Galahad in French Vulgate Cycle

Powerful Essays

Galahad is an attempt to meld Christian and chivalric ideals in the medieval and Victorian accounts of the Arthurian legend. He first appears in the French Vulgate Cycle, a collection of medieval romances, as the personification of both Christian and chivalric piety, deeply entrenched in Biblical symbolism. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur upholds Galahad, the quintessential knight, as the embodiment of medieval virtue. Also, in the nineteenth century, as the legend regained popularity, Galahad emerges as the epitome of Victorian moral purity in the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Best known as the knight who achieves the quest for the Holy Grail, Galahad remained the ideal knight in the Arthurian legend from his medieval Christian roots to the Victorian Age.

The thirteenth-century French Vulgate Cycle, written by Chrétien de Troyes, portrays Galahad as a defender of medieval chivalric ideals and the pious champion of Christianity. His name alone is a Biblical allusion. According to Brian Rise, the name of Galahad, “derived from Gilead, in Palestine, or ‘Galaad’ in the Vulgate Bible,” is embedded with Christian symbolism. It is a name given in the Vulgate Cycle to a handful of characters as baptismal names, including the son of Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail hero’s paternal great-grandfather. Also, Galahad’s father, Lancelot “seems to have been called Galahad as a child and Lancelot as a man,” implying a relative spiritual closeness to his son and indicative of the ageless quality of his name (Goodrich 173). Explained by Norris Lacy, “Galahad represents the ideal conjunction of religious and chivalric modes, and of past and future epochs” (Lacy 497). His eventual comi...

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