In order to reach the mythical Brocéliande it is necessary to move towards Paimpont forest, situated in the very heart of the French Brittany. In fact, Brocéliande does not exist as such in the current administrative cartography of France. In the medieval period, it was described as standard of the secret, enchanted forest.

Text: Jaume Cluet
Pictures: Josep Mª Roselló

The legend of Brocéliande still survives in its large number of ponds and streams of fresh, pure waters, in its impenetrable forests of oaks, alders, beech woods and birches, in its hidden fauna of deer, wild boars and roe deer, and of course in its megalithic remains, everlasting in the passing of time, which are the reflection of primitive ceremonies and liturgies.

We have to go back to the literary figure of Robert Wace, who was an outstanding Anglo-Norman poet that lived in the 12th century, to investigate the origin of the current name of the magical forest of Brocéliande. It is an extensive, peaceful forest situated in the inside lands of the historical French Brittany. It was a suitable place where in the middle of the Middle Ages some episodes of the legend of King Arthur, the wizard Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table and the resultant search for the Holy Grail were framed.

The medieval name of this forest is testified in the medieval novel Le Roman de Brut of the above-mentioned author Robert Wace, who adapted in French version the previous works Historia Regnum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain), which appeared in 1135, and Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin), 1148, written by Geoffrey of Monmouth. At the beginning, the present-day Paimpont forest was designated as Brécheliant. Other similar eponyms were: Berthelianth, Brécilien, Trécilien, etc. It is difficult to assure its etymology. Some researchers go back to the ancient Breton name ‘Koat brech’hellan’ that the scholar marquis Villemarqué translated as ‘The Forest of Druidic Influence’.

According to an official document dated in 1411, it is stated that the first outstanding establishment in Brocéliande corresponds to the construction of the Priory of Our Lady of Paimpont in 658, which is the central point of the forest that before was called Penpont (head of bridge). The monastery was developed by Judicael, the old tribal King of Domnonia (Brittany), under protection of the ancient Celtic-Christian monastic rule of Saint Columbanus. This happened when the old neighbour, the Frankish Kingdom, was governed by the Merovingian Dagobert. Brocéliande went down in the annals of history until the present day by means of the priory, which became an outstanding abbey by the passing of time.

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