Durendal

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Roland (right) receives Durendal from Charlemagne
Alleged fragment of Durendal in Rocamadour, Limousin

Durendal or Durandal (most likely from the French durer, meaning "to last" or "to endure") is the renowned sword of Roland, the legendary paladin of Charlemagne in the body of literature Matter of France.

Sword[edit]

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]

According to La Chanson de Roland, (The Song of Roland) the sword is brought by an angel of God to Charlemagne, who then gives it to Roland.[2] According to Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, it once belonged to Hector of Troy, and was given to Roland by Malagigi (Maugris).

In The Song of Roland, 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, and to be the sharpest sword in all existence.[3] "Allegedly" capable of cutting through giant boulders of stone with a single strike. In the poem, Roland uses the sword to hold off one-hundred-thousand-strong Saracen army troops long enough for Charlemagne's army to retreat into France.[4]

Roland slayed a vast number of enemies wielding Durendal at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, he even succeeded in slicing off the hand of Saracen king Marsile and decapitated the king's son, Jursaleu. Roland later attempted to destroy the sword in battle, to prevent it from being captured by the attacking Saracens, and created Roland's Breach in the Pyrenees in the process.[5] But Durendal proved indestructible. After being mortally wounded, Roland hid it beneath his body as he lay dying along with the oliphant, the horn used to alert Charlemagne[6] before succumbing to his injury.

Local folklore claims Durendal still exists, embedded in a cliff wall in Rocamadour, Midi-Pyrénées. In the twelfth century, the monks of Rocamadour claimed that 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.[7] The exact location of the authentic sword "or if it even exists today" is unknown.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, p. 65
  2. ^ Brault, p. 443
  3. ^ Auty, p. 126
  4. ^ Caro, p. 106
  5. ^ Walsh, p. 264
  6. ^ Cox, p. 340
  7. ^ Caro, pp. 106–107

References[edit]

  • Auty, Robert (1980). Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry. London: Modern Humanities Research Association. ISBN 0-900547-72-3. 
  • Brault, Gerard J. (1996). The Song of Roland: An Analytical Introduction and Commentary. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. ISBN 0-271-02455-0. 
  • Caro, Ina (1996). The Road From the Past: Traveling Through History in France. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co. ISBN 0-15-600363-5. 
  • Cox, George William (1871). Popular Romances of the Middle Ages. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 
  • Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia (1902). Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. 
  • Walsh, William Shepard (1914). Heroes and Heroines of Fiction. London: J. B. Lippincott Co.