Modena Archivolt

At the Duomo di Modena cathedral in Modena, Italy, there is a relief carved into the arch of the Porta della Pescheria, constructed beginning 1099, finished by 1126. In it, a woman named Winlogee is in a tower with two men named Mardoc and Burmaltus; the tower is besieged by Artus de Bretania and Isdernus, while another knight identified as as Carrado is battling three knights labeled as Galvaginus, Galvariun, and Che. Obviously Artus is King Arthur, and Winlogee is Guenevere; Che is Kay, Galvaginus is Gawain, and Carrado is Caradoc; however, Isdernus and Galvariun are obscure.

Mardoc and Burmaltus are more difficult. Mardoc may be Mordred, and this relief then depicts the abduction of Guenevere. But which one?

This might be the abduction of Guenevere in the story of Melwas, told in the Vita Gildae, but the identification of Mardoc with Mordred may point instead to the abduction of Guenevere by Mordred, which ends more tragically. The first abduction has Melwas abduct Guenevere and hold her at Glastonbury, until rescued by Arthur; later versions, such as in Malory, have Melwas called Melegant, and the rescuer is Lancelot. The most famous version is in Chretien de Troyes' Lancelot, which draws from the older story of Melwas.

However, there is also an abduction of Guenevere by Mordred, while Arthur is on the continent, just before the end of his reign. This is first expounded on in Geoffrey, which of course is later than the archivolt

What's significant about this arch is that it tells a story, best known in later romance, but here predating Geoffrey of Monmouth's works. Thus, Arthur was a popular subject long before Geoffery, and this story likely came by way of the Normans, who heard it either from the Welsh or the Bretons.

Back to "M" | Back to JCE

Mary Jones 2007