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Durendal, also spelled Durandal, is the sword of Roland, a legendary paladin and partially historical officer of Charlemagne in French epic literature. It is also said to have belonged to young Charlemagne at one point, and, passing through Saracen hands, came to be owned by Roland.

The sword has been given various provenances. Several of the works of the Matter of France agree that it was forged by Wayland the Smith, who is commonly cited as a maker of weapons in chivalric romances.[1]


The name Durendal arguably begins with a French dur- stem, meaning "hard". Thus Rita Lejeune argued it may break down into durant + dail,[2] renderable in English as "strong scythe"[3] or explained in more detailed to mean "a scimitar or scythe which holds, up, resists, endures".[4] Gerhard Rohlfs suggested dur + end'art or "strong flame".[3][5] The name may also connote the meaning of "enduring".[6]

The Pseudo-Turpin explains that the name "Durenda is interpreted to mean it gives a hard strike" (Durenda interpretatur durum ictum cum ea dans). It has been argued also that the fact that Pseudo-Turpin needed to gloss the name is evidence it was not a name readily understood in French,[a] hence a foreign name.[7]

One non-French etymology is Edwin B. Place's attempt to construe it in Breton as diren dall, meaning "blade [that] dulls cutting edge" or "blade blinds".[7] Another is James A. Bellamy's Arabic etymology, explaining a possible meaning of the sword's name to be "Ḏū l-jandal" meaning "master of stone".[8][3][b]

Chanson de Roland[edit]

Roland blows his olifant to summon help in the midst the Battle of Roncevaux holding Durendal. Painting by Wolf von Bibra (1862 – 1922)

According to La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), the sword was brought by an angel to Charlemagne who was at the vale of Moriane, and Charles then gave it to Roland.[9][c] In that poem, the sword is said to contain within its golden hilt a tooth of Saint Peter, blood of Basil of Caesarea, hair of Saint Denis, and a piece of the raiment of Mary, mother of Jesus,[11][12] and to be the sharpest sword in all existence.[citation needed]

At the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, Roland took the rearguard to hold off the Saracen army troops long enough for Charlemagne's army to retreat into France.[13] Roland slew a vast number of enemies wielding Durendal. With the sword Roland even succeeded in slicing the right arm of the Saracen king Marsile, and decapitated the king's son, Jursaleu, sending the one-hundred-thousand-strong army to flight.[14][15]

Roland later attempted to destroy the sword by hitting it against blocks of marble, to prevent it from being captured by the attacking Saracens. But Durendal proved indestructible.[11] After being mortally wounded, Roland hid it beneath his body as he lay dying along with the oliphant, the horn used to alert Charlemagne[16][17] before succumbing to his injury.


According to legend, the sword was capable of cutting through giant boulders of stone with a single strike, and was indestructible.[18]

Previous ownership[edit]

Durendal was once captured (but not kept) by the young Charlemagne, according to the 12th-century fragmentary chanson de geste Mainet (the title of which refers to the pseudonym Charles adopted in his youth), when he fled to Spain.[19] Young Charles (Mainés in the text) slays Braimant, obtaining his sword (Durendaus).[20][21] This content is better preserved in some non-chanson de geste texts,[22] and in other language adaptations such as the Franco-Italian Karleto.[23] The place of combat was near the vale of Moriane (Vael Moriale), near Toledo, according to the Low-German version Karl Mainet.[24]

Many years later, the owner of Durendal prior to Roland was a Saracen named Aumon, son of king Agolant,[d] according to another 12th-century chanson de geste Aspremont. Young Roland, mounted on Naimes's horse Morel without permission,[25] and armed only with a rod, defeated Aumon, conquering the sword as well as the horse Veillantif.[26]

These materials were combined in the Italian prose Aspramonte by Andrea da Barberino in the late 14th to early 15th century. That work stated that after young Carlo (Charlemagne) came in possession of Durindarda (Durendal) by killing Bramante in Spain, Galafro gave it to Galiziella,[e][27] who then gave it to Almonte the son of Agolante (i.e., French: Aumon).[f][28][29] Galiziella is glossed as the bastard daughter of Agolante,[30] making her Almonte's half-sister. Durindana is eventually won by Orlandino (young Orlando).[31]

Andrea da Barberino was a major source for later Italian writers. Boiardo's Orlando innamorato traces the sword's origin to Hector of Troy; it belonged for a while to Amazonian queen Pantasilea, and was passed down to Almonte, before Orlando gained possession of it.[32] Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso follows Boiardo, saying it once belonged to Hector of Troy, but that it was given to Roland by Malagigi (Maugris).

Local lore[edit]

fragment of Rocamadour Durendal
Alleged fragment of Durendal in Rocamadour
sketch of Rocamadour Durendal
Mock sketch[33]

Tradition has it that when Roland cut a huge gash in the rocks with one blow, it created Roland's Breach in the Pyrenees in the process.[34]

Legend in Rocamadour, in the Lot department, claims that the true Durendal was deposited in the chapel of Mary there, but was stolen by Henry the Young King in 1183.[33]

Local folklore also claims Durendal still exists, embedded in a cliff wall in Rocamadour. In that version, twelfth-century monks of Rocamadour claim Roland threw the sword rather than hiding it beneath himself, creating a crevice "due to its sharpness" in the wall. However, the local tourist office now calls the sword a replica of Durendal.[35]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1992 Super Sentai series Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the monster Dora Knight, an evil black knight under the service of Bandora, wielded a magic sword called Durandal. [36]

In the Fire Emblem videogame series, Durandal is the name of the legendary claymore once wielded by one of the Eight Legends of Elibe, Roland, and later passed to its descendant and one of the main characters of Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Eliwood of Pharae.

