Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Tintagel Castle

Tinaguel, Tintagel, Tintaguel, Tintaiel, Tintaioel, Tintaiol, Tintaiuel, Tintaoel, Tintaol, Tintauel, Tyntaguel

Tintagel Castle is a historic site located on the dramatic and picturesque cliffs of Tintagel, a village in Cornwall, England. The castle is set on a dramatic headland, known as Tintagel Island, which is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

In Geoffrey, Tintagel Castle was ruled by the husband of Igerne (Igraine), called Duke Gorlois or Duke Hoel (in Arthour and Merlin, Tintagel is the name of the duke himself). When Uther Pendragon sought to steal Igerne, her husband secured her in Tintagel, his strongest castle, while he himself holed up in Dimilioc or Tarabel (Terrabil). Though the castle was nigh impregnable by military effort, Uther received Merlin’s assistance, was changed into the semblance of the Duke, and was able to enter freely. Once inside, he slept with Igerne, begetting Arthur. The castle’s fate after the death of the Duke is unclear.

In the Tristan legends, it is ruled by King Mark. In the time of Mark’s father, Felix, it was besieged and conquered by King Dilianfer of Ireland. After Tristan’s death, Arthur, King Amoroldo of Ireland, and King Governal of Lyoness besieged the castle to capture Mark.

Giants had built the castle off ashlars in black and white marble which had been put in a pattern, like the squares on the chessboard. Twice a year no human eye could see it. Before Mark’s time, king Arthur’s mother Igraine lived in the castle with her first husband who were Duke of Cornwall, later by a couple of giants who held sixty maidens captured there, who had to sew in silk for food and shelter, until Lancelot one day came and ended it all.

In Perceval, there were a tournament between Tibaut of Tintagel and Meliant of Lis. On his way to Escavalon, Gawain came to Tintagel unaware of the event. He found lodging at the vavasour Garin’s home where the youngest daughter in the house, Maid with Little Sleeves, asked Gawain to champion her the next day. Gawain wins the tournament.

Rulers of Tintagel in other legends include Aliduc (Aladuke) (Geoffrey), Tiebaut (Chrétien’s Perceval), David (Chrétien’s Erec), and Guinlain (Renaut de Bâgé).

Tintagel Castle | History

Roman Period | 1st century BC – 4th century AD
Tintagel was part of the Roman province of Britannia, and there is some evidence of Roman activity in the area, including pottery and other artifacts. While there is no direct evidence of a Roman fort or settlement at Tintagel, it is possible that the location played a role in the Roman trade and communication network in the region.

Early Medieval Period | 5th – 9th century
Tintagel Castle’s significance during this period primarily arises from its role as an early medieval stronghold and trading post. The castle’s construction and use date back to this era. It was built on the rugged headland overlooking the sea, which provided a naturally defensible location.

It is suggested that Tintagel was a trading and administrative center, possibly part of the Kingdom of Dumnonia, which was an early medieval kingdom in southwestern Britain. The castle may have been associated with a high-status settlement or royal residence during the early medieval period.

Tintagel’s connection to the Arthurian legends, particularly its identification as the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, is rooted in medieval literature and folklore, and this legend began to take shape during the early medieval period.

The Construction of the Castle
The current version of the Tintagel Castle largely dates from the mid-twelfth century. This medieval castle was constructed by Richard, the first Earl of Cornwall, and is distinct from any earlier structures on the site. There is evidence of an earlier structure on the site. Tintagel has a complex history, and there is a archaeological evidence of early medieval activity and settlement in the area. The presence of early buildings and artifacts suggests that it was occupied during the early medieval period.

By the sixteenth century, Tintagel Castle had already fallen into disrepair and was in a state of ruin. It was abandoned and left to deteriorate over the centuries.

Tintagel Stone
Tintagil Castle is now maintained by English Heritage who thankfully have not commercialised the site. Archaeological excavations in the summer of 1998 produced the so called Tintagel Stone, that may connect the castle with Arthur.

Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Erec | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
La Folie Tristan d’Oxford | 12th century
Erec | Hartmann von Aue, late 12th century
Le Bel Inconnu | Renaut de Bâgé, 1185–1190
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886
Physical topography in Britain and elsewhere.
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century