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met a martyr’s blessed death on this expedition!)64 In fact, in the Rolandslied, Charlemagne is even admonished by an angel for grieving too much over the numerous dead knights. Instead, he is told to rejoice at their martyrdom.65 In Konrad’s version of the Roland story, there are several speeches and exhortations that are strikingly similar to crusade sermons. In particular, just prior to the climax, Karl (Charlemagne) gives a speech to his knights. Konrad writes;
der des himiles waltet uber al,
der zetailet si mit siner craft:
The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials, ed. Edward Peters, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), p. 48.
Jeffrey Ashcroft, “Pfaffe Konrad” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Germany Writers and the Early Middle Ages: 800-1170, vol. 148, ed. Will Hasty and James Hardin, (New York: Gale Research, 1995), p.
er tut unsich lobelichen sigehaft. daz hail ist uon gote kom.’66
(“You are warriors of God, your Lord summons you and invites you to enter His kingdom, so conduct yourselves well. The gates of heaven will open wide for him who wants to dwell with God. What could be better? This is what is written concerning the heathens: ‘mors peccatoris pessima,’ which, means ‘the death of sinners is terrible.’ Those who do not confess their sins will suffer forever in the
depths of hell. … King David67 spoke with to us of this present day when he said:
‘The kings of the earth will rise up against their Lord; many princes will join forces against our Lord Christ.’ With His power God has protected us so that we might now wreak vengeance. However, the righteous man may be swept away, not a hair of his head will be rumpled body and soul will dwell forever in God’s grace.”)68 One scholar described this speech as “an exhortation to do battle, to fight to the death, to take revenge on the enemy, and to protect one’s own land and home, even though Karl’s particular intention is to justify the decisive battle of the holy war.”69 The heroes, Charlemagne, Roland and the rest of the ‘twelve peers’ mark themselves with the sign of the cross just as crusaders had done. In addition, Konrad uses the German translation of the Latin phrase Miles Christi to refer to Charlemagne and Roland. He calls them ‘gotes helden’ and ‘gotes degene.’70 However, Konrad’s warriors of God have an additional element that is absent in the Chanson de Roland. They are also presented as the militia spiritualis, a role heavily influenced by the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux and the Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad, ed. Peter Wapnewski, lines 7681-7723.
For discussion of the appearance of Old Testament figures see; Geith, Carolus Magnus, pp. 100-105.
This translation is adapted from a prose English version of the same speech in Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, trans. J.W. Thomas, p. 94.
Maria Dobozy, “The Structure of the Crusade Epic and the Function of the King,” Neophilologus 67 (1983), p. 92.
Richter, “Militia Dei, p. 108.
crusading orders that developed after the First Crusade.71 The Christian knights are presented in the ideal combination of monk and warrior. Konrad describes some of their virtues as follows.
(They show unanimity, heartfelt desire to be with God, discipline and chastity, purity and obedience, patience and love, and a burning desire for God’s sweetness.) This element is particularly prevalent in the representation of Charlemagne. He is given a ‘saint-like’ status. This should not be surprising since it was just five years earlier in 1165, that he had been canonized by the Pascal III at the behest of the German Emperor (although never officially recognized). Even though the representation of Charlemagne in Germany did not enjoy the same lofty status as it did in the French lands or for the as long a period, the mid-twelfth-century (after canonization) through the fourteenth-century was a time when his figure reached its most prominent representation.73 The Rolandslied is probably the best example of the idealized portrait of the crusading Charlemagne in all of medieval German literature.
There is one last factor concerning the Rolandslied and the Crusades that should be considered. Konrad not only names himself in the work, but also his reasons for producing the work. In the epilogue, Konrad names ‘herzog Hainrich and the noble Ashcroft, “Pfaffe Konrad” in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 148, p. 125.
Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad, ed. Peter Wapnewski, lines 3419-3425.
Paul Salmon, Literature in Medieval Germany, (New York, Barnes and Noble Inc., 1967), p. 44.
duchess, child of a mighty king’ as his patrons. Numerous scholars have concluded that these are Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria and his second wife Mathilda, daughter of Henry II of England.74 Jeffrey Ashcroft and other scholars have argued that the tone of the story reflects Henry’s ideology and desire to lead the Northern Crusade.
This campaign, along with others outside the Holy Land, is rarely given the same amount of attention as the major crusades to the East. However, during Henry’s time, between the Second and Third Crusades, Saxony did represent an area that had significant numbers of crusade participants.75 There are numerous parallels between Henry and Charlemagne (Karl) as well.
Henry, like many nobles and monarchs of the twelfth-century often emphasized his own personal familial connection to the Emperor.76 He was the grandson of Lothar II, a descendant of Charlemagne. It is Charlemagne who calls for the crusade in the Rolandslied, not the Pope. With the strained relationship between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, it was Henry, not the religious authority that pushed for the Northern Crusade. In addition, Henry conquers and converts new lands to Christianity just as Charlemagne does in the Rolandslied.77 Henry, also like Charlemagne, is compared with Old Testament kings. In the epilogue, Konrad compares Duke Henry with the Old Testament King David. He writes;
Jeffrey Ashcroft, “Konrad’s Rolandslied, Henry the Lion, and the Northern Crusade,” in Forum for Modern Language Studies 22 (1986), pp. 184-208. See also Ashcroft, “Pfaffe Konrad” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 148, pp. 121-130.
Dieter Kartschoke, Die Datierung des deutschen Rolandsliedes, (Stuttgart, 1965).
Albert K. Wimmer, An Anthology of Medieval German Literature, (Bristol, Wyndom Hall Press, 1987), p. 50.
Ashcroft, “Pfaffe Konrad” p. 125.
