“Serendipitous findings: about the unexpected appearance of a daughter of King Arthur in a thirteenth-century piece of Spanish hagiography”
25 August | Hélène Sirantoine
Scholars finding themselves reading the late thirteenth-century Life of the Blessed Leander and Isidore, archbishops of Seville, Fulgentius, archbishop of Écija, and Braulio, bishop of Zaragoza might be surprised, as was the presenter of this talk, to find in it a puzzling detail. Among the eccentric kinship relations with which the author filled their text, a Visigothic queen, wife of King Reccared (586–601) and mother of King Liuva II (601–603), was made into no less than the “daughter of King Arthur”. But who was really Reccared’s spouse? And how come that, centuries later, some hagiographer imagined making her the offspring of famous, and legendary, King Arthur? Answering these questions led this bemused investigator to examine a wide range of materials, spanning from the sixth to the eighteenth century. This paper traces the steps of this investigation, the longue durée of this medieval legend, and reflects on the role played by serendipitous findings in the making of history.
Hélène Sirantoine is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Sydney. She researches Iberian medieval history with a focus on written culture, especially historiography, hagiography and pragmatic texts as tools of communication and memorialisation. Sirantoine is the author of Imperator Hispaniae: les idéologies impériales dans le royaume de León, IXe-XIIe siècles (Madrid, 2012) and she co-edited with Julio Escalona Chartes et cartulaires comme instruments de pouvoir: Péninsule Ibérique et Occident chrétien, VIIIe-XIIe siècles (Toulouse, 2013) and the two first volumes of the series Epistola (Madrid, 2018) dedicated to epistolary practices in medieval Iberia.
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