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The author goes on to describe armies and divisions from ‘Poitevins,’ ‘Auvergne,’ ‘Frisia,’ and ‘Burgundy.’ In this instance, diversity in ethnic terms is a positive value, because it is representative of a greater, more powerful, force. Christendom is best served by Charlemagne’s leadership, in which he is able to mobilize an army that cuts across ethnic divisions.

In the Pseudo-Turpin, the author emphasizes that after hearing from the spirit of Saint James, Charlemagne assembled his army from all parts of his kingdom and forcefully attacked Spain.47 Near the end of the Turpin Chronicle, the author indicates where the fallen Christian heroes and martyrs will be buried. This is another good example of the various backgrounds from which Charlemagne’s army was assembled.

…Apud Belinum sepelitur Oliverus et Gandeboldus rex Frisie et Ogerium rex Dacie et Arastagnus rex britannie et Garinus dux Lotharingie et alii multi. Felix villa macilenta Belinum, que tantis hominibus decoratur! Apud Burdegalam in La Chanson de Roland. p. 296, lines 3036-3038.

La Chanson de Roland. p. 298, lines 3045-3046, 3052.

Pseudo-Turpin, 57.

cymiterio beati Severini: Gaiferus rex burdegalensis, Engelerus dux Aquitainie, Lambertus rex bituricensis, Gelerius, Gelinus, Rainaldus de Albaspina, Gauterius, Guillelmus, Beggo cum.v. milibus aliorum. Hoellus comes apud Nantas urbem suam cum multis Britonibus sepelitur.48 [The noble count Oliver was buried in Belin and was Gandeboldus, the King of Frisia and Ogier the King of Denmark; Arastagnus, the King of Britanny; Garinus, the Duke of Lorraine; and a many other nobles. The castle of Belin was blessed and honored by so many noble princes. At Bordeaux, in the cemetery of Saint Severin these noble were buried; Gaifer, Duke of Bourges and of Aquitaine; Lambert King of Bituricensis, Gelin, Gelier, Renaud d’Aube Espine, Gautier, Guillelmus, and Begue, and 5000 others. Hoiaus, the Count of Nantes, was brought for burial to Nantes, his own city, together with many other Bretons.] This is quite prevalent in Aspremont as well. The Christian armies come from several different areas and are all loyal to Charlemagne. Charlemagne is, in effect, leading Christendom into war with the Saracens. Upon hearing the news of the Arab invasion the author describes Charlemagne’s reaction as one of anger and wrath. One of the first actions he takes is to call on his armies from all over his kingdom. Near the beginning of the poem, the author says;

–  –  –

The Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle, ed. H.M. Smyser, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Medieval Academy of America, 1937), p. 90, (my translation).

La Chanson d’Aspremont, p. 32-33, lines 974-976; 1003-1006.

[King Charlemagne has finished with preleminaries;

His letters sent to all his kingdoms and land Bring back to him kings, dukes and worthy princes Armed and equipped for war against the Infidels;]

–  –  –

[We are here from many lands and states… He rides the ranks, encouraging and talking,

Inspiring them, assuring and exhorting:

“Frenchmen, Alemans, so let us ride forward now!

You Englishmen, you Flemish, Frisians, Normans, You Toulouse braves and you my Lorraine stalwarts,

Men from Manseau, Angevin and Tourangeaux:

God and myself will support you in this fight,”] In the minds of most twelfth-century authors, there does not seem to be any question that Charlemagne is ‘French.’ In some cases, he is referred to as a Frank. However, the authors are not always clear in differentiating these two terms. It is implied that the ‘French’ stand a little higher than other fellow Christians.

Although the authors underscore the variety of ethnic backgrounds the Christians represent, the higher purpose is evident in the author’s tone and emphasis. It is not a Norman or Flemish army that takes the field against the infidel, but a Christian one. This is strikingly close to the same context as we see the armies of crusaders in the twelfthcentury being presented. The First Crusade was largely a Norman/French campaign.

However, in the First Crusade there was still a cross-cultural representation within La Chanson d’Aspremont, pp. 134, 141; lines 4179; 4383-4389.

crusader army.51 Overall, the subsequent campaigns tended to be more representative of the multi-ethnic society that existed in the Christian West. This element helps to underscore the representation of Charlemagne as the de facto leader of the Christian West.

