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King Grallon viewed as Vortigern

The legends of King Grallon and Vortigern reek with debauchery and incest. As divine punishment for his sinful daughter, Grallon’s city, Is [Ys], was submerged by the sea (Muirhead, Findlay, The Blue Guides -- Brittany). Nennius tells of Vortigern’s fathering his daughter’s son, Faustus (trans. John Morris, British History and The Welsh Annals). Both men lived in the fifth century based sources written centuries later. Though these events may not have occurred, it is still worth gleaning for details. This literary sifting has led to the belief that King Grallon was Vortigern.

King Grallon’s activities centered around the Bay of Douarnenez in western France. The Life of Winwaloe written by Wrdisten presents this as an accepted truth in the second half of the ninth century (The Saints of Cornwall, part two by Gilbert Doble). Wrdisten describes Gradlon, Courentinus, and Winwaloe as three great luminaries and pillars of Cornouaille. Tutualus, a famous monk, preceded them. Findlay Muirhead states that the town named Douarnenez owes its name and origin to the priory of St. Tutuarn, founded on the neighboring Tutuarn-Enez, now called Ile Tristan. Allegedly, Is [Ys] was located in a lagoon on the Bay of the Departed. This bay forms the bottom point of the Bay of Douarnenez. Some Gallo-Roman remains are located in the nearby hamlet of Troguer.

According to Patrick Galliou and Michael Jones in The Bretons, over sixty percent of the documented salting units in western France are located on the bay’s shores. Based on the total volume generated, the authors figure, these fish-salting units produced more than what was locally or regionally consumed. They theorize that the surplus was shipped to other parts of the Empire and to the shores of Britain. They further speculate that the salting industry was extensively developed to supply the military markets of the British and Rhenish limites. These units had reached a “corporate-level” by the third century AD. From an inscription of that time, one learns of the worshiping of the Greek god, Poseidon Hippios, in the bay area. Galliou and Jones mark salting tanks just south of Quimper on a map. In Muirhead’s Brittany, King Grallon established Quimper in the fifth century, calling the area Cornouaille (Cornwall), a name brought over from Britain. In the neighboring area of Quimper not a great distance from the church of Combrit, the remains of a Roman villa and baths were discovered. Farther south, one will view Ile-Tudy and Loctudy.

Besides holding sway over land by the sea, the saints associated with King Grallon reinforce his strong link to fish. It has been put forth that St. Winwaloe used a small almost black bell to attract fish. According to another source, St. Corentin had a miraculous fish that he would eat for his daily meal. Afterwards, the fish would reappear in a pool near his cell.

King Grallon could have been controlling the garum industry in the area. If Grallon ran this type of operation, two things become apparent. He dealt more frequently with sea-faring men, ranging from the Franks, the Goths, the Irish to the Saxons. Secondly, he had a source of wealth beside any generated by his lands in Armorica or possibly those in Britain. With this capital available and the increased day-to-day interaction with sailors, it does not seem extreme that Grallon hired Saxons to beat back the people of the north.

Logistically, Grallon’s presence in western Armorica and possibly in western Britain would explain the need to hire out the defenses of the eastern shores of Britain. King Grallon’s own fleet would have been busy guarding his personal interests. Safe harbors on both sides of the channel would have facilitated patrolling the western waters.

In passage 66, Nennius states that Vortigern came to power in 425. In the Life of St. Germanus, part 3, passages 47 and 48 compiled by Nennius, different stories spell out the eventual end of Vortigern. In one, Bishop Germanus drove Vortigern into exile twice. Vortigern fled first to Gwerthrynion and then to his fortress in Demetia. The bishop followed Vortigern and laid siege upon him. Fire rained down from the heavens and destroyed the fortress of Vortigern. In the last paragraph in section [viii. 2] of The History of the King of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the army of Ambrosius and the other Brits laid siege to Vortigern’s fortress and used weapons of fire to burn up the tower. Another version tells of him wandering about and dying without honor.