(In these times there is no one so like King David as Duke Heinrich. God gave him the power to defeat all his enemies; he has honored Christianity and converted the heathens: that is his rightful legacy.)79 There is very little about the Rolandslied that is not representative of twelfth-century crusader ideology and very little about the representation of Charlemagne (Karl) as anything other than the ideal crusader. One scholar argued that “Karl is the ideal ruler and crusader. Seeking neither wealth nor fame, he wants only to be an agent in carrying out the divine will; his strength comes form God.”80 This is apparent throughout as Konrad continually emphasizes Charlemagne’s crusader characteristics. He is the “defender of Rome” and “the defender of orphans and widows.”81 Konrad has moved beyond the Chanson de Roland and explicitly tied the epic figure Charlemagne to the history of the crusades.
By the twelfth century, the association between knights and the concept of pilgrimage was quite common. Pilgrimage had become a popular form of penance. In the minds of many, Christian knights displayed a combination of a number of Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad, ed. Peter Wapnewski, lines 9039-9047.
Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, trans. J.W. Thomas, p. 107.
J. W. Thomas, Introduction to Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, p. 5.
Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, trans. J.W. Thomas, pp. 17, 38, 45.
characteristics such as courtesy, piety, faithfulness, bravery, skill, just to name a few.
Stephen Jaeger argued that the eleventh and twelfth centuries gave birth to the courtly ideals that would become the most recognizable trademark of late medieval culture.82 With the advent of epic and in the wake of the Gregorian Reform and in the midst of the crusading movement, the ideal knight incorporated crusading and pilgrimage into his character. Pilgrimage and crusading quickly became two of the most important aspects of knighthood. Pilgrimage provided an outlet for much needed penance and spiritual growth and the crusades provided the proper outlet for the knight’s skills in warfare – the defense and extension of Christendom.
Many of the twelfth-century sources seem to be more than just a celebration of chivalry, knighthood, and heroism. The authors, perhaps churchmen in many cases, the characters in the vernacular literature, and the intended audience, again presumably the noble class, were all reflections of the crusade. Churchmen preached the idea and nobleman and knights responded to the call by leading armies into harm’s way.
Crusading propaganda took on many forms. Generally, the job of promoting and preaching the crusade fell to the papacy and lesser clergy repeating speeches and instructions from the Pope. In addition, after the First Crusade virtually all crusades were proclaimed by a papal bull or encyclical. During the twelfth-century, much of the focus of the Church was on the campaigns to the Holy Land. There are numerous charters and a wealth of documentary evidence concerning the crusades. However, the popular image of the crusades and knights who led them grew beyond the confines of papal proclamations. In this context, the legend of Charlemagne operated on several levels.
Jaeger, Origins of Courtliness, 3-16.
The image of Charlemagne in war is certainly an idealized portrait of what a crusader should be. In addition, his character has an understanding of his role as defender of the church and as God’s chosen emissary. The stories and sources act as both history and edification for twelfth- and thirteenth-century Western culture. In addition, they emphasize the perceived threat the forces of Islam represented. In the age of the crusades, the Western leaders genuinely, rightly or wrongly, felt threatened by the increasing encroachment of the Muslim world. Perhaps the Western mentality on this issue is best reflected in the Chanson d’Aspremont when a Saracen envoy says to Charlemagne;
The Western understanding of the medieval Muslim world view is present in this passage. It evokes the concepts of Dar-al-Islam (house of Islam) and Dar-al-Harb (house of war). It is also an indication of the mentality that there can really never be La Chanson d’Aspremont, p. 9, lines 243-251.
peace between the two worlds. The sources are also de-facto advertisements for crusade indulgences. In addition, martyrs are emphasized throughout the battle scenes and the authors leave no question as to their place in the afterlife. One of the defining features of crusade ideology is the concept of indulgence. The link between indulgence and crusade was first put forth by Pope Gregory VII. The idea was solidified shortly later with Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont in November of 1095. Those who fought against the infidel on a crusade and those who died in the process of fighting for God and the Church secured for themselves a place in paradise. There is an early implication of this idea in Roland when the archbishop Turpin seems to use the language of indulgence.
La Chanson de Roland, p. 150, lines 1124-1139.
To save your souls I shall absolve you all.
If you die, you will be blessed martyrs And take your place in paradise on high’ The Franks dismount and kneel upon the ground;
In God’s name the archbishop blessed them.
As penance he orders them to strike.] There are three important ideas in this passage. First, Charlemagne is clearly the feudal sovereign to which the Christian armies owe their allegiance. This is emphasized by the fact that it is a high ranking church official who is saying that all must be willing to fight and die for Charles. Second, the idea that those who die during the fighting will become martyrs is, in a broad sense, related to the crusade ideology that existed in the early twelfth-century. In addition, the third idea that fighting is a form of ‘penance’ is parallel to the idea that the crusades were an extension of the concept of pilgrimage. This last idea is probably the most critical. Crusade historians have long maintained that for contemporaries, the crusades came to represent a new kind of pilgrimage. The idea of an armed pilgrimage defined the crusade era and directly led to the creation of the crusading orders including the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights. Roland is a direct reflection of this trend.
In the Pseudo-Turpin there is discussion of martyrdom for soldiers who die in battle. However, by the end of the twelfth-century, the language and propaganda is even more explicit. For example, the author has Charlemagne say;
‘Franc crestiien, Dex vos tigne en vertu.
Or poés dire bien vos est avenue Qu’en vos tans est icis besoinz creu;
Vos qui avés el grant pechié geu, As cols doner al brant d’achier tolt nu En esterés tolt cuite et absolu;
Si vos promet que n’I ait plait tenu;