Honkai Impact 3rd has a character named Durandal, who, in the story, is considered the strongest S-Rank Valkyrie of the fictional organization Schicksal.

In the game Marathon (video game), first released in 1994 for the Macintosh by Bungie, Durandal is the name of a psychotic AI prominently featured throughout the game's story. Bungie would later set a trend of naming their fictional AI after famous swords with Cortana (Curtana) in the Halo (franchise) series.

In the Xianxia-inspired series of novels "The Godking's Legacy" by author Virlyce Durandal is the name of one of the main characters, a sentient sword that previously belonged to the legendary warrior-mage Roland.

In The Dresden Files book series, Durendal is one of three powerful swords each linked to a positive emotion. In particular, Durendal is linked to hope.

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Like Halteclere or Joyeuse.
  2. ^ Encouraged by the fact that there are many Arabic sword names with this prefix, e.g. Ḏū-l-Faqār.
  3. ^ The scene of the angel giving the sword to Karl (Charlemagne) is depicted in a manuscript of Der Stricker's Karl der Große.[10]
  4. ^ This is actually alluded to in Mainet also: "Quant il occist Yaumont fil le roi Agoulant".[21]
  5. ^ Come lo re Galafro.. donò Durindarda a Galiziella "; "..e fu poi di Mainetto, cioè di Carlo; e con spada uccise Carlo lo re Bramante, e chiamavasi Durindarda.. Per questa spada Galiziella col cuore feminile ebbe piatà del re Galafro..", Boni (1951), pp. 12–13, Mattaini (1957), p. 422.
  6. ^ "Come Galiziella donò Durindarda a Almonte", Boni (1951), p. 13.



  1. ^ Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia (1902). Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. p. 65.
  2. ^ Lejeune (1950), p. 158.
  3. ^ a b c Warren, Michelle R. (1993). Excalibur, an Arthurian Artifact. Stanford University. p. 254, note 43. ISBN 9780816634910.
  4. ^ Bellamy (1987), p. 272, note 14, citing Lejeune (1950), p. 158.
  5. ^ Rohlfs, Gerhard (1936), "Was bedeutet der Schwertname Durendal?", Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, CLXIX: 57–64
  6. ^ Sayers, Dorothy L. (tr.) (1957). The Song of Roland. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-14-044075-5.
  7. ^ a b Place, Edwin B. (1949), "Once more Durendal", Modern Language Notes, 64 (3): 161–, doi:10.2307/2909019, JSTOR 2909019
  8. ^ Bellamy (1987), p. 273.
  9. ^ Moncrieff (1920), pp. 75–76, laisse CLXXII
  10. ^ Brault (1978), p. 443, note 16
  11. ^ a b Moncrieff (1920), pp. 76–77, laisse CLXXIII
  12. ^ Ross, D. J. A. (1980). Auty, Robert (ed.). Old French. Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry. London: Modern Humanities Research Association. p. 126. ISBN 0-900547-72-3.
  13. ^ Chalmers, Rebecca (2013). Chanson de Roland, la. Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature. Routledge. pp. 87–88. ISBN 9781136594250.
  14. ^ Moncrieff (1920), pp. 62–63, laisse CXLIV
  15. ^ Geddes, J. Jr. (1920). La Chanson de Roland: Roland "a modern French translation of Theodor Müller's text of the Oxford Manuscript. Macmillan. pp. lix, 78–79. (laisse CXLIV)
  16. ^ Moncrieff (1920), p. 77, laisse CLXXIV
  17. ^ Cox, George William (1871). Popular Romances of the Middle Ages. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 340.
  18. ^ Cox, George W.; Jones, Eustance Hinton (1871). Popular Romances of the Middle Ages. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. 339–340. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  19. ^ Keller, Han-Erich (1995). King Cycle. Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. Garland. pp. 964–965. ISBN 9780824044442.
  20. ^ Mainet IVa, vv.24–41, Paris (1875), pp. 24–25
  21. ^ a b Morgan (2009), p. 144.
  22. ^ Morgan (2009), p. 143.
  23. ^ Morgan (2009), pp. 113, 143.
  24. ^ Settegast, Franz (1904). Quellenstudien zur galloromanischen epik. O. Harrassowitz. p. 27.
  25. ^ Brandin (1919–1921), Newth (1989), pp. 138–139 vv. 5749–5755.
  26. ^ Brandin (1919–1921), Newth (1989), pp. 146–147, vv. 6075–80.
  27. ^ Barberino, L'Aspramonte I, x, 6–10; cfr. III, LX, 4.
  28. ^ da Barberino, L'Aspramonte I, xi, 4
  29. ^ Boni (1951), p. 347 (Notes to Durindarda)
  30. ^ Boni (1951), p. 350–351 (Notes to Galiziella)
  31. ^ da Barberino, L'Aspramonte III, xxxviii, 7
  32. ^ Ross (2004), pp. 508–509: Bk III, Canto I .
  33. ^ a b de Veyrières, Louis (1892), "L'épée de Roland à Roc-Amadour", Bulletin de la Société scientifique, historique et archéologique de la Corrèze, 14: 139–143
  34. ^ Walsh, William Shepard (1914). Heroes and Heroines of Fiction. London: J. B. Lippincott Co. p. 264.
  35. ^ Caro, Ina (1996). The Road From the Past: Traveling Through History in France. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0-15-600363-5.
  36. ^ "Zyuranger Monsters List Two". SuperSentai.com.

General bibliography[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]