The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 11: Origins of the Legend

Aymon’s Brothers

Bueves d’Aigremont was apparently invented for this chanson. No historical basis, nor is he known earlier. His wife is called Lanfusa in Boiardo, though this is usually the name of Ferraguto’s mother. The Italian Cantari di Rinaldo calls her Smeragda [Emerald]. Girart of Rousillon is based on Count Girart II of Paris, who also inspired Girart of Vienne and Girart of Eufrate. Doon of Nanteuil was known before the Quatre Fils, but was not historical, and does not seem to have been linked with Aymon before this poem.


There are several Aigremonts in France. The most likely contenders are:

Aigremont, on the far side of Troyes from Paris, and not too far from Roussillon.

Aigremont, in the Haute-Marne.

Aigremont, in the Yonne.

Aigremont, on the Meuse, in Belgium.

However, all the foregoing are small hamlets, and Aigremont in the poem is a rich city, on the sea, apparently near Lombardy.

Aymon of Dordonne and his wife

There was a King Aimo of Saragossa in the Middle Ages, but he was a Muslim who probably never saw France. Louis the Pious appointed another Aimo to be governor of Albi. A Duke Haimo is mentioned as living under Clodovech II (r. 639-657), but he had only one son, who predeceased him. A Count Haymo was alive in 863, of whom nothing is known.

The wife of Aymon and the mother of the Four Sons is named Aye in most manuscripts of the Quatre Fils, (DPNCLMV) though usually simply referred to as “la duchesse.” O consistently and A occasionally call her Hermanjart, though this name is probably taken from the wife of Aymeri of Narbonne. ZM call her Marguerite, in which they are followed by Caxton. In the Orlando Innamorato and Furioso she is called Beatrice and made to be the sister of Ogier the Dane’s wife Ermelline. The Dutch poem and its descendants call the duchess Aya and make her the sister of Charlemagne and daughter of Pepin. This relationship is alluded to in passing in some of the manuscripts of Les Quatre Fils, (DP, for example) though no emphasis is placed on it. In reality, Charlemagne had several half-sisters, of whom almost nothing is known, but his only full sister, the only one with whom he had any sort of relationship, was Gisela, who entered the nunnery of Chelle in her youth and as far as we know died a virgin.

In the Oxford Roland, Hamon [=Aymon] of Galice and Rembalt lead the Flemings and Frisians against Baligant. The Karlamagnussaga’s First Branch, doubtless based on a lost French source, tells how these two met and became sworn friends. Aymon marries Aye, the daugher of the Count of Laon and widow of the wicked Varner of Pierrepont, whom Rembalt had slain in a duel. In the Dutch Renout, Aymon the father of the Four Sons holds Pierrepont as well as Dordonne, and his wife Aye is the daughter of Charlemagne. [There are several Pierreponts, but this is the one in Aisne]. Is there a connection here? We will never know for sure.


Dourdan is a town in Brie, close to Paris, much too close to sustain a siege.

The River Dordogne. Unlikely.

Avroy in Lieges, writen in Latin Avridum, hence D’Avridum, D’Auridum, Daurdom, Dordonne.

The Four Sons

Jacques Thomas, in his L’Épisode Ardennais de “Renaut de Montuban”, offers an ingenious explanation for how Reynard became the youngest. The manuscript illustrations tend to feature the four sons riding Baiard all at once. Reynard, as the owner of the horse, must sit in front. But it is convenient for the artist to draw the tallest knight in the back and the shortest in front. Naturally, someone looking at the picture would assume the shortest knight was the youngest, and hence Reynard becomes the youngest son in the illuminations of O (where he bears the cadet’s mark on his shield), in the Dutch poem, and in popular tradition. Bradamante was not invented until much later. Ariosto gives Aymon a son named Ricciardo as well as a son named Ricciardetto. This is a mistake on his part. Richard, in Italian Ricardo, being originally the youngest brother, he is also called in French “Richiardet”. The name and nickname were adopted into Italian as “Ricciardo” and “Ricciardetto”. All works earlier than Ariosto use both names interchangeably and are clear that there were only four sons of Aymon.

