Joyeuse – the Sword of Karolus Magnus


Pictured above is the hilt of Joyeuse (Joyous), reputedly the sword of Charlemagne. Whether or not this is true remains a subject of debate for historians, but there is no question this artifact which resides at the Louvre, is very old. Visit the Wikipedia article linked above for more provenance information.

The sword is mentioned in the Song of Roland (le Chanson de Roland), France’s epic 11th-century poem based on the based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778:

In the mead the Emperor made his bed,
With his mighty spear beside his head,
Nor will he doff his arms to – night,
But lies in his broidered hauberk white.
Laced is his helm, with gold inlaid,
Girt on Joyeuse, the peerless blade,
Which changes thirty times a day
The brightness of its varying ray.
Nor may the lance unspoken be
Which pierced our Saviour on the tree;
Karl hath its point – so God him graced
Within his golden hilt enchased.
And for this honor and boon of heaven,
The name Joyeuse to the sword was given;
The Franks may hold it in memory.
Thence came “Montjoie,” their battle – cry,
And thence no race with them may vie.

(Translation by John O’Hagan)

Li emperere s’est culcet en un pret.
Sun grant espiet met a sun chef li ber.
Icele noit ne se volt il desarmer,
Si ad vestut sun blanc osberc sasfret,
Laciet sun elme, ki est a or gemmet,
Ceinte Joiuse, unches ne fut sa per,
Ki cascun jur muet .XXX. clartez.
Asez savum de la lance parler,
Dunt Nostre Sire fut en la cruiz nasfret :
Carles en ad la mure, mercit Deu ;
En l’oret punt l’ad faite manuvrer.
Pur ceste honur e pur ceste bontet,
Li nums Joiuse l’espee fut dunet.
Baruns franceis nel deivent ublier :
Enseigne en unt de Munjoie crier ;
Pur ço nes poet nule gent cuntrester.

I wrote earlier about my encounter with the Rosetta Stone; artifacts of this nature have a curious way of drawing one into their time period, even if only in imagination. I’ve been to the Louvre countless times, but never encountered Joyeuse there; it goes without saying that seeing everything in the Louvre is not an affair for even several visits.

But it’s nice to know that such things are lovingly preserved.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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