This stately bronze sculpted of King Arthur by the master sculptor Rubin Eynon is still a major talking point in the area.
As the sea mist rolls in over the cliffs at Tintagel in Cornwall, they wreath around the 8-foot-high statue of a regal figure. It is now almost four years since this statue, named Gallos, was erected in April 2016.
Rubin Eynon masterfully sculpts out of a plethora of materials that include bronze, wood, stone, and iron, and his works are visible in many major cities.
This particular bronze, Gallos, was inspired by the history surrounding Tintagel Castle and the Legend of King Arthur.
In his book The History of the Kings of Britain, written in 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth stated that King Arthur was conceived at Tintagel.
The story Monmouth related was how the King of Britain, Uther Pendragon, fell in love with the beautiful Igraine. Igraine was already married and hidden in Tintagel.
The magician Merlin came to Uther’s assistance and provided a magic potion that made Uther look exactly like Igraine’s husband. Uther used the potion to enter Tintagel, and Arthur was born from this relationship.
This romantic myth was the reason that Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, built Tintagel Castle in the 1230s on this remote, windswept headland in Cornwall.
The legend has been used to draw visitors to the historic village and the ruins of the castle, but the erection of this statue has angered the local people.
They accuse English Heritage, who manage the castle on behalf of the Duke of Cornwall, of the ‘Disneyfication’ of the area, and of concentrating on a myth rather than focusing on the recorded and vibrant history of Tintagel Castle and the county of Cornwall.
This attitude is understandable as this is not the first time that English Heritage has highlighted the Arthurian legend.
In February 2016, they had an artist carve Merlin’s face into the rack face near to the village. Now the erection of a statue of a majestic figure holding a sword reignited the irritation of the local people.
Both the sculptor and English Heritage have been extremely careful not to mention the legend at any time in the past few years.
They have steadfastly maintained that the statue is a nod to the royal history with which Tintagel is associated.
Jeremy Ashbee, English Heritage’s chief curator at the time, said that as there was a well-recorded culture of feasts being held at the castle, so it was safe to assume that the occupants were mighty people.
There are also known links to both the Roman and Byzantine empires. He said that fragments of amphorae, originating in North Africa and the Mediterranean, had been recovered.
These jars, stoppered with local slate, were evidence that during the dark ages, wine and olive oil were regularly imported into the area, and the amphorae were kept and reused.
Ashbee further believes that Tintagel was used as the summer residence of kings that ruled the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia that included Devon, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset from the fifth to the seventh centuries.
All these facts make it appropriate to speak of royalty, and the statue of a king reflects that thinking.
Matt Ward, the castle’s property manager, believes that the existing interpretation of the castle’s past did not fully cover the complex past that should be told.
He believes that there is no way to divorce the Arthurian legend from the castle’s history, and trying to do so robs the public of this insight.
English Heritage has provided information panels that accompany the statue. These panels are made from locally sourced Delabole slate.
Gallos, Cornish for power, standing 8-feet tall was no easy object to put in place, and a helicopter had to be employed to fly it to its final position.
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This expense was negligible when compared to the fact that over 200,000 people visit these ruins on an annual basis, providing many customers to the local curio shop and adding many thousands of pounds to the coffers of English Heritage.