1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Girart de Roussillon

GIRART DE ROUSSILLON, an epic figure of the Carolingian cycle of romance. In the genealogy of romance he is a son of Doon de Mayence, and he appears in different and irreconcilable circumstances in many of the chansons de geste. The legend of Girart de Roussillon is contained in a Vita Girardi de Roussillon (ed. P. Meyer, in Romania, 1878), dating from the beginning of the 12th century and written probably by a monk of the abbey of Pothières or of Vezelai, both of which were founded in 860 by Girart; in Girart de Roussillon, a chanson de geste written early in the 12th century in a dialect midway between French and Provençal, and apparently based on an earlier Burgundian poem; in a 14th century romance in alexandrines (ed. T. J. A. P. Mignard, Paris and Dijon, 1878); and in a prose romance by Jehan Wauquelin in 1447 (ed. L. de Montille, Paris, 1880). The historical Girard, son of Leuthard and Grimildis, was a Burgundian chief who was count of Paris in 837, and embraced the cause of Lothair against Charles the Bald. He fought at Fontenay in 841, and doubtless followed Lothair to Aix. In 855 he became governor of Provence for Lothair’s son Charles, king of Provence (d. 863). His wife Bertha defended Vienne unsuccessfully against Charles the Bald in 870, and Girard, who had perhaps aspired to be the titular ruler of the northern part of Provence, which he had continued to administer under Lothair II. until that prince’s death in 869, retired with his wife to Avignon, where he died probably in 877, certainly before 879. The tradition of his piety, of the heroism of his wife Bertha, and of his wars with Charles passed into romance; but the historical facts are so distorted that in Girart de Roussillon the trouvère makes him the opponent of Charles Martel, to whom he stands in the relation of brother-in-law. He is nowhere described in authentic historic sources as of Roussillon. The title is derived from his castle built on Mount Lassois, near Châtillon-sur-Seine. Southern traditions concerning Count Girart, in which he is made the son of Garin de Monglane, are embodied in Girart de Viane (13th century) by Bertrand de Bar-sur-l’Aube, and in the Aspramonte of Andrea da Barberino, based on the French chanson of Aspremont, where he figures as Girart de Frete or de Fratte.[1] Girart de Viane is the recital of a siege of Vienne by Charlemagne, and in Aspramonte Girart de Fratte leads an army of infidels against Charlemagne. Girart de Roussillon was long held to be of Provençal origin, and to be a proof of the existence of an independent Provençal epic, but its Burgundian origin may be taken as proved.

See F. Michel, Gerard de Rossillon . . . publié en français et en provençal d’après les MSS. de Paris et de Londres (Paris, 1856); P. Meyer, Girart de Roussillon (1884), a translation in modern French with a comprehensive introduction. For Girart de Viane (ed. P. Tarbé, Reims, 1850) see L. Gautier, Épopées françaises, vol. iv.; F. A. Wulff, Notice sur les sagas de Magus et de Geirard (Lund, 1874).

  1. It is of interest to note that Freta was the old name for the town of Saint Remy, and that it is close to the site of the ancient town of Glanum, the name of which is possibly preserved in Garin de Monglane, the ancestor of the heroes of the cycle of Guillaume d’Orange.