Chanson de Roland

The popular Chanson de Roland, which recounts the events leading to and after the battle of Roncesvalles and the death of the text’s eponymous hero, persisted in medieval Italy through several traditions: there is a Franco Italian recension (Marciana Fr. IV) and two Old French versions (Marciana Fr. VII & Châteauroux BM 1), which may have been copied in Italy in the late thirteenth century. The Châteauroux manuscript has recently attracted the attention of scholars, who have noted significant deviations in the text from the Oxford manuscript, especially in its final 2000 lines. These laisses differ from the other manuscripts in the tradition with a marked preoccupation with the business of vengeance. Although there is narratological overlap, the text dwells on the final duel between Thierry and Pinabel and Charlemagne’s consideration of Ganelon’s punishment, containing several entertaining laisses of helpful suggestions by aristocrats at court on how best to make him pay for his treason.


Châteauroux, Bibliothèque Municipale, cote 1
Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana fr. Z IV (225) Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana fr. Z VII (251)


J. Duggan, ed.La Chanson de Roland – The Song of Roland: The French Corpus (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006).

Wendelin Forrester. Das altfranzösische Rolandslied. Text von Châteauroux und Venedig VII (Heilbronn:Henniger, 1883).

Raoul Mortier, ed., Le Manuscrit de Châteauroux, Les Textes de la Chanson de Roland, Tome IV (Paris: Editions de la Geste Francor, 1943).

Secondary Literature

Jane E Everson. “Roland in the Italian tradition.” In Approaches to teaching the Song of Roland. Edited by W. Kibler and L. Zarker Morgan. New York, Modern Language Association of America, 2006, p. 97-108. . “The epic tradition of Charlemagne in Italy.” La tradition épique, du Moyen Âge au XIXe siècle. p. 44-81. Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales 12 (2005).
The Italian Romance Epic in the Age of Humanism: the Matter of Italy and the World of Rome. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

See also RIALFRI.