The Green Chapel
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GREEN CHAPEL

In so finely structured a poem as Gawain and the Green Knight, it is surprising to find an incongruity between what the term “green Chapel” leads one to expect and what Gawain actually finds at the end of the Journey…When he arrives at the place appointed for the completion of the beheading test, however, Gawain finds not a chapel, but a burial mound.
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In so finely structured a poem as Gawain and the Green Knight, it is surprising to find an incongruity between what the term “green Chapel” leads one to expect and what Gawain actually finds at the end of the Journey…When he arrives at the place appointed for the completion of the beheading test, however, Gawain finds not a chapel, but a burial mound.
After Gawain arrives at the Green Chapel to meet the Green Knight, he sees a grass-covered barrow instead of a building as he expected. Barrows, or ancient burial mounds, exist throughout the British and Irish countryside. Barrows have a strong association with paganism because they were erected by pre-Christian Celts. Many legends claim that they are entryways to Fairyland. Here, Gawain, a Christian, associates the mound with Satan because he considers the pre-Christian pagan beliefs evil. Gawain might reasonably believe that the Green Knight exists as a creature of pagan and thus evil magic.
Arthur, aged as he is, is unable to accomplish anything resembling fighting, and so Gawain volunteers, beheading the Green Knight with one blow. To the shock of all present, the Knight picks up his head, reiterates the conditions of the game, and tells Gawain to meet him in a year at the Green Chapel, where he will return the blow Gawain gave him. It's up to Gawain, then, to hold up his end of the bargain, setting off the following December to find this knight in his chapel and receive the deadly blow—one that, as he is not made of magical plants, Gawain is unlikely to survive.
“By god’s self,” quoth Gawain, “I will neither grieve nor groan. To God’s will I am full obedient, and to him I have entrusted myself.”
Then he spurs Gringolet and follows the path; pushes in by a hollow beside a thicket; rides through the rough slope right to the dale; and then he looked about him, and wild it seemed to him. He saw no sign of dwelling anywhere around, but on both sides high steep banks, and rough hunched crags with projecting stones; the shadows of the cliffs seemed to him terrible. Then he paused and held back his horse. And oft changed his cheer while seeking the chapel. He saw none such on any side, and strange it seemed to him. But soon, a little distance off on a grassy spot he descried a mound as it were, a smooth hill by the bank of the stream near a ford of the flood that ran there. The burn babbled there as if it were boiling. The knight urges his steed, and comes to the hill; lights nimbly down, and ties the rein and his rich bridle to a tree by a rough branch; then he turns to the hill and walks about it, debating with himself what it might be. It had a hole at the end and on either side, and was overgrown with grass in clumps everywhere, and was all hollow within—nothing but an old cave or a cravice of an old crag. He could not understand it at all. ‘Alas, Lord,’ quoth the gentle knight, ‘can this be the green chapel? Here about midnight the devil might tell his matins.” (Neilson 44).
The Green Chapel has been identified as Lud’s Church because of the poet’s use of dialect words and rare topographical terms used in the poem appear in place-names all very local to the Roaches and this area of the Staffordshire Moorlands [2]There is further evidence in the poem:

“…..Then the lord quoth, laughing, "Now must ye needs stay, for I will show you your goal, the Green Chapel, ere your term be at an end, have ye no fear! But ye can take your ease, friend, in your bed, till the fourth day, and go forth on the first of the year and come to that place at mid-morn to do as ye will. Dwell here till New Year's Day, and then rise and set forth, and ye shall be set in the way; 'tis not two miles hence.

Then the knight spurred Gringalet, and rode adown the path close in by a bank beside a grove. So he rode through the rough thicket, right into the dale, and there he halted, for it seemed him wild enough. No sign of a chapel could he see, but high and burnt banks on either side and rough rugged crags with great stones above…..

………Then he drew in his horse and looked around to seek the chapel, but he saw none and thought it strange. Then he saw as it were a mound on a level space of land by a bank beside the stream where it ran swiftly, the water bubbled within as if boiling. The knight turned his steed to the mound, and lighted down and tied the rein to the branch of a linden; and he turned to the mound and walked round it, questioning with himself what it might be. It had a hole at the end and at either side, and was overgrown with clumps of grass, and it was hollow within as an old cave or the crevice of a crag; he knew not what it might be……” [3]
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