The Legends of the Lorrainers – Introduction

The Lorraine Cycle, or Cycle of the Lorrainers, is a cycle of chansons de geste centered around the feud between the House of Lorraine and the House of Bordeaux. The original chanson was Garin le Loherain, to which was added early on a sequel, now called Gerbert de Metz, though in the Middle Ages the two works were inseparable and always considered as one. Two authors independently carried on the story, in works known as Anseis de Metz and Yonnet. Garin and Gerbert are intense and coldly realistic portrayals of a long and bitter blood feud, the gloom broken only by heroic deaths and the occasional gleam of mercy and chivalry. The poems were apparently too dark for some readers, such as the author of the prequel, Hervis de Metz, who gives us a light-hearted account of how a merchant’s son rose to knighthood and begot Garin. There are no fewer than three recastings of the cycle in prose: one anonymous from the 1500’s (MS Arsenal 3346); one by David Aubert in the late 1400’s, for the court of Burgundy; and one in the early 1500’s by Philippe de Vigneulles. Previously, the entire cycle had been recast in Dutch under the title Roman der Lorreinen. The Dutch poem unfortunately survives only in fragments, which is the more to be regretted as it tied the feud of the Lorrainers in with that between the Maganzans and the House of Clairmont, creating an even more sweeping epic spanning even more generations.

The cycle is contained in several manuscripts, most of which contain more than one of the chansons.

A: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, Arsenal 2983
B: Garin, Gerbert. Berne 113
C: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF 1443
D: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF 1461.
E: Hervis, Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF, fr. 19160
F: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF 1582
G: Garin. Paris, BnF 19161
I: Garin, Gerbert. Dijon 528
J: Garin, Gerbert. Montpellier 243
L1: Garin, Gerbert. Lille, Godefroy 64
L2: Anseis. BnF 14377
M: Garin, Gerbert, Yonnet. Paris, BnF 1622
N: Hervis, Garin, Gerbert, Anseis. Paris, Arsenal 3143
O: Garin, Gerbert. Oxford Bod. Rawlinson poetry 150
P: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF 1442
Q: Garin, Gerbert. Brussels 9630
R: Garin and Gerbert. Berkeley PQ 1463 G25
S: Garin, Gerbert, Anseis. Paris, BnF 4988
T: Genealogy, Prologue, Hervis, Garin, Gerbert (beginning). Turin, L.II.14 Heavily damaged in the great fire of 1904.
U2: Anseis. Vatican, Urbin 375
V: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF nouv. acq. 10051
W: Garin, Gerbert. Berkeley PQ 1463 G24
X: Garin, Gerbert. Paris, BnF 2179

Anonymous prose: Garin, Gerbert, Anseis
Vigneulles: Hervis, Garin, Gerbert, Anseis
Aubert: Garin, Gerbert, Anseis

There are no translations of any part of the cycle in English.


Are two interpolations found in the Turin MS of the Lorraine Cycle. They can be found in the Annexes of the 1992 edition of Hervis de Metz, by Jean-Charles Herbin.


King Floriens of Rome had two sons, Saint Seurin [Severin of Cologne] and Saint Bertin. Seurin begot Buevon le Flori, who begot Duke Savaris, who begot Pierre the Elder, who begot Alice, who married a commoner named Thierry and bore him the good Duke Hervis. Hervis begot Garin and Begon. Garin begot Gerbert. Gerbert begot Anseis. Anseis begot Rigaudin. Rigaudin took fearful vengeance on [for?] Fromont, and begot Pierre the Younger.

The MSS then transitions to the Romance of Vespasian, after which comes

 The Turin Prologue

Emperor Vespasian had children: Emperor Titus, Saint Helen[!], Saint Seurin, and Saint Bertin. After the events recorded in the Romance of Vespasian, Seurin went around with his army fighting infidels, and at last came to Cologne, where he avenged the deaths of Saint Ursula and her companions. Seurin married the fair Chedaire, and had three sons: Pierre, Savaris, and Bondifers. Pierre begot Alice. Savaris begot Lohier li Posteis, who was the grandfather of Godefroi. Bondifers begot Guy, who begot Doon of Mayence, who was the father of Gaufroy of Denmark, Aymon of Dordogne, Bueve the Bearded [of Aigremont], Jofroi the Angevin, and Seguin of Bordeaux. Seguin begot Huon, who begot Henris, who begot Thierry the husband of Alice and father of Hervis!

Origins and influence

These preposterous genealogies were likely the invention of the scribe who compiled this manuscript. They match neither history nor other chansons de geste.

Let thus much suffice for the origins of the House of Lorraine, and let us now speak of Hervis de Metz.


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