French ‘Excalibur’ mysteriously disappears after 1,300 years stuck in a rock

It is southern France’s answer to Excalibur, the mythical sword that King Arthur legendarily pulled from a rock to obtain the British throne.

However, Rocamadour has no idea who managed to wrench its famed Durandal sword from the stone in which it had been embedded for centuries, particularly because it was 10 metres off the ground.

All the town knows is that one of its main tourist attractions has vanished. It is presumed stolen and an investigation has been launched.

Durandal was the sword of Roland, a legendary paladin (knight) and officer of Charlemagne in French epic literature. According to the legend, Durandal was indestructible, and the sharpest sword in all existence, capable of cutting through giant boulders with a single strike.

Its magical qualities are recounted in the 11th-century epic poem The Song of Roland, the oldest surviving major work of French literature. The single existing manuscript of the Song of Roland in Old French is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

According to local folklore in Rocamadour, in the Lot department of France, Durendal was embedded in a cliff wall in the town. It was a major tourist site in a gorge above a tributary of the River Dordogne whose sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary has attracted pilgrims for centuries from many countries, among them kings, bishops and nobles.

The stunning cliff-top town of RocamadourThe stunning cliff-top town of Rocamadour

The stunning cliff-top town of Rocamadour – CAROLINE BLUMBERG/EPA

Medieval “myth” has it that before it was given to Roland, Charlemagne received Durandal from an angel. Before his death at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, Roland is said to have tried in vain to break it on the rocks to prevent his enemies from seizing it. He finally threw it into the air to save it. Miraculously travelling hundreds of kilometres, it is said to have embedded itself in the rock face of Rocamadour.

Local mayor Dominique Lenfant said the town was devastated. ”We’re going to miss Durandal. It’s been part of Rocamadour for centuries, and there’s not a guide who doesn’t point it out when he visits,” he told La Dépêche, a French newspaper. “Rocamadour feels it’s been robbed of a part of itself, but even if it’s a legend, the destinies of our village and this sword are entwined.”

Police are trying to work out how someone could have stolen this sword as it was wedged ten metres up in the rock with no way of accessing it.

It was considered so precious to the town that when the Cluny Museum wanted to exhibit it in 2011, a town councillor and a security guard accompanied it on its return journey from the Lot to Paris.

Rocamadour was voted France’s favourite village in 2016 and is also famed for its eponymous goat’s cheese.

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