Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Celliwig, Kelliwig

A Cornish stronghold of Arthur, it was possibly identical with Castle Killibury. Alternatively, it may have been Callington, Celliwith (Celliwig) or Kelly Rounds (Killibury).

A Welsh Triad lists the Three Tribal Thrones of the Island of Britain, at places where Arthur used to hold court. The northern one, it says, was at Pen Rhionydd, possibly near Stranraer in Galloway. The Welsh one was at St. David’s. The Cornish one was at Kelliwic or Celliwig. This last name preserves a tradition reaching back beyond medieval fancy. Kelliwic in Cornwall is mentioned as an Arthurian residence before any recorded ideas about Caerleon or Camelot. It figures not only in the Triads but in the Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen. Patriotism would surely have located Arthur in Wales if it could. Kelliwic attests a belief that he had a home – perhaps even his principal home – outside; a belief too firmly rooted to challenge.

The best candidate is probably Castle Killibury of Kelly Rounds, a pre-Roman Iron Age hill fort near Wadebridge. Post-Roman reoccupation, as at Castle Dore, might have led to its acquiring a certain importance through proximity to the trade route from sea to sea. There are other claimants, notably Callington. In no case is there any known evidence for Arthur’s literal presence. Kelliwic, however identified, is simply an attemp to give local exactitude to his deep-rooted association with the West Country. At least, it has not been proved to be more.

The Triads summaraize a story making it the scene of aggression by Mordred. He and his men raided it and “consumed all,” and he dragged Guenevere from her chair and struck her (or worse). A reprisal by Arthur was a major step toward the catastrophe of Camlann. Here, Arthur and Mordred sound like feuding equals. The conception of Mordred as deputy ruler and traitor seems to have originated with Geoffrey of Monmouth, who combined the Welsh tradition with a separate “treachery” theme. Though he still put the catastrophe in Cornwall, he dropped Kelliwic.

Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century