The ‘Peace of God’ and ‘Truce of God’ movements may have also played a role in reducing the violence in the West and redirecting it under a united front during the crusades. There are differing interpretations among scholars on the role of these movements, especially the ‘Peace of God’ movement. Georges Duby argued in no uncertain terms that the crusades were a direct result of the Peace.52 By contrast, Marcus Bull argued that the “broad relevance of the Peace to the crusade is clear, for domestic stability in the West was bound to aid the recruitment and organization of the expedition.”53 Nevertheless, there is an attempt among the twelfth-century authors of several sources to create an image of a united Christian West. This is a reflection of both the crusades and the idealized portrait of Charlemagne and his united Christian Empire.

There is within the sources a parallel with the idea of persecution and defense as well. The mentality that existed within Western society included the serious concern over the spread of Islam. Whether this was justified or imagined is a matter of debate.

There is a lengthy discussion on how the Saracens have robbed the land, burned churches Jonathan Riley-Smith The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), p. 50. “On 3 May the storm broke over the community at Speyer, where Emich of Leiningen’s army had gathered. Emich marched north to Worms, where the massacres began on the 18th and then to Mainz, where he was probably joined by more Swabians under Count Hartmann of DilingenKybourg and by an army of French, English, Flemish and Lorrainer crusaders” The bulk of the crusaders who participated in the First Crusade were Norman/French, but the concept of ‘Christendom’ tended to trump the importance of ethnicity.

Georges Duby, The Chivalrous Society, trans. C. Postan, (London, 1977).

Bull, Knightly Piety, p. 57.

and killed or made slaves of the Christians. This idea of mistreatment is reminiscent of the stories of pilgrims being persecuted before the First Crusade as well as from the later crusader states that were attacked by Muslim armies. The representation of Charlemagne fits well into the protection and defense mold. In Aspremont, the Archbishop Turpin describes Charlemagne as the ‘…defender of the Christians.” In another passage, Charlemagne says of himself, “If Agolant defeats me in the fray then Christendom itself shall not be saved.” 54 The image of Charlemagne is one that is created to stand between Christendom and Islam. ‘Right’ and ‘justified’ Charlemagne eventually defeats the enemies of God and Christianity.

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The Old-French Roland is a convincing parallel to the First Crusade and the twelfth-century mentality concerning Christian and Muslim relations, Holy War, as well as the importance of the representation and role of Charlemagne. However, perhaps more telling is the German reworking of the Roland story by a German cleric, Priest Konrad. The Rolandslied is the first major treatment of the crusade in medieval German literature. There are a number of parallels with the Old French version, but also a number of interesting differences as well.55 The Old French version has no known author or authors and there on-going debates concerning the origin of the story. By contrast, we know that the Rolandslied does not suffer from any lack of knowledge concerning its author, origin, or context dates to c. 1170 and that Pfaffe Konrad, as the author names Aspremont, Newth, p. 98, 28.

Karl-Ernst Geith, Carolus Magnus: Studien zur Darstellung Karls des Grossen in der deutschen Literatur des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Munich, 1977), pp. 90-92.

himself in the work, is was a court chaplain. In addition, there is a nearly complete manuscript that dates to the late twelfth-century.

Nearly twice as long as the original, the German version retains the basic narrative, but enhances some themes and subsequently eliminates others. Gone is any concern for the glory of France or any feeling of French patriotism, no matter how primitive, but retained and, in fact, enhanced is the crusade ideology. Gone are any implicit references to what could be construed as a ‘proto’ or ‘quasi-crusade’ and instead with Konrad’s version we have the actual use of the term ‘crusade’ itself. At one point Charlemagne’s character says of the Saracen enemy, “I’ll lead such as Crusade that they will regret ever having been born. They shall all perish shamefully.”56 This type of crusade rhetoric pervades the entire text. One scholar argued that, “no other medieval work portrays so vividly the religious zeal, indeed one might call the religious fanaticism, that prevailed in many quarters after the Second Crusade.”57 In fact, some scholars would argue that the Rolandslied is “imbued with an intense religious spirit foreign to the Chanson de Roland” and that the crusade rhetoric and imagery were additions by Konrad.58 However, this position, in part, depends on the Roland story being a reflection of the Germanic ‘honorshame’ culture that pre-dates the twelfth century production of the text. Although this has not been fully demonstrated by scholars, even with this point conceded, it is not enough to conclude that the ‘religious spirit’ of Konrad’s adaptation is new. The Oxford Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, trans. J.W. Thomas, (Columbia, South Carolina, Camden House, Inc., 1994), p. 45.

