|Matter of Britain location|
|Created by||Thomas Malory|
|Type||Castle of the Holy Grail|
|Notable characters||Fisher King, Sir Galahad|
Corbenic or Corbin is the name of the Grail castle, the castle holding the Holy Grail, in the Arthurian literary tradition following the 13th century Lancelot-Grail cycle and Thomas Malory's 15th century Le Morte d'Arthur. It is the domain of the Fisher King and the birthplace of Sir Galahad.
In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, one of the first works to mention the Grail, the Grail castle is described somewhat differently than in later literature, and is given no name. In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, based on Chrétien, the Grail castle's name is Munsalväsche (rendereing Monsalvat, in medieval tradition associated with the name of Montserrat in Catalonia).
As befits the castle of the Grail, Corbenic is a place of marvels, including, at various times, a maiden trapped in a magically boiling cauldron, a dragon, and a room where arrows assail any who try to spend the night there. These wonders cause Sir Bors to name it the Castle Adventurous, "for here be many strange adventures" (Le Morte d'Arthur, book XI). Yet it can also appear quite ordinary: on an earlier occasion, according to the Lancelot-Grail, the same Sir Bors visited without noticing anything unusual.
(Perhaps conscious of this apparent contradiction, T.H. White in The Once and Future King treats Corbenic as two separate places: Corbin is the relatively mundane dwelling-place of King Pelles, while Carbonek is the mystical castle where the climax of the Grail Quest takes place.)
Corbenic has a town, and a bridge which Sir Bromell la Pleche swears to defend against all comers for a year, for love of Pelles' daughter Elaine (Morte, books XI–XII).
It is on the coast, or at least is mystically moved there for the purposes of the Grail Quest: Lancelot arrives at Corbenic by sea at the climax of his personal quest. Corbenic's seaward gate is guarded by two lions, aided by either a dwarf (Morte, book XVII) or a flaming hand (Lancelot-Grail).
It is unclear whether Corbenic is to be identified with the castle inadvertently levelled by Sir Balin when he delivers the Dolorous Stroke upon King Pellam (Morte, book II); if so, then Corbenic is in Listeneise (and is presumably rebuilt at some point). The Lancelot-Grail gives the name of its kingdom only as the 'Foreign Country'.
Cor-beneic : 'Blessed Horn' and 'Blessed Body'
Professors Newstead and Loomis have presented a convincing case for the origins of the name Corbenic in a myth concerning a type of Welsh cornucopia - to wit, the horn (of plenty) of Brân the Blessed, a magical, food-providing talisman. The argument hinges on confusion resulting from two possible meanings for the Old French li cors (a Nominative case form) which can mean both 'the body' (Modern French le corps) and 'the horn' (Modern French la corne), leading to the mistranslation, by Christian authors, of li cors beneit as the blessed body - the latter readily construed as a reference either to the body of Christ or to the body of a saint preserved as a holy relic. The common scribal error of misreading the letter 't' as a 'c' yielded the second element -ben(e)ic. The original name of Castle Corbenic can thus be reconstructed as Chastiaus del Cor Beneit - the Castle of the Blessed Horn (of Brân) - subsequently misunderstood to mean the Castle of the Blessed Body (of Christ). It has also been suggested that the name is a joke on the Men of the Sword - the Knights of the Round Table, chasing the Grail far and near, looking for the Grail Castle - Corbenic Castle - the last known place where the Grail was deposited. The acronym CORpus BENedtictus Iesus Cristus is what each faithful Christian receives at Holy Communion being offered the body of Christ. Accepting the Body of Christ (CORBENIC), you have the Holy Grail in you. Faith, not the Sword, allows each of us to be in possession of the Holy Grail. The origins of the maimed Fisher King, master of the Grail Castle of Corbenic may be found in the maimed King Brân the Blessed, whose story is told in Branwen ferch Llŷr, second of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.
- Loomis, Roger Sherman, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance first pub. Columbia University Press 1926 and reprinted by Constable and Company Limited 1993 ISBN 0 09 472800 3
- Newstead, Professor Helaine H., Brân the Blessed in Arthurian Romance pub. Columbia University Press 1939
- Loomis, Roger Sherman, Arthurian Tradition And Chrétien de Troyes pub. Columbia University Press, New York 1948.