Death by Chessboard

Death by chessboard is to be found in Le Chevalerie Ogier (Charlemagne’s son Charlot kills Ogier’s son Baldwin.) Galien li Restore, Montesinos (Montesinos kills Tomillas, though because the board is handy, not because of a quarrel), Guy of Warwick (the son of the Sultan of Persia strikes Sir Fabour, who returns the blow, killing him), Fulk li Fitz Warren (Fulk hits Prince John Lackland, but doesn’t kill him). No historical cases are known. Alexandre Neckham, in De Natura Rerum, written between 1180 and 1200, knows the story of Reginaldus filius Eymundi killing a “militem generosum” [noble knight] in the palace of Charlemagne with a chessboard, and says that thousands lost their lives because of it.

THEORY 1: The original version had Louis getting killed. Later writers knew Louis the Pious did not die in this manner, and replaced him with Bertholet.

THEORY 2: The original version was just a knight. Later writers made the scene more dramatic by turning him first into Bertholet the nephew, then Louis the son of Charles. Currently in favor.

THEORY 3: The original version had both murders, with the intent to make Richard a sort of foil to Renaud, by showing him as even more violent than his older brother.

Renaud of Montauban

Count Renaud of Herbauges lived under Charles the Bald (r. 843-877), was also count of Nantes, and there is a Clairmont just west of Nantes, and Rinaldo’s family is called the house of Clairmont in the Italian poems. Renaud of Herbauges was killed in battle against the Bretons in 843.

Louis the Pious had a Lord Chamberlain named Reginardus, who joined Bernard of Italy’s conspiracy to depose his uncle Louis. Louis had the conspirators blinded.

The “Reginaldus de Albo Spino” mentioned in Turpin’s Chronicle is, despite the contrary opinions of some scholars, most likely the same as our Renaud of Montauban. He is a strong knight, on a level with Ogier the Dane, like Renaud. The only real Albo Spinos in France are small towns in the south of France, suggesting a poor knight who lived in the south, like Renaud. He is buried in Bordeaux after Roncesvalles, along with other knights from the south-west of France, suggesting a knight from Gascony, like Renaud.

Adventures in Ardennes

The Rhymed Remaniement is the only one to make the brothers wander in the forest before they build Montessor. All other French verse MSS, however, allude to this first wandering. Most likely the allusion was a mistake, and the episode was added in the Rhymed Remainiment to explain it.


The sons are in Montessor for seven years DPVN, ten years A, five years L, twelve years C.

Montessor is on the banks of the Meuse, DPMOVCN. At the confluence of the Meuse and the Semoi LA. Identified with Chateau-Regnault near Monthermé in A. In 1227 the feudal lord who held Monthermé, Count Hugo, is recorded as also possessing “Castrum Renaldi.” In 1615, the French poet Malherbe was traveling through the Monthermé, and wrote that it was home to a ruined castle where one could still see the tower of Maugis and the stable of Bayard. A dolmen that once stood near Chateau-Regnault was believed to have been built by Maugis [It has since been destroyed for gravel]. Until recently, the rock at the confluence of the rivers was called “The Castle of the Four Sons of Aymon”.

The Italian Cantari clearly distinguishes Monte Soro from Monte Ermino.

I have seen it claimed, though the reference escapes me, that Les Narbonnais alludes to Renaud de Montermer, but this Renaud is mentioned in one line only, as one of a group of knights, and is clearly not Renaud of Montauban.


THEORY 1: Maugis is based on King Eudes, or Ys, of Gascony. Very unlikely.

THEORY 2: He is from Germanic folklore. A giant named Maugys is slain by the hero in the Middle English Libeus Desconneus. In Father Konrad’s Rolandsleid, Medelger is a smith of Regensburg who forged the sword Mulagire [Murgleis], which was wielded first by Naimes and then by Ganelon. The passage in which this mention occurs is not in any of the surviving French manuscripts of the Song of Roland. Konrad probably did not invent it, since most of the other passages in his work that aren’t in the French are moralizing exordia, but it is unknown where he got it from.

