Is there anything in the Matter of Britain (or, if I'm using that term wrong, medieval British mythology in general) that discusses Stonehenge?

I'm curious, given how Stonehenge has captured the modern imagination, whether medieval mythographers thought to make any "just-so stories" about Stonehenge, or anything like that.

  • 2
    Is your question: "Are there any myths that might be about Stonehenge?" I think such a question is very close to a list question or straw poll. It's not a very good question.
    – user93
    Apr 30, 2015 at 1:55
  • 4
    @fredsbend I'm inclined to disagree. The question "does X exist?" is (at least in this case) easily answerable by someone familiar with the medieval British mythological canon, and answers the following implicit question, which I think is inherently interesting: "I have never come across Stonehenge in British myth. This is curious to me, given its fame today. Have I just not read the right narratives, or is there a reason that medieval mythographers did not write about Stonehenge?"
    – senshin
    Apr 30, 2015 at 15:41
  • This question is similar to this one. They are asking if any mythology exists regarding something else. Do Egyptian myths provide explanations for the shape of the pyramid?
    – user93
    May 2, 2015 at 8:36

1 Answer 1


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A mid-14th-century manuscript illustration showing Merlin building Stonehenge, an idea widely accepted until as late as the 16th century © British Library Board (Egerton MS 3028 fol 30)

The earliest surviving written references to Stonehenge date from the medieval period, and from the 14th century onwards there are increasing references to Stonehenge and drawings and paintings of it. At this time, Stonehenge was thought to have been built by the Romans.

During the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth suggested that Stonehenge was built by none other than Merlin, under instructions from King Aurelius, Arthur's uncle, as a burial ground for a group of British nobles slaughtered by Saxons.

"If you are desirous," said Merlin, "to honour the burying-place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant's Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, wthout a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand forever.

This was an idea which gained popularity alongside much of Monmouth's writings.

Aurelius ordered Merlin to erect round the burial-place the stones which he had brought from Ireland. Merlin obeyed the King's orders and put the stones up in a circle round the sepulchre, in exactly the same way as they had been arranged on Mount Killaraus in Ireland...

You can also read the Legend of the Heel Stone here.

  • +1 for Merlin building Stonehenge. I wish I'd heard of that sooner.
    – Ixrec
    May 4, 2015 at 22:21
  • @Ixrec Yeah, it's interesting. It seems to me like Monmouth was keen on linking it to Camelot etc to explain away the mystery. It's a nice way to link two odd British myths :)
    – Piper
    May 4, 2015 at 22:23

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