Mystery as legendary French sword disappears after 1,300 years stuck in rock

The French version of King Arthur’s legendary Excalibur sword has vanished from a rock into which legend says it was plunged 1,300 years ago.

The Durandal sword from Rocamadour, southern France, is presumed to have been stolen despite it being chained to the stone 32ft off the ground.

Durandal was the sword of Roland, a legendary paladin, or knight, and officer of Charlemagne in French epic literature, and was said to be indestructible.

Local mayor Dominique Lenfant told La Dépêche: “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.

“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.”

Durandal is mentioned in the 11th century poem The Song of Roland. The epic tells of the sword’s magical powers and says it contained one tooth of St Peter, the blood of St Basil, and the hair of St Denis.

Roland is said to have tried to break the sword on a rock before his death at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass to stop it from getting into the hands of the army of Saracens he had valiantly fought.

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.

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