Excalibur: Extracting Swords From Stone, Ancient Metallurgical Metaphors

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The Forge of Vulcan by Diego Velázquez (1630) (Public Domain)

Excalibur: Extracting Swords From Stone, Ancient Metallurgical Metaphors

The first mention of the famous ‘Sword in the Stone’ of the Arthurian tradition is found in Robert de Boron’s Merlin, a medieval French poem, part of the 13th-century Lancelot-Grail cycle of French romances also known as the Vulgate Cycle, according to which King Uther Pendragon before his death thrusts a sword, later called Excalibur, into the stone and Merlin the sorcerer proclaims whoever pulls the sword from the stone is the true king. Young Arthur succeeded in pulling the sword from the anvil sitting atop of the stone. The narrative of young Arthur pulling the sword from the stone is a legend, but there exists what is called the ‘Excalibur of Monteseipi’.

Galgano Guidotti by Giovanni d'Ambrogio (15th century)( Sailko/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Galgano Guidotti by Giovanni d'Ambrogio (15th century)( Sailko/CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the Metalliferous Hills (Colline Metallifere) of Tuscany at the Monteseipi Chapel, near the Cistercian Abbey of San Galano, stands a sword, thrust in a stone by Galgano Guidotti in the year 1180. Galgano Guidotti (1148 –1181) was the son of a feudal lord in the region of Tuscany, who became a knight. He had a reputation for being brutal in his youth. An analysis of the metal of Galgano’s sword done in 2001 by Luigi Garlaschelli confirmed that the "composition of the metal and the style are compatible with the era of the legend". The analysis also confirmed that the upper piece and the invisible lower one are authentic and belong to one and the same artifact.


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