Durandal (or Durandarte) was the famous sword of Roland, the Frankish knight who died at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass on 15 August 788 by attack of the Basques.

The accounts of that battle and the subsequent fate of the sword are plagued with mythical stories with little or no historical or archaeological basis. For example, the legendary hero Bernardo del Carpio, according to whose legend it was he who killed Roland and took his sword.

According to legend, he was later buried with the sword in a cave near the monastery of Santa María la Real in Aguilar de Campoo. Charles I would have taken it from there when he visited the tomb in July 1522. Today this sword can be seen in the Royal Armory of Madrid.

There are many legends about the sword of Roland, including one that places it at the bottom of Lake Carucedo in El Bierzo. But the most curious of all is that of the sword of Rocamadour.

Rocamadour is a town located in the southwest of France, famous since the Middle Ages for being an important pilgrimage center, documented since 1172. There is the medieval monastery of Our Lady and the church of St. Michael.

And it is there, embedded in the rock of the precipice above the buildings of the sanctuary, that for nine centuries a sword was held in place by a chain. It was not complete, but a piece is missing. The monks themselves, who identify this sword with the famous Durandal, claim that it was Roland himself who incrusted it there, so that it would not fall into the hands of his enemies.

The connection lies in the fact that it was precisely from Rocamadour that Roland departed with his troops to cross the Pyrenees, but he obviously could not leave it there because he died in Roncevaux, a few hundred kilometres away. The monks probably invented the story as a means of propaganda.

In any case, for nine centuries nobody dared to discuss it and there remained the mysterious sword, which is not known where it comes from. In 2011 the town council removed it from the cliff for the first time and ceded it to the Cluny Museum in Paris to be exhibited.

This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on May 27, 2016. Puedes leer la versión en español en La espada incrustada en la roca del precipicio de Rocamadour durante 9 siglos

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