J.W. Thomas, Introduction to Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, p. 2.

Horst Richter, “Militia Dei: A Central Concept for the Religious Ideas of the Early Crusades and the German Rolandslied” in Journeys Toward God: Pilgrimage and Crusade, ed. Barbara N. Sargent-Baur, (Kalamazoo, Michigan, Medieval Institute Publications, 1992), p. 108.

Roland as well as the many other versions of Roland in the twelfth-century all emphasize the religious element. I would argue that the crusade imagery is already present in the French version of Roland story of the early twelfth-century and that Konrad’s adaptation of the poem represents a more explicit use of the crusade theme. The crusade rhetoric is simply emphasized to a greater extend in Konrad’s work. Konrad interpreted the Roland story of the twelfth-century the way it was intended – as a crusade. There are enough direct parallels between the two versions to conclude that Konrad viewed the French version as a crusade. In addition, there is Konrad’s insistence that, using a French version, “he had added nothing and [took] nothing away – than with regard to his interpretation of events.”59 Konrad of course did add a great deal to the story. However, he did not invent the crusade theme.

It is difficult not to conclude that the Crusades had a tremendous effect on the work. It seems logical considering the date of composition, which c. 1170 “reflected with some accuracy a wide-spread fervor of the period between the Second and the Third Crusade.”60 In addition, the Rolandslied post-dates the proclamation of the crusade in Spain, the very location the events in the story are said to have taken place. In 1147, Pope Eugenius III gave permission to Emperor Alfonso VII to a lead crusade against Muslims in Spain. In fact, by this time crusading had expanded considerably to include areas outside the Holy Land. In the same year, 1147, the Wendish Crusade was proclaimed against the Slavs in the northern territories.61 Walter Haug, Vernacular Literary Theory in the Middle Ages: The German Tradition, 800-1300, in its European Context, trans. Joanna M. Catling, (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 78.

J. W. Thomas, Introduction to Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, p. 5.

Mayer, The Crusades, p. 99.

This is all substantiated by the text itself. The rhetoric and actions of the main characters Charlemagne, Roland, and Turpin are consistent with other crusade epics and other various forms of crusade propaganda. In particular, the emphasis on indulgence and martyrdom draws strong parallels to crusade ideology. Early in the poem Turpin makes this clear when he tells the Franks before a battle that;

–  –  –

Konrad’s emphasizes the concept of martyrdom with increasing frequency throughout the text. On another occasion after a great battle and many Christian warriors are lost Konrad says;

Four hundred and ten Christians died and were received with angels’ song in the holy place where those of God’s children go who suffer martyrdom for His sake.

Having served their Lord well, they were now rewarded with great honor.63 There is an obvious parallel here between Konrad’s emphasis on martyrdom and various crusade sources that also emphasize martyrdom and indulgence. There are numerous battle scenes throughout the Rolandslied and subsequent death scenes. The knights in Charlemagne’s army are encouraged to strive for the greatest deeds on the battlefield and that the army’s faith and efforts will be rewarded by God in the end. This helps to explain the anxious attitudes of many Christian knights who could hardly wait to fight with God’s enemies on the field of battle. Their death in battle fighting for God should be mourned but also celebrated since they achieved a martyr’s death. Fulcher of Chartres illustrates this well in the prologue of his chronicle of the First Crusade. He writes; “o quot milia martyrum in hac expeditione beata morte finierunt!” (Oh how many thousands Das rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad, ed. Peter Wapnewski (Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1967), lines 1134-35.

Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, trans. J.W. Thomas, p. 64.

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