A Real-Life Sword in the Stone Has Suddenly and Mysteriously Vanished

Real-Life Sword in the Stone Suddenly VanishesColin Anderson - Getty Images
  • The French town of Rocamadour was partly known for a centuries-old sword embedded in a cliff wall 100 feet off a riverbank.

  • The 1,250-year-old Durandal sword disappeared recently, believed to be stolen.

  • The mythical status of the sword began with an 11th century poem.

The famous Durandal sword holds a mythical status rivaling King Arthur’s Excalibur. It’s said that for over 1,2500 years, Durandal was embedded in a stone cliff face roughly 100 feet above a river gorge in the medieval southern French town of Rocamadour, a popular pilgrimage site for centuries.

Although the present-day sword that sat in its place is just a copy, it remained a key tourist attraction in the idyllic clifftop village, and holds major symbolic symbolic significance for the town.

Now, it’s gone—and how it suddenly disappeared is as much a mystery as how someone managed to steal it.

Durandal sat 100 feet high in a cliff wall above a tributary of the River Dordogne, with no obvious method to get to it. The sword disappeared sometime after nightfall on June 21, and authorities opened an investigation the next day after someone reported its absence from the cliff face.

The legend of Durandal begins with Charlemagne, king of the Franks in the 700s AD, who supposedly received the sword from an angel. Charlemagne then gifted it to his trusted officer, Roland.

During the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, Roland didn’t want Durandal, which was magical enough to slice through boulders, to fall into enemy hands. Because of its strength, Roland wasn’t able to smash it against the stone, and instead, he threw into the air in desperation.

That’s when the story takes on even more of a mythical status, as the sword apparently traveled hundreds of miles and punctured the cliffs of Rocamadour, where it then rested for 1,250 years.

The entire saga of the sword first appeared in the 11th century poem “The Song of Roland,” which The Telegraph reports is the oldest surviving major work of French literature. The only manuscript of the poem resides in Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

“We’re going to miss Durandal,” Dominique Lenfant, Rocamadour’s mayor, tells French newspaper La Dépeche. “It’s been part of Rocamadour for centuries, and there’s not a guide who doesn’t point it out when he visits. 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.”

While police can’t yet figure out how someone extracted the sword, it’s been removed before. In 2011, the Cluny Museum in Paris exhibited the sword, which enjoyed a security detail during the transit from Paris to Rocamadour. This time, though, nobody knows who took Durandal. Or how.

You Might Also Like