Winchester, Hampshire England
Accounts differ about the origin of the Round
Table, at which Arthur's knights met to tell of their deeds and from
which they invariably set forth in search of further adventures. The
Norman chronicler Wace was the first to mention it, in his Roman de
Brut of 1155. There, he simply says that Arthur devised the idea of
a round table to prevent quarrels between his barons over the question
of precedence. Another writer, Layamon,
adapted Wace's account and added to it, describing
a quarrel between Arthur's lords which was settled by a Cornish carpenter
who, on hearing of the problem, created a portable table which could
seat 1600 men. Both Wace and Layamon refer to Breton story-tellers
as their source for this and there is little reason to doubt them.
This being the case, the origins of the table may well date back to
Celtic times, and even be traceable to the age of Arthur himself.
In the later medieval stories, however, it is Merlin who is responsible
for the creation of the table. Malory, taking up the theme and developing
it, made it the centre-piece of his epic re-telling.
|The design displayed
on the Winchester Round Table dates from 1552 and was made to
impress the visiting Emperor Charles V.
The large wooden table in the Great Hall at Winchester dates from
no earlier than the thirteenth century, when it may have been made
at the command of King Edward III, who was considering a revival of
the Round Table as an order of chivalry. In the end, he dropped the
idea and created the Order of Garter instead, but the table remains.
Made of oak, it is 18 feet across and nearly 3 inches thick. It weighs
nearly 1.25 tons.