King Ban of Bénoic is the husband of Queen Elaine. He reigns in the marches of Armorican Brittany and Gaul. He is in legend the father of Lancelot du Lac and Hector des Mares, the grandfather of Galaad and the brother of King Bohort of Gaunes.
His castle is located in the middle of a marsh reputed to be impregnable, but the neighboring lord, King Claudas, manages to set it on fire. Ban de Bénoic, overwhelmed by the disaster, dies of grief, leaving his wife and child Lancelot at the edge of the lake. Taking pity on the bewilderment of the grieving queen, the fairy Viviane seized the child and plunged into the lake, putting him to safety in her mythical crystal palace.
Banvou (or Bannou and Banoicum vicum, the town of Ban)
“In the march of Gaul and Little Britain, there were once two kings who had married two full sisters, one was called Ban de Banoïc and the other Bohort de Gannes. (incipit of Lancelot in prose, 13th century).
The parish of Banvou, in the Orne, was formerly the northernmost of the former diocese of Le Mans, the country of the Cenomans, exactly located on the march of three former dioceses, and prior to the ecclesiastical districts, with three countries or pagi gallo -Romans:the Breton country (diocese of Dol), the Norman country (diocese of Sées), the Le Mans country (diocese of Le Mans). Banvou in fact occupies a privileged position in the corner of Varenne and the hills that form the watershed line between the slopes of the Channel and the Atlantic.
In Banvou, on the site of the current town, three Roman roads crossed:that of Jublains in Vieux, that of Le Mans in Valognes and that of Rennes in Lisieux.
The root Ban, from which the parish of Banvou takes its name is of Germanic origin, it could not have appeared before the arrival of the Franks in Maine nor before the establishment of the continental Bretons in Armorica at the end of the 6th century. century.
This is where a hermit, Saint Ernier, came to settle in the 6th century, sent by Saint Innocent, then bishop of Le Mans. He founded a hermitage there in the heart of the wooded solitudes of Passais and his miracles made headlines early on. In his honor is held a procession with strange rites, every year around August 10.
We hear several stories there, that of a fountain which triggers storms when a reliquary is plunged into it, of a hawthorn which flowers in winter and this around Saint Ernier, whose figure seems to have provided some features to the creation of a character from the Round Table, Léonce de Payerne (pagus Erneaie), regent of Banoïc in Arthurian stories.
This "twinning" of the features of a heroic character with those of a holy character is well known, it was studied by a cleric from Mayenne, Abbé Moisan, who made it his doctoral thesis. The local scholar René Bansard broadening his field of research from these observations had discovered in this magnificent and withdrawn region that other hermits of Lower Maine were, on the steps of Normandy, in the same case as Saint Ernier and that their hagiographies matched, on certain points, the legendary accounts of several knights of the Round Table:Saint Bômer (Bohamadus) and Baudemagu, the king of Gorre, and especially Saint Fraimbault (Sanctus Frambaldus, that is to say the bearer (baldo) of the lance (framed )) with Lancelot du Lac, best knight in the world, hero of Arthurian novels, born in the March of Gaul and Little Britain, in the home of his father, Ban de Banoïc.
From this information, was to forge in him the intimate conviction that the terroir of Passais had served as a breeding ground for a material that will be called the Matter of Brittany composed under the command of Plantagenêts. And he never ceased, until his death, to develop his hypotheses in this direction.
Actively prospecting on the ground he traveled on a velosolex for nearly twenty years, he had come to the conclusion that the country of Passais, (from the Latin passus =place of passage) has condensed on its soil a large number of events symbols that are barely disguised in the Matter of Brittany. Thus, he had come across, like a Schliemann verifying on the spot the facts reported in the Iliad and the Odyssey to end up discovering the hypothetical site of ancient Troy, again traversing the itineraries of the knights of the Table Ronde left, for example, to the adventure who to rescue Queen Guinevere kidnapped in the kingdom of Gorre (Gorron) by Méléagant the son of Baudemagu, who in their Quest for the Holy Grail towards Mons securus (Montsurs?).
On this work initiated in Banvou in the 1960s was based the research enterprise on the folkloric rooting of the Arthurian legend known as the Bansard Payen hypothesis developed in several collective works and symposiums held at the Marches of Gaul and Little Brittany and organized by the learned society CENA since 1985.