The Matière de France

The Franco-Italian stories in the matière de France corpus revolve around the lives of the members of the court of France. These romances, which were written in both verse and prose, investigate topics such as the pre-history of the famous battle of Roncevalles, especially as Roland and Charlemagne faced the Muslims in Spain, Southern Italy, and Sicily in the years before Roland’s final battle and death. The genealogies of Roland and Charlemagne are also explored within the corpus, so that Roland is given an Italian birthplace, and the romance of Charlemange’s parents, as well as the emperor’s birth and early years, are fully detailed.

As with other vernacular chansons de geste, Franco-Italian works concerning the matière de France are organized in three main cycles: the Royal cycle, the Monglane cycle, and the Rebel Baron cycle (other less popular cycles also exist). Each of the three main cycles addresses a specific theme, and features characters that reappear in various works throughout the cycle. Below are the Franco-Italian works that fit within each cycle, with an understanding that other French-language works not included on this list may also have been copied in Italy in their original Old French form.

Royal Cycle:

The Monglane Cycle
(also known as the Geste de Garin de Monglane)

The Rebel Baron Cycle (also known as the
Geste de Doon de Mayence)

Also included is a fragment, in palimpsest, of Garin le Loherain, which belongs to a fourth cycle, the Lorraine cycle.

General Bibliography

Everson, Jane E.The Italian Romance Epic in the Age of Humanism: the Matter of Italy and the World of Rome.New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Ferrari, Giorgio, ed. Documenti Marciani e principale letteratura sui codici veneti de epopea carolingia.  Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, 1961.

Hartung, Stefan. “Karl der Große in der italienischen und frankovenetischen Literatur im Mittelalter,” in Karl der Grosse in den europäischen Literatur des Mittlealters: Konstruktion eines Mythos. Edited by Bernard Bastert, 53-78. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2004.

Scuderi, Antonio . “Performance and Text in the Italian Carolingian Tradition.” OralTradition 21,1 (2006): 68-89