An enchanted Irish castle that serves as the focus of the thirteenth century French tale of Les Merveilles de Rigomer (“the Marvels of Rigomer”). Its name reflects that it was situated on a rigort de mer, or “bay of the sea” (Loomis, Romance, 385).
The castle was guarded by fearsome beasts, scores of soldiers, and numerous enchantments. Its queen, Dionise – who seems to have been half-ruler, half-prisoner – could only marry the knight who could conquer the castle, a feat deemed impossible. Arthur’s knights first learned of its existence when a messenger sent by Dionise came to Arthur’s court.
The castle had been created by a fairy. It lay on an island off the coast of Ireland, atop a high cliff, with only a single bridge connecting it to the mainland. The bridge was guarded by a horrendous dragon. The heath approaching the bridge, called Vrikevreue, was guarded by three knights called the Unarmed Knight, the White Knight, and the Knight of Triple Arms. Traveling to Rigomer involved a long journey through Ireland, described in the story as a wild and savage land. If a knight did happen to make it past the defenses, he would succumb to the castle’s magic, which would steal his wits and scramble his mind.
Lancelot was the first of Arthur’s knights to embark on the journey. He completed a number of perilous adventures in Ireland before arriving at the castle. He passed all the defenses, including the dragon, but once inside the fortress, he was tricked into putting on a magic ring, which turned him into a fool. He was thrown into the Kibouene Pits, Rigomer’s unholy prison.
When word of Lancelot’s imprisonment reached Britain, Gawain raised a battalion of Arthur’s knights to conquer Rigomer. Gawain was imprisoned along the way, and the other knights reached it first. The best of them – including Gaheris, Gaudin, Cliges, Bleoberis, and Sagremor (Sagramore) – went ahead of the main party. They were all defeated and imprisoned. The rest of the knights challenged Rigomer’s armies. They performed valiantly, but were overwhelmed by waves and waves of supernatural forces.
Gawain finally freed himself, arrived at the castle, passed the defenses, and refused to accept the ring. He took the rings off the fingers of his friends, freeing them from Rigomer’s magic. Having thus conquered the castle, Gawain declined to marry Dionise, promising to find another worthy husband for her.