Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dragonslayer


"Sr Jo Conyers of Storkburn Knt who slew ye monstrous venoms and poysons wiverms Ask or worme which overthrew and Devourd many people in fight, for the scent of poyson was soo strong, that no person was able to abide it, yet he by the providence of god overthrew it and lyes buried at Storkburn before the Conquest, but before he did enterprise it (having but one sonne) he went to the Church in compleat armour and offered up his sonne to the holy ghost, which monument is yet to see, and the place where the serpent lay is called Graystone."

(From British Museum MS Harleian No. 2118, fo. 39, circa 1625-49)


Most people would say that dragon-slaying swords were a thing of the distant past or 1980's cult fantasy movies, but the truth is that there is at least one place on earth where you can go and still see a sword on display that is said to have killed a dragon.
In the treasury of the Durham Cathedral under the care of it's Prince-Bishop the Conyers Falchion lies in a dimly lit room encased in glass.

For the feat of having slain the Stockburn Wyrm in about 1063 the Conyers family was later granted the Manor and demesne of Sockburn-on-Tees (formerly known as Storkburn)
The sword was later given for safekeeping to the Cathedral of Durham and the custom became that as each new Prince-Bishop of Durham entered his Bishopric for the first time The Baron of Sockburn would offer the falchion to the new Bishop thus acknowledging him as his overlord and the principal combatant against the Wyrm Satan. The sword was then returned to the Lord and he was quit of all services due.
This tradition continues today with the new Prince-Bishops of Durham being presented with the Sword and the speech traditionally made by the Lords of Sockburn:
"My Lord Bishop. I hereby present you with the falchion wherewith the champion Conyers slew the worm, dragon or fiery flying serpent which destroyed man, woman and child; in memory of which the king then reigning gave him the manor of Sockburn, to hold by this tenure, that upon the first entrance of every bishop into the county the falchion should be presented."
As a postscript; the Sockburn Wyrm was immortalized as the 'Jabberwock' by Lewis Carroll in his poem 'Jabberwocky". Carroll lived in Croft on Tees as a boy and it was there he wrote the first verse of the rhyme.
Be sure and read my other posts and learn more about the links between the ancient, the sacred, and the modern world:

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