Merlin carving controversy at castle linked to Arthurian legend
This carving of the legendary wizard Merlin is causing controversy at Tintagel Castle in the U.K. (Facebook/Tintagel Castle)
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 17, 2016 9:57AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:05AM EST
A new carving at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur is drawing mixed reviews from visitors and history buffs, with some critics calling the work "graffiti," rather than "art."
The ruins of Tintagel Castle stand atop a picturesque cliff on the Cornish coastline. The location has been linked to Arthurian legend since the 12th century, when scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth named Tintagel as the place where the wizard Merlin used magic to help conceive the future king, the English Heritage website says.
But the heritage organization's recent tribute to Merlin is stirring controversy.
English Heritage unveiled a new carving of the mythical wizard on Feb. 11.
Etched directly into the battered stone at Tintagel's beach, the carving shows a man with a heavy brow, strong nose and flowing beard emerging from the rock.
According to the English Heritage website, local craftsman Peter Graham spent three months carving it.
In an interview published on the website, Tintagel described the "wonderful challenge" of working on the windy beach.
"Usually you would choose the perfect stone from a quarry, but here I have worked into the rock on Tintagel's landscape," he said. "Merlin has emerged organically out of that rock."
Not everybody is pleased that Graham carved directly into a heritage site, however.
Commenters on the organization's Facebook page were quick to attack the "defacement," saying it ruins the beach's natural beauty and disturbs the unspoiled heritage site.
"That carving is an abomination to actual history," one commenter complained.
"What's next, carving a Druid's face into Stonehenge?" another asked.
Some compared the etching to graffiti or vandalism, and many lamented what they called the commercialization of the ancient site.
Some commenters accused English Heritage of trying to turn Tintagel into an American-style theme park, and others critiqued the site's "Disney-fication."
In response, other visitors rushed to the carving's defence.
"I'm really surprised at these comments," one wrote. "You might just as well complain about images of Egyptian gods or the Buddha, which were also carved from the living rock."
On Tuesday, Tintagel Castle waded into the online debate itself, sharing its own response on its Facebook page.
"We would like to reassure you that every care was taken to ensure that the carving complements rather than competes with the spectacular setting," the castle's response said. "A local sculptor followed the natural planes of the rock and the finished carving of Merlin's face is a little larger than life and very discreet, tucked amongst the rocks for people to discover."
And despite the negative feedback, the heritage organization said it still plans to go ahead with additional artwork at the site.
According to its website, "further works will be revealed late this spring."