Sydney University History Seminar Series – Hélène Sirantoine

Serendipitous findings: about the unexpected appearance of a daughter of King Arthur in a thirteenth-century piece of Spanish hagiography

Online, 25 August 2021, 1210 – 1330 AEST.

Scholars finding themselves reading the late thirteenth-century Life of the Blessed Leander and Isidore, archbishops of Seville, Fulgentius, archbishop of Écija, and Braulio, bishop of Zaragoza might be surprised, as was the presenter of this talk, to find in it a puzzling detail. Among the eccentric kinship relations with which the author filled their text, a Visigothic queen, wife of King Reccared (586–601) and mother of King Liuva II (601–603), was made into no less than the “daughter of King Arthur”. But who was really Reccared’s spouse? And how come that, centuries later, some hagiographer imagined making her the offspring of famous, and legendary, King Arthur? Answering these questions led this bemused investigator to examine a wide range of materials, spanning from the sixth to the eighteenth century. This paper traces the steps of this investigation, the longue durée of this medieval legend, and reflects on the role played by serendipitous findings in the making of history.

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