Avalon features in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. It is the legendary island where the sword Excalibur is forged as well as the place where Arthur is taken to recover from the wounds he sustained following his battle at Camlann. Many traditions claim that Arthur did not in fact die from these wounds and would return to lead the people of Britain once again.
Avalon, also known as Insula Pomorum or Isle of Apples, is often associated with Glastonbury. Although not an island, it is currently surrounded by marshlands. In Welsh it is known as Ynys Afallach, meaning Island of Apples, named after the number of apples that grew there. During the rein of Henry II, the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey commissioned a search of the abbey grounds and discovered a treetrunk coffin with an inscribed cross upon it. The cross read Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia or “Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon”. Some historians believe the burial was a publicity stunt to raise funds for the abbey, but the romance that still surrounds Arthurian Legends has resulted in areas of Somerset being known as The Vale of Avalon. Other possible locations for Avalon include St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall as well as Avallon in Burgundy.
Lady of the Lake
This is the title of the ruler of Avalon in Arthurian legend. As well as providing Arthur with Excalibur, she is also recorded as having enchanted Merlin and raising Lancelot after the death of his father.
The legendary sword of King Arthur emerged from the waters surrounding Avalon, presented to him by the Lady of the Lake. Some texts attribute magical powers to the sword that only the rightful sovereign of Great Britain can control. In Robert de Boron’s book Merlin, Arthur pulls a sword from a stone, an act that could not be performed by anyone except the true king. Many believe this was also Excalibur. The sword was cast into the lakes of Avalon by Sir Bedivere along with Arthur’s body.