The Sword in the Stone – Part II: Horned and dangerous

Updated on 08/09/18

Last week I leafed through a couple illustrated versions of Orlando Furioso, not as great as the Doré one, though but still ok.  (See earlier post). I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the protagonists and conducted some cursory research.

Orlando or Roland was one of Uncle Charlemagne’s paladins (we’re speaking about 800ish). He travelled to the south of France, not to drink beers at the beach, but to beat up Saracens and some locals, which is a little frowned upon nowadays and rightly so.

Spoiler alert: he died.

“Roland’s own death was very near” – I found this 1900ish looking picture somewhere in the dark abyss of the net

Orlando or Roland also appears in Dante’s Divina Commedia (Canto XXXI of Hell or thereabouts).

In Ariosto’s very fictional tale Orlando goes completely mad after the woman he loves runs off with the Saracen Medoro (I summarise the story based on the Wikipedia page, not sure if this is correct. I had to read quite a few knight’s tales in the past but Orlando Furioso was not one of them. It’s now on my bucket list.)

Angelica and Medoro by G. Doré. Can’t blame Angelica. Medoro has really nice legs.

There are a few other knights in the tale such as Ruggiero, who rescues the chained heroine from a dragon and more trope fantasy stuff. There is also a badass female knight Bramante:

Better not mess with Bramante

Raging Roland, or – if you want – Ripped Roland

Back to the original Roland. No legendary hero is complete without some magical equipment. For Roland this was, besides his horn and his horse, an unbreakable sword called Durendal. I found two different versions of how and where he got it: either through Charlemagne or from the necromancer Maugis, who happens to be the inspiration for the name of this site.

According to legends or the internet (interchangeable), the sword Durendal ended up at Rocamadour (F), a French pilgrimage site. Three years ago we were a bit early for our holiday rental place  so we passed the few extra hours by visiting  the nearby town of Rocamadour. I took a couple pictures there and I dug them up as I wanted to see if I had accidentally photographed the sword. At the time I had no idea Durendal was supposed to be in that place so I didn’t specifically look for it. I scanned the pictures with some guidance from Wiki and guess what?

HAHAHA, found it! Unfortunately, it’s not the original sword but a fake. Who would have thought?

Anyway, the story is not finished.

Durendal was the sharpest sword in existence and unbreakable thanks to some magical accoutrements. The hilt of Durendal is said to have contained four relics (for other uses of relics, see  earlier Holy Blood post): a tooth of St. Peter, hair of St Denis, a piece of the dress of the mother of Jesus and last but not least, blood of Basil of Caesarea.

Theoretically, one could use the above recipe in order to create another magical sword. So I investigated where relics of all those people could theoretically be found today. St. Peter’s grave is in the basilica of the same name in Rome.  The tomb of Mary is in Jerusalem. Saint Denis was buried in Paris (close to where we stayed in Paris in May apparently. If I had known…). Basil’s head is in Greece, but there are other relics of him around, including a couple of his vertebrae, one of which allegedly -is kept in the same basilica as the Blood relic. Which is in Bruges.

Tip of the day: In case you want to create your own magical sword, at least you know now that the Italian job will be the easiest.

Good luck with that…

Orlando Furioso – A quick and messy affair in my sketch book







Na het teleurstellende Sanguine trokken we naar het MAS. Daar was er naast de vaste collectie ook een expo over Michaelina, een schilderes uit de baroktijd. Ik heb niet erg veel foto’s gemaakt.

Hier een paar “sfeerbeelden”:

Schilderij van Michaelina Wautier. Het licht in dit relatieve kleine schilderij was verbazingwekkend.

Een raar schaap op een van de schilderijen, ook door Michaelina

Johannes de Doper door Michaelina

Verder nog wat beeldjes uit diverse landen, uit de vaste collectie:

Ivoren figuurtjes

Beeldje uit de precolumbiaanse afdeling

Idem. Mens met twee honden


Ook mooi: de foto’s met barokke inslag op de wanden van de roltrappen en gangen.

En toen was het tijd om naar huis te gaan.


Day 6: Puycelsi – Zooming in

Last post of the series. This time about the fortified village of Puycelsi. We approached it on a hot day around noon and the streets were not very crowded.

We left the car in a car park at the bottom of the hill and climbed the dusty road towards the village. Must have been fun doing this in full plate armour under the scorching sun.

Through the gate we stormed the village.

Not much chance of raping and pillaging so far.

Where are the hobbits? Where is the loot?

Narrow passageway

Ooh, kitty kitty but the kitty was not pleased.

In one of the houses a choir was rehearsing for the upcoming festival so part of our tour was accompanied by classical music. Bit like in those occult demon summoning horror movies.

Chapelle Saint Jacques, once belonging to the Templars. 

Horses resting near a bar. The knights got off for a pee and an ale, I guess.

This at first sight seemingly normal quiet village housed some oddities.

Obligatory church visit while holidaying:

Colourful interior of the St Corneille church

The angel above the altar urgently needs to see a chiropractor

This painting of the crucifixion in the church is by local artist Armand Thuiller (I deducted this from the signature).  Bit odd, though. John the Baptist can’t have been present at the crucifixion (already beheaded). Did some browsing earlier today to find out more about it and it seems this is a copy of a painting by Grünewald. 

Panoramic views of a presently idyllic countryside. No crusaders in sight. On the left you can see the St. Roch chapel. There is an altar inside, some statues and the tourist office with wifi. Strange place for a tourist office. 

Outside there was a box with books offered by the local bookshop (Le temps de lire, they don’t seem to have a website, but they do have a lot of books in the shop). Plenty of mystery/conspiracy J’ai Lu paperbacks.

Two de Sèdes added to the collection

Nice picturesque view of a small alley. But wait, what’s that behind the window on the upper floor?

Oh, never mind. It’s just a skeleton.

We continued on our tour.

Another pretty house, with a closed gate and sign that says ‘Do not enter’.

Zooming in on the door:

And all the while the choir kept on chanting…


The end.



Day 7: Albi

It’s too hot to paint, even for drawing almost. The past few days I’ve been working in my sketchbook, studies for the things I am working on or will start to work on next month. It’s too hot for Caravaggio as well, so that’s for next week. Today I went to pick up a Greek dude I bought in an auction but that’s also for another time. No WIP today, let’s first finish off the last two travel posts. I’ve switched day 6 and 7 around.

On Thursday we went to Albi, known for its ridiculously big brick cathedral. It’s too hot to write large amounts of text, so mostly images hereafter.

I gave up counting the bricks

I wonder how they painted that ceiling.

Looks a bit condescending, this angel

Nothing more uplifting on your wall than a giant apocalypse

Pool party medieval style

There’s people who cuddle cats and there are those other people

Rosy cheeked angel

Saint Cecilia, patron saint of the cathedral, with some relics

Not sure what this is and what happened down there

Monster, no longer in the closet

Lady in the portal with some graffiti on her feet. I was going to write a whole rant about how people have no respect for monument nowadays until I noticed the dates on the scribblings.

There is so much love for you in my heart. Wait, I’ll tear it out, so I can show you.

See you laters, alligators

And sorry, Jesus