In “Princess Ahez and The Lost City”, King Grallon and his courtiers became lost in a forest and arrived at the hermitage of St. Corentin. The monk fed them all with parts of a fish. Miraculously, the fish regenerated itself. For the hermit’s hospitality, Grallon made St. Corentin the first Bishop of Cornouaille.

Possibly in gratitude, St. Corentin passed down the events of King Grallon’s life in a favorable light. Vortigern’s incestuous affair with his daughter was cast as the fault of King Grallon’s promiscuous daughter.

To help establish a floriut for King Grallon, one could further review the religious figures surrounding him. In the chapter entitled “De altitudine et nobilitate Cornubie”, Wrdisten implies that Grallon, Courentinus, and Winwaloe were contemporary while Tutualus was already established in the area and/or was from an older generation. According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, King Childebert insisted that Tudwal should become the Bishop of Tréguier. This occurred when the religious man was in Paris obtaining confirmation of his titles to land from the Frankish lord during the sixth century. Doble notes that the mentioning of Tutual puzzled many scholars due to the assumed association with the Bishop of Tréguier. This has led to the opinion that Tutualus and Tudwal are two separate individuals.

A much later source, the Sanctoral of Quimper of 1500, states that Grallon sent Corentin, Winwaloe and Tudy to Martin [Tours] to have him consecrate the most fitting candidate of the three. Corentin was chosen. Though Gilbert Doble dismisses this information as untrustworthy, his reason seems contested by other details he provides. Doble states that no Breton writer before the twelfth century would have written that St. Corentin was consecrated in Tours due to the primatial dignity of Dol. Still though, Doble establishes strong ties between Cornouaille and St. Martin of Tours. The monks from the abbey of Marmoutier near Tours proudly retained the body of St. Corentin during the Norman invasion of the tenth century. St. Corentin received an honorary mention in the litany of a psalter of Tours used at Christ Church, Canterbury, in the eleventh century. The influence of St. Martin traveled near and far. By the late fifth century, the prestige of Tours seems undeniable based on the letter from Sidonius to Lucontius regarding Perpetuus raising a new church over the shrine of St. Martin (trans. O. M. Dalton, Letters of Sidonius). Dated to the ninth century, the Book of Armagh has the Life of St. Martin copied within its pages according to the book, Saint Patrick – His Origins and Career, written by R. P. C. Hanson.

Winwaloe traveled to an island called Laurea to learn from Budoc the Zealous. The writer of the Life of St. Winwaloe, Wrdisten tells of Tudual carrying coals across an island. This same feat is noted by Doble being done by Bothmael, a companion of Tudy, in the Vita Maudeti. Gregory of Tours tells of Bishop Bricius of Tours, carrying burning coals in his cassock. In The Western Fathers, F. R. Hoare believes that the design for Martin’s community near Tours was that of a laura. St. Martin’s biographer, Sulpicius, tells that the hermitage was located on a bend on the River Loire with a high mountain wall behind it with one narrow approach [nearly an island].

This seems to offer a thin chance that Winwaloe traveled to the hermitage of St. Martin which could led to the following conjecture about the Sanctoral of Quimper of 1500. It seems possible that it provides a general chronology of religious figures in Cornouaille. Tutualus came first and Winwaloe followed. As the Christian element developed even further, King Grallon sent Corentin to be consecrated as the first bishop of the area. The desire of King Grallon to have his bishop consecrate by a Bishop of Tours does not seem hard to fathom.

Albert Le Grand tells us that in his time several parishes on certain days would sing a service to repose the soul of King Grallon according to Doble.

King Grallon and Vortigern appear to be contemporaries operating in the same general region during the fifth century. It seems likely that both had dealings with the Saxons. In turn, the sexual controversies surrounding their daughters, now, seem less coincidental and this portrayal more convincing.

Key Elements of Ambrosius Aureliani

British Appeal to Agitius

St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre

The Coming of the Saxons

King Grallon viewed as Vortigern

Ambrosius and the city of Aureliani

The Sword of Power & the Round Table

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