Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Corlenot, Corben, Corbenic, Corbenich, Corbeniche, Corbenyc, Corbierc, Corbyn, Cornebic, Orberique

Carbonek is primarily known as the castle or mystical place where the Grail is said to be kept. In Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail is the sacred cup or vessel associated with the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.

The name Carbonek appears in the medieval French Arthurian romance Perlesvaus, also known as The High Book of the Holy Grail. In this work, Carbonek is depicted as a mysterious castle where the Holy Grail is guarded by the Fisher King.

In the Vulgate, Post-Vulgate and Malory it is referred to as the “Grail Castle” or the “Castle of the Holy Grail.” Each of these versions of the Arthurian legend has its own unique nuances and details regarding the Grail Castle.

  • Vulgate Cycle
    In the Vulgate Cycle, a series of French prose romances, the Grail Castle is prominently featured. The Vulgate Cycle includes works such as the Queste del Saint Graal and the Mort le Roi Artu. The castle is often depicted as a mysterious and magical place, and it is where the Holy Grail is kept.
  • Post-Vulgate Cycle
    The Post-Vulgate Cycle, which follows the Vulgate Cycle, also includes the concept of the Grail Castle. This cycle introduces new elements and characters to the Arthurian legend, and the Grail Castle remains a central part of the Grail Quest. The story often emphasizes the spiritual and redemptive aspects of the Grail Quest.
  • Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
    Le Morte d’Arthur is a compilation of Arthurian legends in English which also features the Grail Castle. In Malory’s version, the castle is associated with the Fisher King and the wounded king’s connection to the Holy Grail. Sir Galahad, among other knights, embarks on the quest to achieve the Holy Grail and heal the land.

The castle is a place of mystery, magic, and spiritual significance. The Knights of the Round Table, including Galahad, Percival, and Bors, undertake the quest to reach the Grail Castle and witness the Grail Procession.

It was constructed in Listenois, or the Strange Land, by Alan and Joshua, followers of Joseph of Arimathea, and by King Calafes, who the brothers had converted to Christianity. The Grail was kept in the Palace of Adventures inside the castle. The name of the castle cound be found on one of its doors.

Joshua was the first king of Corbenic, followed by AminadapCarceloisManuelLamborPellehan, and Pelles, who was king during Arthur’s reign. Pelles lived in Corbenic with his daughter, Elaine (the mother of Galahad) and his son, Eliezier. Other residents included Sir Ulphyne (Ulfin) and the Maimed King.

Carbonek was a magical place, the castle where the maimed Fisher King guarded the Holy Grail until Galahad’s coming. It also seems, however, to be a place where more or less normal day-to-day life was possible for the residents, and once Sir Bors de Ganis visited Carbonek without even realizing it was a place of supernatural marvels. On a later visit, having experienced some of the marvels, Bors remarked to King Pellam,

[T]his castle may be named the Castle Adventurous, for here be many strange adventures.

From portions of the Vulgate, one get the impression that the Castle Adventurous was only part of Carbonek where the visions and power of the Grail were most immediate. “Adventurous,” of course, seems one of those words which could be applied to any place a person felt it appropriate.

Some time during its history, Tanabos the Enchanter ensorcelled Corbenic in such a way that no one could find it, except by chance – no matter how many times he had been there. Its infrequent visitors would often dine with Pelles, and would witness the Grail Procession. Over the years, it was visited by knights such as LancelotGawaineLamoratHectorGaheris, and Palamedes.

Although the importance of the Grail Procession and the Grail Question are somewhat dubious in these romances, the visiting knights generally failed to recognize the Grail for what it was. Lancelot, during his several visits, rescued Elaine from a boiling tub, killed a serpent, and recovered from a period of insanity. Gawaine (the first knight to visit Corbenic in Arthur’s time) was expelled in humiliation after his lustful eyes were drawn away from the Grail and to the beautiful maiden carrying it.

In a wide valley before one reached the main castle was another fine castle, where a damsel waited in a scalding bath five years until the best knight in the world came to rescue her. Near her tower a serpent, or dragon, lurked in a tomb. On the tomb was written in gold letters,

Here shall come a leopard of king's blood, and he shall slay this serpent, and this leopard shall engender a lion in this foreign country, the which lion shall pass all other knights.

Lancelot lifted the tomb and the dragon issued out, spitting fire, to give him a long, hard fight before he slew it. The “leopard” of the inscription was, of course, Lancelot; the “lion” Galahad.

During the Grail adventures, Lancelot arrived at Carbonek in the vessel with the body of Amide, after seven months or more of random adventuring on the sea. Finding the back gate to Carbonek guarded by two lions, he drew his sword; but a dwarf (or, according to the Vulgate, a flaming hand) struck him, knocking his weapon from his grasp. The lions threatened, but did not molest him as he passed between them.

Galahad, Perceval, and Bors completed the Grail Quest at Corbenic, and attended a holy mass held there by Joseph of Arimathea (or his son, Josephus). Helain the WhiteArthur the LessMeraugisClaudin, LambeguezPinabel, and Persides were allowed to look on.

After the Grail was taken to Sarras by Galahad, the Grail Castle lost its enchantments, but remained standing until the time of Charlemagne, who razed it when he invaded England.

The third continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval, which is part of an earlier Grail tradition but which was written after the Vulgate Cycle, shows the influence of the Vulgate romances by naming Corbenic as the Fisher King’s kingdom. It fell to Perceval after the Fisher King’s death. When Perceval retired to a hermitage, he bestowed it upon the King of Maronne.

The Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal claims that Corbenic means ‘holy vessel’ in Chaldean. The French author hardly needed to visit the Chaldean language for a source, as ‘cors benoit’ is French for ‘blessed body’. R. S. Loomis (Grail, 242-4) thought that the authors had confused cor benoit (‘blessed horn’) for cors benoit, and he proposed that the name ultimately went back to the magical horn owned by Bran the Blessed in Welsh literature (see Thirteen Treasures of Britain). J. D. Bruce, however, noted the existence of a town named Corbeni in Picardy, not far from the monestery where he believed the author of the Vulgate Queste lived.

Carbonek would be somewhere in Listeneise (Listenois), which P.A. Karr have identified with the Lake District. Keswick seems to her a nice choice. It is inland, but not by that many miles; and it seems to be on a lake. Considering the mystic, miraculous nature of the Grail Adventures, a miraculous temporary canal from the sea to accomodate Lancelot’s midnight arrival by boat does not seem farfetched. To avoid the necessity of such a tide, however, Whitehaven or Ravenglass might be identified with Carbonek, perhaps moving Bliant Castle (or Joyous Isle) to one of the lakes.

Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal | 1220-1235
Third Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Manessier, c. 1230
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886