The Four Romances and Percival, the Story of the Grail
by Chretien de Troyes.
My research on Chrétien de Troyes led me to the following theory on the historical King Arthur, now widely accepted by Arthurian scholars.
In Late Antiquity, circa 460 A.D., Arthur Riothamus (kingliest or great king, protector of Britain against invading Saxons) was engaged by the Romans to rid Gaul of the Visigoths. Riothamus was called King of the Britons by the sixth century historian, Jordanes. Arthur Riothamus is now widely accepted as the historical King Arthur so described by the twelfth century historian, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of England. Before long the legends and myths of King Arthur evolved and became deeply ingrained in the minds of the Britons and the Bretons of Gaul .
It was the poet Chrétien de Troyes (ca. 1135-1193) who first wrote about King Arthur and Lancelot and Percival as characters in his Four Romances and Perceval and The Story of the Grail. Chrétien was also the first ever to write of Camelot, which he describes as on a high place, by a river, surrounded by a forest and plains. There could be no better description of Celtic Latisco. A hilltop citadel by the Seine ,surrounded by forests, and, beyond, plains which extend for miles, fields where grains have been cultivated for centuries.
The Celts of Latisco became rich from farming, trade, and toll collecting. From archaeological evidence, they used weapons only for hunting and to defend themselves. Around 450 B.C. these Hallstatt Celts were overcome or absorbed by the hostile, war-like La Tène Celts sweeping down from the north. Before long, Latisco was abandoned: fire consumed the settlement. Like Sybaris, Latisco was no longer.
I believe that the Krater of Vix is the very source of Chrétien's Story of the Grail. The Krater of Vix is the grail, the pagan grail, the pre-Christian grail of Chrétien de Troyes. To repeat the words of the Celtic scholar, Jean Markdale, the word graal derives from the Latin cratalis which is derived from the word krater in Greek--a vessel used to mix wine and water in ritual. I believe that the memory of this massive vessel lingered on in the story telling, generation after generation until it finally surfaced in Chrétien's The Story of the Grail.
In 1926, Jessie L Weston, the writer who inspired me the most, wrote about the pagan grail and Chrètien in her landmark book, From Ritual to Romance(1920). The following is from her chapter on the Grail and Chrétien de Troyes:
That the man who first told the story, and boldly, as befitted a born teller of tales, wedded it to the Arthurian legend, was himself connected by descent with the ancient Faith himself actually held the Secret of the Grail, and told, in purposely romantic form, that of which he knew, I am firmly convinced.
Weston refers to Chrétien de Troyes, the "born teller of tales," who set his Romances in the court of King Arthur, whose stories of fame, prowess, and bravery had been told and re-told in lays, sagas and poetry, and lingered on in the collective imagination of the Celtic Bretons and the Gauls of Burgundy.
I am convinced that Chrétien's Camelot, the yearning for a golden age of peace and prosperity, that shining city on the hill, is in France, on this very hilltop overlooking the village of Vix, the Seine flowing by, surrounded by forests and plains of grain, just as it is today . Troyes was only a long day's ride to Vix and not far from Avallon where the wounded King Arthur Riothamus was taken by his stalwart soldiers. It is documented* that Arthur Riothamus was last known to have been seen in the vicinity of a town called Avallon in Gaul. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, Avallon is spelled with two Ls.
Chrétien was court poet to Marie of France, daughter of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Why, I'd wondered, would he have placed Avalon in England when ancient Avallon was so close to his home in Troyes? Although the Vale of Avalon, outside of Glastonbury, England, has always had a mystical aura about it, there is no place called Avalon in England, nor has there ever been, The discovery of the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey has been disputed and is now dismissed as fraudulent.
Again, Jessie Weston's words: I am firmly convinced, nor do I think that the time is far distant when the missing links will be in our hand, and we shall be able to weld once more the golden chain which connects Ancient Ritual with Medieval Romance.
I believe that the "missing links" that weld "the golden chain" are finally in our hands-- links cast in golden Sybaris, now, centuries later, welded to the great bronze Krater brought to light from the golden hillsides of Burgundy.
Mont Lassois, Vix, Burgundy
Camelot, a place by a river, surrounded by forests and plains