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The Song of Roland.

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Count Roland was the epitome of everything a Carolingian knight should be. He was virtuous in every possible way. Bravery, piety, modesty, strength, and ability are all adjectives that aptly describe Sir Roland. In the work The Song of Roland a portrayal of 8th Century warfare and practices are given to the reader. We see a world were values such as loyalty, friendship, and piety co-exist with values such as ferocity in combat, eagerness to kill infidels, and lionizing of the sacking of cities and looting of the dead. What could bring about such opposing values into one moral code? Perhaps the system of values existing in 8th Century Frankish society is a combination of moral systems. Frankish knights of the Carolingian Era adhered to a strict moral code that drew many values from Christian doctrine, but also drew heavily from the moral system of a warlike barbarian people; such as the early Frankish tribes as portrayed in History of the Franks by Gregory the Bishop of Tours. During the time of Clovis I Christianity was just beginning as the state religion of the Franks. ...read more.


Piety is clearly very important to the Carolingian knight. Before their deaths many of the twelve companions seek penance and absolution so that they may enter Heaven. Roland begs God's mercy as he dies saying, "True Father, who hath never told a lie, Who resurrected Lazarus from the dead, and Who protected Daniel from the lions, protect the soul in me from every peril brought on by wrongs I've done throughout my life!" (Roland 124). This statement shows Roland's understanding of Christian doctrine. He comprehends the need for absolution in order to attain paradise, and he clearly has a thorough understanding and knowledge of scripture, as he quotes from the Bible in numerous places. During and following the time of Clovis I the Franks understanding of piety was simple. If you were pious, you won battles, if you weren't, you lost. Gregory said in regard to successes, "they have come to Christians who confess the blessed Trinity and ruin has come to heretics who have tried the same." (Gregory 1) So on the battlefield is were you proved your piousness, not in your life or during prayer. ...read more.


This attitude toward random slaughter and plunder is clearly not inline with Christian morals. Its origins must instead be from early Frankish society. When Christianity first entered Frankish society it was merely a new version of paganism for the Franks who practiced it. They viewed the Christian god as more powerful than other pagan deities, and so they converted to Christianity. At no point though did they embrace the moral code of Catholicism. However, later under Charlemagne the missionaries had mostly finished their work of educating the Franks. The knights portrayed in The Song of Roland clearly understand the morals of piety, honesty, loyalty and friendship. They also demonstrated a thorough knowledge of Christian doctrine and scripture. Even though the Carolingian knights were more Christian, certainly than the Franks of the 6th Century, they were still not totally inline with true Christian morals. Slaughter, plundering and mortal combat were still held in high esteem during the Carolingian era. These barbaric ideals still existed in Frankish society, despite the efforts of Christian missionaries. Clearly the moral code of the Carolingian knight was a combination of Christian values, and the value system of the early Frankish tribes. Knupp 1 ...read more.

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