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Roland

by Micha F. Lindemans
When in 778 the rearguard of Charlemagne's army was withdrawing from a campaign in Spain to battle a rising among the recently conquered Saxons of Germany, they were attacked at Roncesvalles by the Basques and the Gascons. The Basques and the Gascons annihilated them, and among the fallen was the Frankish commander Roland. Legend embroidered the defeat and in the eleventh century Chanson de Roland, the warrior emerged as a Christian hero overwhelmed by the forces of Islam. Proud and brave, he refused to sound his horn Olifant for reinforcements until it was too late. When he finally did sound the horn, the effort caused 'blood to flow from his mouth and burst from his forehead'.

A deep cleft in the Pyrenees, some three hundred feet wide, is called Brèche de Roland. Legend has it that he cut the rocks in two with his sword Durandal when he was set upon by the Basques and the Gascons at Roncesvalles.

The Chanson de Roland reveals a surprising depth of (Roman Catholic) hatred for the followers of Muhammad.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Orlando

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