The exhumation of Arthur

1191 exhumation stories: Gerald of Wales

Reconstruction of the exhumation of Arthur in 1191 (© Rahtz and Watts, 2003)

Reconstruction of the exhumation of Arthur in 1191 (© Rahtz and Watts, 2003)

In 1191 the monks claimed to have found the grave of Arthur at Glastonbury. An eye-witness account was recorded by Gerald of Wales:

“Now the body of King Arthur… was found in our own days at Glastonbury, deep down in the earth and encoffined in a hollow oak between two stone pyramids… two parts of the tomb, to wit, the head, were allotted to the bones of the man, while the remaining third… contained the bones of a woman…

there was found a yellow tress of woman’s hair still retaining its colour and freshness; but when a certain monk snatched it and lifted it with greedy hand, it straightaway all of it fell into dust…

the bones of Arthur…were so huge that his shank-bone when placed against the tallest man in the place, reached a good three inches above his knee…the eye-socket was a good palm in width…there were ten wounds or more, all of which were scarred over, save one larger than the rest, which had made a great hole