THEORY 3: Maugis is based, very loosely and indirectly, on Adelgis, son of King Desiderius of Lombardy. Charlemagne conquered Lombardy and deposed Desiderius in 774, sending him to a monastery. After his overthrow, many of the people of Lombardy hoped that Adelgis would liberate them from Charlemagne and the Franks. Adelgis fled to Constantinople and there received fine promises and empty titles from the Byzantine Emperors while he schemed to reclaim his kingdom. In 775 the Pope warned Charlemagne that Adelgis was planning to invade in the spring. He sent a similar warning in 780. In 787, Adelgis actually landed in Ravenna and made alliance with a local lord, for Empress Irene had finally given him a real army. In 788 Adelgis led his Byzantine troops into Calabria, where they were routed by a combined force of Lombards and Franks. Adelgis vanishes from history after this battle. Whatever became of him, his memory lived on among his countrymen, resentful of the Frankish yoke. In the 1000’s, the Novalese Chronicle represents “Algisus Desiderii regis filius” as entering Charlemagne’s hall incognito during a banquet and as demonstrating an ability to consume an abnormally large amount of food. After he reveals his identity and departs, Charles hires an assassin to kill him, without success.

The War in Spain

MSS D and Sl have Aye tell her sons to flee to Gascogne. All the other manuscripts have Espagne.

THEORY 1: The war in Spain, to be found only in the Dutch family, is an invention to explain a scribe’s error. Currently in favor.

THEORY 2: The war in Spain dropped out of the French chanson but was preserved in these allusions and in the Dutch poem. Unlikely.

The Saxon War

The war of Charlemagne against the Saxons and their king Witikund was the subject of an Old French chanson de geste which has been lost. What survives are an Old Norse translation in Book Five of the Karlamagnus saga, and the Old French Chanson des Saisnes by Jean Bodel. Bodel heavily reworked traditional material to focus on the love of Roland’s half-brother Baldwin and Seville the Saxon queen. In neither case does the story have anything to do with Renaud, and in neither case is this war the first occasion Roland achieves glory.

King Yon

King Yon, or Ys, is ruler of Gascony in the Quatre Fils and the Dutch. He rules Tarascon in the Latin verse Vita, which is based on the Dutch but adds this detail on its own. There is a Tarascon-sur-Ariège, in the Pyrenees, but probably the more famous Tarascon on the Rhone across from Beaucaire is meant. At any rate, neither city ever had a king. Likewise, Gascony was no longer an independent kingdom by the days of the Carolingians, but it did still have dukes. When Charles the Hammer was Mayor of the Palace and de facto ruler of France, Duke Eudon, or Yon, reigned in Gascony. In 718 Charles the Hammer went to war against King Chilperic II of Neustria and defeated him soundly. Chilperic fled to Gascony and took refuge at the court of Duke Eudon. In 719, Eudon went to war against Charles the Hammer and invaded France, pressing beyond the Seine, before the Hammer defeated him and drove him back to Aquitaine. In 720, Charles made peace with Eudon on condition that the duke surrender Chilperic to him. The duke agreed and handed the Neustrian over to his enemy. In 721, a Saracen army left Spain, crossed the Pyrenees, and invaded Aquitaine. They laid siege to Toulouse, but Duke Eudon attained a complete victory over them. Finally, in 731, Charles, on some flimsy pretext or other, broke his treaty with Duke Eudon, invaded Aquitaine, and put the duke to flight. The events are not in the same order, but the parallels with King Yon, who welcomed a fugitive from King Charles of France, defeated the Saracens, betrayed the fugitive back to King Charles, and died in the middle of a war with Charles, are clear.


Clarice, the wife of Renaud, is the sister of King Yon in Le Quatre Fils, but his daughter in the Dutch. The historical Eudon of Gascony had a daughter named Lampegia, whom he married to the Muslim governor of Catalonia, Muzuma, in 730. Muzuma, however, tried to rebel against his overlords and was defeated and killed, while Lampegia was sent to the harem of the Caliph in Damascus. The parallels with Clarice and Renaud are not as strong as those between Eudon’s betrayal of Chilperic and Yon’s of Renaud, but they are there. Whether Duke Eudon had sisters is unknown.

