Excalibur is the mythical sword of King Arthur, sometimes attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Great Britain. Sometimes Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone (the proof of Arthur's lineage) are said to be the same weapon, but in most versions they are considered separate. The sword was associated with the Arthurian legend very early; in Welsh, the sword was called Caledfwlch.
In surviving accounts of Arthur, there are two originally separate legends about the sword's origin. The first is the "Sword in the Stone" legend, originally appearing in Robert de Boron's poem Merlin, in which Excalibur can only be drawn from the stone by Arthur, the rightful king. The second comes from the later Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, which was taken up by Sir Thomas Malory. Here, Arthur receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake after breaking his first sword, called Caliburn, in a fight with King Pellinore. The Lady of the Lake calls the sword "Excalibur, that is as to say as Cut-steel," and Arthur takes it from a hand rising out of the lake.
As Arthur lay dying, he tells a reluctant Sir Bedivere (Sir Griflet in some versions) to return the sword to the lake by throwing it into the water. Bedivere thinks the sword too precious to throw away, so twice only pretends to do so. Each time, Arthur asks him to describe what he saw. When Bedivere tells him the sword simply vanished underwater, Arthur scolds him harshly. Finally, Bedivere throws Excalibur into the lake. Before the sword strikes the water's surface, the hand reaches up to grasp it and pull it under. Arthur leaves on a death barge with the three queens to Avalon, where as his legend says, he will one day return to save Britain from a threat. Malory records both versions of the legend in his Le Morte d'Arthur, and confusingly calls both swords Excalibur. The film Excalibur attempts to rectify this by having the Lady of the Lake only repair the sword after it is broken. Read more
To remove the sword from the stone (physical reality)
is to return to light and consciousness.
March 1, 2004 - Discovery
The sword in the stone, in the chapel next to the Gothic Abbey of Saint Galgano at Montesiepi. Archaeological digging may soon unveil its origins, Italian research announced. Known as the "sword in the stone," the Tuscan "Excalibur" is said to have been plunged into a rock in 1180 by Galgano Guidotti, a medieval knight who renounced war and worldly goods to become a hermit. Built in Galgano's memory, the evocative Gothic abbey at Montesiepi, near the city of Siena, still preserves the sword in a little chapel. Only the hilt and a few centimeters of the blade protrude from the rock in the shape of a Cross. "The sword has been considered a fake for many years, but our metal dating research in 2001 has indicated it has medieval origins. The composition of the metal doesn't show the use of modern alloys, and the style is compatible with that one of a 12th century sword," Luigi Garlaschelli, a research scientist at University of Pavia, told Discovery News.
By the summer, Garlaschelli hopes to excavate the area around the stone, in search of the knight's body. Indeed, ground penetrating radar analysis revealed the presence of a 6 1/2-foot by 3-foot room beneath the sword. "It could well be Galgano's tomb, [sought] for about 800 years," Garlaschelli said. The figure of Galgano Guidotti, who is said to have be born in 1148 in Chiusdino, near Siena, is shrouded in mystery and legend. Evidence of his historical identity has never been found and no records exist in documents from his time. Galgano Guidotti was said to have been an arrogant and lustful knight who isolated himself in a cave and became a hermit after seeing a vision of the Archangel Michael.
Legend has it that, Galgano was lured out by his mother who convinced him to meet with his former beautiful fiancee; on the way to her house, Galgano was thrown by his horse while passing Montesiepi, a hill near Chiusdino. There, another vision told him to renounce material things. Galgano objected that it would be as difficult as splitting a rock with a sword. To prove his point, he struck a stone with his sword. Instead of breaking, the sword slid like butter into the rock. Galgano once again became a recluse, isolating himself by the sword's side. There he remained until he died in 1181.
Garlaschelli admitted that the excavation would not unveil another mystery over the sword: the one of the Tuscan "Excalibur" predating the legend of King Arthur. If the sword really dates to 1180, decades before the first literary reference to the "sword in the stone," it would support the theory that the Celtic myth of King Arthur and his sword Excalibur developed in Italy after the death of Galgano. "Further evidence may lie underneath the rock, but the Arthurian link is almost impossible to prove. It will remain one of the many mysteries that surround St. Galgano. More multidisciplinary studies are needed to understand what the hill of Montesiepi hides. Meanwhile, we are all anxious to see what results this excavation will bring," Maurizio Cali, president of the "Project Galgano" association, told Discovery News.
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