherel, Montfort, count of Laval and baron of Vitré, assimilated in its "Charter des Usements de Brécilien", for the first time, the fountain which he named "Baker" for the occasion at the 'fountain which end"of Arthurian legend. There is a way to reinforce the thesis that he defended by claiming to be a descendant of the ancient kings of Armorica. But that there be no mistake: the "Brocéliande" forest is vast. François René de Chateaubriand explains (Mémoires d'outre tombe): "in the twelfth century, the townships of Fougères, Rennes, Bécherel, Dinan, St-Malo and Dol, were occupied by the Brecheliant forest. And the great Breton writer added:

"I want Brecheliant for Bécherel, near Combourg." 

Citing a wide ranging forest massif to the Sea (Saint-Malo) around Dol and Combourg, Chateaubriand puts us on the path to a location of Brocéliande comply with Arthurian literature of the XII ° and 13th centuries.

In the 19th century, the forest of Paimpont is gradually assimilated to Brocéliande: Georges Bertin explains in a note at bottom of page (the quest of the Holy Grail and the imaginary, page 74):

Marcel Calvez, in his thesis: "productive uses, tourism uses and land-use planning. The Val without return (1820-1984)", supported at Paris X in 1984, has shown that the identification of the forest of Paimpont in Ille-et-Vilaine antique Brocéliande occurs at the beginning of the 19th century from the designation of the tomb of Merlin in 1824 by Blanchard de La Musse featuring" places of legend from a megalith considered to be a remnant Celtic. They made the transition from a dominant literary representation to a real territory ". This legendary topography will be that grow on this basis throughout the century.

No convincing evidence of Brocéliande in the West of Rennes. We are neither to Britain markets, or on the shores of the sea of Cornwall. Since obviously Paimpont site does not meet the criteria by the ancient texts, where is really the forest of Brocéliande?


Mont Dol

Geoffrey of Monmouth

In 1066, Guillaume the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, raised an army and covers the island of Britain. He won the battle of Hastings and became King of England. The new political deal involves deep mutations. After the invasions of the v and VI centuries, the Britons had fled to the West of the island, in Cornwall and Wales, some emigrant in Armorica or "Petite Bretagne", the current French region. Guillaume the Conqueror, with the flow are reversed: the Duke is surrounded by Britons of Armorica, who will receive land in England. It is a way to win the support of the Britons for the King. Later, in the 12th century, Henri II Plantagenêt encourages the creation of knightly stories touting the links between England and Brittany little that he covets.

It is in this political context that will be born the first chivalric romance, the epic of King Arthur. It crystallizes at the time the virtues of the Knight promoted to the rank of a defender of the property, and the unification of the Celts of great and little Britain.

The Arthurian cycle was born under the pen of the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth: written in latin between 1135 and 1138, "history of the Kings of Britain" (it must of course be understood the Kings of Great Britain) follows the adventures of Arthur and Merlin, whose prophecies are discussed. Will follow the life of Merlin, by the same author, in 1148. This founding text can be found in Europe a significant impact to the 12th and 13th centuries. Follow Chrétien de Troyes and Wace novels based on one and the other of the original story. The Arthurian myth was born.

Who is Geoffrey of Monmouth? The descendant of a family of DOL, in Brittany (Department of Ille-et-Vilaine), suggested, comrades-in-weapon of Guillaume le Conquérant in 1066. The King of England will give the suggested the fief of the Abbey of Monmouth, Wales.

In the first half of the 12th century, Geoffroy is not the only breton of Armorica in Monmouth: join him several families dependent on the seigniory of the Dol-Combour (from the name of two cities located south west of Mont Saint-Michel). Moved to Monmouth hand of the Boussac and Emauld of the Oubert town in Epiniac (1). This is that clarifies the geographical inspiration for the Arthurian story: La Boussac and Epiniac ranged from Combourg and Dol, in what was in the 12th century a large wooded area (2), of which there are still many elements (including the forest of Mesnil, in the West of the zone, and the forest of eastern city-Cartier).

Broualan, i.e. forest Brocéliande

This wooded expanse was to highlight (114 meters above sea level, when some points area flirt with sea level) a village named Broualan, a few kilometres from the Boussac and Epiniac, just to quote. The etymology of Broualan throws a first sailing on inspiration from Arthurian sites: Broualan comes from the old breton Bron-Alan. Bron means Hill and Alan or Elk (root AL - or EL-, herd) human herd (the rich man in the Celtic tradition). It is true that this Hill is very well defended in the 12th century, with the castles of Landal (to its North flank) and the rock Montbourcher (South side), masterpieces of the markets of Brittany. This etymology gives birth to Brech (Hill) Elian (the man in the herd), over the stories become Brechelian or Brechelien, then the Brocéliande. In breton, Brec'h is synonymous with Bron and means Hill.

