Song of Roland

would you say that roland was a religious man?

In the song of Roland

(The death of Roland)

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Roland, Duke of the Marches of Brittany and nephew of Charlemagne. The favorite of his uncle, he glories in his post as leader of the emperor's rearguard, the exposed flank of the French army on its homeward march from Spain. Roland is the most outspoken of the Twelve Peers, a hater of all pagans, and the enemy of Ganelon, his stepfather; and his suggestion that Ganelon be sent to negotiate the truce proposed by the Saracens seems designed as a test of that knight's loyalty and honor. Brave in battle, Roland is also rash to the point of folly and lacking in foresight. He is the owner of the famous sword Durendal and the horn called Oliphant, both possessing supernatural powers. When Saracens attack the French force in the Pass of Roncevaux, he refuses to blow his horn and summon the main army until it is too late. Relying on his own Durendal and Christian supremacy over pagan knights, he dies by his simple chivalric code after facing the enemy and performing prodigious feats of valor.


Religion and faith animate every aspect of The Song of Roland. Remember the poem's place as a piece of propaganda for the Crusades: significantly, the battle opens with Archbishop Turin promising salvation to the Franks. He absolves them, en masse, of their sins, and then promises that any who die will be given the glorious rewards due to martyrs. His promise is not only for the Franks, but for the poem's audience. All who listen are meant to be stirred to set off to fight for their Church. Roland adds to this reward, promising that victory will mean glorious spoils. Oliver speaks, reminding them of the value of duty and courage. All of this encouragement has two audiences: the Franks in the poem, and the French nobles listening to the poem. The poem is explicitly a piece of propaganda.