                                                  The revolt of Renaud                                                

Hunaud I, who may have been the son of Eudes, succeeded him as duke of Aquitaine, made war against King Pepin the Short and was defeated in 744. He fled, leaving the duchy to Gaifier, who was either his son or his brother. The Continuation of Fredegar (c. 751) and the Annals of Lorsch (c. 803) do not mention what became of him after his abdication, but the Earlier Annals of Metz (c. 805) say that Hunaud retired to a monastery on the Île de Ré off the west coast of France near La Rochelle. According to an interpolation in some manuscripts of the Liber Pontificalis, Hunaldus, Duke of Aquitaine, came to Rome (we are not told from where) in the pontificate of Stephen II (752-757) and took a vow to remain “ad limina apostolorum”, that is, in one of the monasteries around Saint Peter’s Church. Later, when Stephen II was besieged by King Aistulf of Lombardy in 756, Hunaldus broke his monastic vows to join the Lombard army but “lapidibus digna morte finivit”, [received a well-deserved death from stones]. The interpolation dates from between 757 and 792, according to Duchesne. Upon Gaifier’s untimely death in 769, someone named Hunaud, either the duke leaving the monastery, according to one chronicle, or a different man of the same name, according to the Annals of Lorsch and to Einhard (c. 814), made war upon Charlemagne. There was a “Princeps Hunaldus” who was a vassal of Duke Gaifer’s in 757, and he may have been the leader of the rebellion. Charles defeated Hunaud, whoever he was, and forced him to fly for refuge to the court of Duke Loup of Gascony, who betrayed him and handed him over to Charlemagne. While the Liber Pontifcalis is notoriously inaccurate, and this passage is not even found in all manuscripts, the point remains that a story about Hunaud retiring to a monastery and being stoned to death (like Renaud) was in circulation, whether or not he actually did either.

These various adventures seem to have been conglomerated into the legend of Renaud of Montauban. Hunaud could have become Renaud simply because Hunaud was a rare name and Renaud a common one. Initial H and R were easily confused in Old French.

Gascony – Geography

Monbendel, the first castle taken by Charlemagne, and the Bois de Serpent, which adjoins Montauban, do not seem to exist. Montauban is an actual town seated at the confluence of the Tarn and the Garonne rivers. This Montauban, however, was not founded until 1144. The castle quickly acquired a reputation as an impregnable redoubt and a nest of brigands and robbers, a reputation that clung to it as late as the Wars of Religion. The old fortress in the city is known as Le chateau de Renaud. A warrior of Charlemagne could not have lived in a castle that would not be built for another three centuries, but since the name “de Montauban” seems to have replaced Turpin’s “de Albo Spino”, perhaps the change in Renaud’s name around the 1180’s was suggested by the newly-built and imposing fortress of Montauban and the name chateau de Renaud was bestowed later, due to the new poem.

There are seven other Montaubans listed in the Toponymie Generale De La France, but none of them is older than the 1100’s. Four are in the north of France (Fresnes-lès-Montauban, the hill of Montauban in Vaujours, Montauban-de-Picardie, and Montauban-de-Bretagne). Of the three other southern Montaubans, two (Montauban-de-Luchon and Montalba-d’Amélie) are in the Pyrenees, and one, Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze, is in Drôme, in the southeast of France, far from Gascony, but easily within reach of Tarascon. Oddly, it is not far from the plateau of Vercors. This is probably a coincidence, however, since only the Latin verse, not any earlier version, makes Yon king of Tarascon.


Vaucoleurs, according to D, is a plain about ten leagues by five, bordered by four rivers, the Dordogne, the Gironde, the Balençon, and the Noire Penne. The name of this last river differs wildly in other MSS: Noire Pane, Vairepaine, Vairepenne, Pennevaire, Biau Repair, Valrepair. While the Dordogne does indeed empty into the Gironde, the Balençon does not exist, anymore than the River of Many Names does. There is a Balansun in the eastern Pyrenees, but that is a town, not a river, and there is no evidence of the name before the 1200’s. The confluence of the Dordogne and Gironde is also much more than ten leagues (32 to 47 km) from Montauban on the Garonne. The only actual Vaucoleurs in France is along the Meuse, where the name is not attested before 1235.


Tremoigne is Dortmund. There is absolutely no basis for this portion of the legend, not for a siege of that city, nor for the capture of Richard of Normandy or of Charlot in battle.

The Death of Baiard

The legend of Baiard’s survival lasted well into the nineteenth century, when it is reported that the local peasantry believed he was still alive and haunting the forest of Ardennes, though he ran away as soon as ever he caught sight of a mortal man, so that it was hopeless to try to catch him. According to other sources, however, Baiard’s name at last degenerated into a common noun, and was applied to a class of malevolent minor spirits. In Normandy, in the nineteenth century, le Cheval Baiard was a kind of lutin, or mischievous spirit, which would take the form of a horse, bridled and saddled, and apparently ready to be ridden. If anyone were foolish enough to mount on the back of the steed, however, it would throw him into a ditch. Keightly, who gives this anecdote, believes that it arose from the same source as other legends about mischievous sprites, and that Baiard’s name became attached to this particular one due to the influence of the romances of chivalry. We see no reason to dispute his opinion, or to believe that Baiard was a mischievous horse-spirit in folklore before he became attached to the legend of Renaud. In sum, it would appear that with Baiard, as with the identification of Montessor with Chateaux-Regnault, the original version of the Quatre Fils passed into local folklore, was somewhat modified and returned from folklore into the later redactions of the poem.

