Comper Castle, an Arthurian experience in Brittany
The Château de Comper is an old castle with a picturesque lake and connections to Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, and Sir Lancelot who was raised there. It houses an exhibition of Brttany’s legends of King Arthur.
- Comper Castle Lies at the Heart of Breton Arthurian Legends
- An ancient Breton Château
- The legend of Comper Castle
- An Arthurian exhibition at Comper Castle
- Comper Castle as a starting point for Arthurian tours
- Other sites of interest
- How to Get to Comper Castle
Comper Castle Lies at the Heart of Breton Arthurian Legends
Comper Castle lies on the edge of the remnants of the ancient forest of Brocéliande, the scene of many Breton Arthurian legends. Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, whom Merlin met in the forest and fell in love with was the daughter of the Lord of Comper Castle. The castle’s picturesque lake is said to conceal the magical palace that Merlin built for his beloved and where Sir Lancelot was raised. It houses a marvellous exhibition based on Arthurian legends and is an ideal starting point for a tour of the Arthurian sites in Brocéliande.
An ancient Breton Château
Châteaux in Brittany tend to be either fortresses or fortified manor houses - reflecting Brittany’s long struggle to maintain its independence – and therefore bear little resemblance to the palatial palaces and mansions of the Loire Valley or Versailles. The present structure does not date back to Merlin’s time (stone castles were almost unknown in Western Europe in the first millennium) but Comper was originally one of the strongest fortresses in Brittany and suffered damage and capture on several occasions during its long life as is evidenced by the remains of fortifications. It has been restored in more peaceful times as a fortified manor house encircled by imposing castle walls.
The legend of Comper Castle
Comper Castle was reputedly the home of Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, who raised Sir Lancelot here to be a perfect knight. The lake nestling against the castle provides an idyllic picture in summer and is said to conceal Viviane’s palace, magically built for her by Merlin at the bottom of the lake. True or not, the walks through the trees beside the lake provide many places for a quiet picnic lunch on a sunny summer’s day.
An Arthurian exhibition at Comper Castle
The Arthurian connection is pursued in grand style inside the castle with an exhibition based on the tales of King Arthur and his Knights. There is a route marked out through the castle leading past a room laid out with manikins wearing dresses from the late 12th to early 13th centuries (the period when many of the Arthurian romances were written) and antique furniture and equipment from the same period and displays of knights in armour.
Further on are a series of tableaux showing Arthurian scenes and another set of manikins depicting King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. The amount of material provided in English is limited – the area has not yet been widely “discovered’ by foreign tourists, despite its charms – but even without understanding the wealth of detail provided beside the tableaux, the exhibition is still impressive and well worth a visit.
Comper Castle as a starting point for Arthurian tours
Tours of nearby sites can be arranged from the castle but at present these are only in French. A guided tour is not really necessary, however: a short car journey and a few moments walk will generally bring you to the majority of the Arthurian sites and give you the freedom to spend as much or as little time as you wish at each. The sites are signposted but the signage is sometimes a little sparse.
In the area of the forest near to Comper Castle lie the sites of the fountain of Barenton (the spring where Merlin is said to have first met Viviane), Merlin’s Tomb and Merlin’s Seat (a chair-shaped menhir with no particular connection to Merlin).
A little farther away, at the south-western edge of the forest, lie the Church of the Holy Grail and the Valley of No Return – the valley where the witch Morgaine, Arthur’s half-sister, imprisoned false lovers, guarded by a monster.
Other sites of interest
This by no means exhausts all the sites to be found in ancient Brocéliande. Close to Merlin’s Tomb and the fountain of Barenton lie the tournament field on which, in the 14th century, a lone knight is reputed to have engaged fifty other suitors in single combat to win his beloved’s hand and the “Tombeau des Anglais”, a monument to the English dead during a battle in the 14th century Breton Wars of Succession (at the time, Brittany was an independent nation and England and France were locked in combat in the Hundred Years’ War). The area is also dotted with prehistoric megalithic structures.
If you are not sated with castles, Trécasson Castle lies on the southern outskirts of the forest. This is a picturesque castle with a moat and a number of tales associated with it, including an unsolved murder. Unfortunately it is not open to the public but it is well worth a photograph.
How to Get to Comper Castle
Passing through Concoret (56630) and continuing east on the D2 straight on through the crossroads with D773 will bring you to Comper and just beyond it, on a curve in the road, Comper Castle.
Mural tapestry image by courtesy of Lieux Insolites.