Geoffrey of Monmouth uses the framework of the Breton forest knows to build its story. We will discover ample evidence.

Broualan-Broceliande: a Priory associated with Monmouth

Today, a few monuments still bear witness of Broualan past: in addition to the castles of Landal and rock Montbourcher that demonstrate the strategic importance of this Hill to Britain markets, is a remarkable Church of the 15th and 16th centuries and especially some elements of the old Priory of the Bregain in Broualan. This building includes a tower with a small oratory at the top, from which you can see the Mont Saint Michel to the naked eye. The Priory depends on as early as 1122 (therefore a few years before the writing of the Arthurian story of Geoffrey of Monmouth) of the Abbey of Saint-Florent in Anjou (3). This detail is important: as we explained Guillotel (op. cit.); "To establish their sanctuary in Monmouth, the suggested followed the example then given by their Breton Lords, Dol-Combour; the eldest of these, Guillaume, became Abbot of Saint-Florent de Saumur, while his brother John 1 was in a suburb of Dol a dependency of the Abbey (Broualan)". So as the Bregain in Broualan Monmouth Priory is attached to the Abbey Saint-Florent de Saumur (4).

"Guillaume Rivallon (1070-1118) was the eldest son of the Lord of Dol and Combourg. This election marks the end of the supervision exercised on Saint-Florent by the Abbey of Marmoutier. Guillaume, associated with the Breton and Norman, Lords receives them considerable donations. In England, table, who had founded the monastery of Monmouth, became religious of Saint-Florent. From this Priory, Abbey develops its possessions in Britain."

Now let the writing of the epic of Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth in its context: the author is joined in the first half of the 12th century by from families like him the lordship of Dol-Combour; Broualan forest will become Brocéliande, the same etymology. Monmouth will take to frame this wooded massif of Armorica in the back country of Mont-St.-Michel, that he knows well. And there, everything becomes clear:

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's account, Arthur landed in Normandy to kill a giant to the Mont Saint Michel: "In the meantime, Arthur learned that a giant of an extraordinary size, came from Spain, had removed its guards Helena, the niece of Duke Hoel, (Old King Coel) and fled with her to the top of a mountain called mont Saint-Michel" (5). The giant killed Helena. It is for this reason called the small islet North of Mont Saint Michel "Tombelaine" or "falls Helena". Arthur terrace the giant and it is his first fact of weapon on this side of the English channel. By locating to start action at Mont-St.-Michel, we see that Geoffrey of Monmouth takes its region of origin as a framework of the Arthurian cycle in little Britain.

The Arthurian stories together (those of Monmouth, of Wace, of Chrétien de Troyes) confirms this location:

It is known that the forest of Brocéliande (actually Broualan) borders the Cornwall sea and "markets of Brittany". In the historical context of the 12th century, these descriptions are perfectly clear: the Cornwall sea is round, and the steps of Britain initiated at the 11th defence line ° century by the Dukes of Brittany: Beaufort near Dol - Combourg - Fougères - Vitré. This defensive system is particularly dense in the seigneury of Dol - Combour, with four castles in the forest of Broualan (Combourg, Beaufort, Landal and rock Montbourcher). Examination of a map of the area speaks for itself: the shores of the sea of Cornwall cross Brittany markets near the Mont Saint Michel. The forest evokes Monmouth is therefore Broualan, this large forest area of the lordship of the Dol-Combour. His region of origin, quite simply.

(1) Hubert Guillotel "a Breton family in the service of the Conqueror: the suggested". Paris, PUF, 1976.

(2) Examination of the names shows that this area was inhabited shortly during the first Millennium, with the exception of Combourg and Dol of course. The names are novels (French) then also dominate Celtic and Breton names.

(3) Paul Banéat, Ille-et-Vilaine Department, Broualan. 1927.

(4) Old charters of the Monmouth Priory in England, in the diocese of Hereford, Member of the Abbey Benedictine of St. - Florent near Saumur [Ancient charters of the priory of Monmouth in the diocese of Hereford, a member of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Florent] / mail, Paul. 1879

(5) Geoffrey of Monmouth, "History of the Kings of Britain", translated from the latin by Laurence Mani-mesh, Les Belles letters, 1992.


Contact the author:


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