Pilgrimage and Crusade

The adventures of Renaud in the Holy Land are found in three redactions in the traditional manuscripts. The first redaction, found only in D but probably the original, features Geofroi of Nazaret, who can only be Godfrey of Bouillon, who, of course, lived three hundred years after Charlemagne. In the more common variant, found in PCNLA, Renaud and Maugis do not help Geofroi of Nazaret become king. Instead, they restore King Thomas of Jerusalem to his throne, which the Saracens had taken from him. Now Jerusalem had, in the real Charlemagne’s day, been under the rule of the caliphs since 638, and Palestine would not be under a Christian king again until the First Crusade in 1099. None of the Eastern Roman emperors or the caliphs or the Crusader kings were named Thomas. However, there have been three patriarchs of Jerusalem named Thomas, and one of them was indeed contemporary with Charlemagne. Thomas I reigned from 807 to 820 and received donations of money from Charlemagne to restore the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There were wars between the Muslim Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire at this time, but Jerusalem would not be retaken until 975. There was, however, a scandal: when Thomas rebuilt the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, he rebuilt it larger than the Dome of the Rock and was arrested by the Muslim authorities and fined heavily for his arrogance. The story is of doubtful veracity, but it was already written down by Patriarch Eutyches of Alexandria in 938. It is certainly conceivable that the story could have reached the West through merchants or pilgrims or Crusaders and been known to either the original author of the Quatre Fils (if D, unusually, does not represent the original here) or the redactor (more probably). I do not assert that it was so, but it is at least a noteworthy coincidence.

As for the other two patriarchs, Thomas II reigned from 969 to 978 and is a blank in history. After the fall of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchs went into exile at Acre. There Patriarch Thomas Agni reigned from 1271 to 1277, which is too late to have influenced either version of Le Quatre Fils.

There is no historical basis for the versions found in M and the Dutch family.

Saint Reinold, Martyr

The origin of the prose Vita is murky. If it is based on the Quatre Fils, why does it abridge so drastically Renaud’s early life? Why is there no mention of Maugis? And why none of Renaud’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem? Perhaps the author of the Vita simply wished to focus on the martyrdom, and was aware that no such war had ever been fought against the Saracens as that described in the Quatre Fils. It is harder to explain, though, why he should have omitted Maugis. It is possible that the writer did not wish to bring scandal on Saint Reinold by suggesting that he had availed himself of diabolical incantations. However, it is clearly stated in the Quatre Fils that Maugis repented of his magic, forsook it utterly and retired to become a holy hermit, and there was ample warrant in the literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries for a penitent dabbler in the black arts. Saint Cyprian of Antioch was, the legend ran, a sorcerer who converted to Christianity after discovering his spells could not affect the pious Saint Justina. The legend of how Saint Theophilus of Adana had sold his soul to the Devil, repented and been saved through Our Lady’s intercession was known in every language of Europe. Certainly it would have been no more scandalous to include a penitent magician than it is to include a penitent murderer (for Renaud’s slaying of Bertholai that starts the whole mess is murder). If Maugis and Renaud, cousins, both found in the same poem, closely associated, both sinners (through murder, through theft, through rebellion which is as the sin of witchcraft, and through actual witchcraft), both penitent and both dying in the odor of sanctity, were the inventions of some minstrel, why is it that only one of them was venerated as an actual saint, if not that Reinold was already thus honored before the chanson was written, and Maugis was not?

Evidence for Saint Reinold

There is a coin from Cologne, dating to the reign of Otto I (r. 936-973), which reads “S RENVAD A”. though some scholars claim it should really be read backwards, as S. DAUNERA = “Denier”. I do not know what they think the “S” stands for.

We know that there was a Saint Reginoldus venerated in Cologne at least by the 900’s, because in a ninth century missal from the Cathedral of Cologne someone has written in tenth century handwriting the names “reginoldi” and “reginoldo” on the margins of the Collect and Postcommunion of the Mass of a martyr. Unfortunately, nothing is known about this saint. The names are all that were thus written, and the prayers themselves are generic ones, which shed no light on how this Reginoldus died. However, he is almost certainly the same saint still venerated today. Fiebig lists all the other saints he could find named Renaud or something similar, but none of them was a martyr or lived in the 900’s or earlier.

Locations mentioned in the Lives – Cologne

The legend of Renaud became known in its current form around the 1180’s to 1200’s. The Church of Saint Pantaleon, in Cologne, was not founded until the 860’s. The abbey of monks attached to the church was not established until the 960’s, by Saint Bruno. Saint Reinold could not have lived there if he had lived in the time of Charlemagne, and neither Hunaud I, nor Hunaud II, nor Chilperic II nor Reginaldus the blinded chamberlain could possibly have retired there. The Reinoldskapelle in Cologne is first mentioned in 1205. Work on the current cathedral of Saint Peter in Cologne began in 1248, though the Old Cathedral which it replaced (also dedicated to Saint Peter) had been built in the early 800’s.


Tremoigne is Dortmund. The Reinoltskirche in Dortmund is home to some alleged relics of Saint Reinold, which have been in their possession at least since 1337, when they were carried in procession to honor the visit of Emperor Charles IV. The date the Reinoltskirche was built is uncertain. The oldest reference we have is from the middle of the 1200’s. Archeologists, however, have found that the oldest parts of the church are from the end of the 1100’s. The Quatre Fils assumed its current form probably between 1180 and 1200. It is scarcely probable that the Reinoltskapelle and Reinoltskirche would have been dedicated to a fictitious saint around 1200 if he had been invented within living memory. A fictitious saint from a far-away land, perhaps, might have deceived some, but hardly one who was said in his legend to have lived and died in Cologne and Dortmund, and who is explicitly stated in the chanson to already be venerated there. Thus the age of the churches implies that a Saint Renaud was already known in the region of Cologne, even if parts of his legend were later developments. Further, the texts are unanimous that all or part of the relics were transferred from Cologne to Dortmund. The prose Vita does not give any date for the translation of the relics, as they certainly would have if the translation had occurred within living memory as a result of the popularity of the Quatre Fils. All the texts indicate, then, that Reginoldus had been venerated in both cities before the poem was ever written.


Ceoigne, or Croine in the prose, is apparently Cronenburg. Cronenburg is a small town about halfway between Cologne and Dortmund. However, there is neither church nor chapel of Saint Reinold in Cronenburg, and there is no evidence that he was ever venerated there locally. Further, Ceoigne is not mentioned in D, the oldest manuscript, and there is no mention of the cart stopping there in the Latin lives or the Dutch. Apparently it was inserted into the Quatre Fils by one of its redactors, perhaps merely as padding, or perhaps because someone realized that it is very improbable that a procession could walk the fifty miles between Dortmund and Cologne without stopping somewhere to rest. The manuscripts where the body goes no farther than Ceoigne would then be due to confusion with Tremoigne, a confusion more easily made in the Middle Ages, when capital T’s looked like C’s. For example, Carmeliede, home of Guinevere, is consistently called Tarmeliede in the Middle English Prose Merlin.

The Relics

Relics which are said to be those of Saint Reinold are, or were, to be seen in Cologne and Dortmund. It is unknown how old these relics are; there appear to be no records of them that predate the Latin Vitae and the Quatre Fils of the 1200’s. They are unlikely to be deliberate forgeries, since there is no indication that they were ever discovered after having long been lost, as were such suspicious cases as the Holy Lance at Antioch, the bones of Saint Ursula, and the tomb of King Arthur at Glastonbury. They may, however, be simply ordinary bones mistakenly identified with the almost certainly real Saint Renaud’s.

The Historical St. Reinold

Castets, who thought L was the oldest version, suggested that someone confused martel meaning hammer and marteau meaning stone block. Since D is actually the oldest version, perhaps Castets had the matter backwards and Hunaud I who was killed lapidibus [by stones] became Renaud who was killed, lapicidus [by stonemasons], with a hammer.

Reginaldus, the chamberlain of Louis the Pious, vanishes from history after his blinding. If he survived the blinding (a very doubtful assumption), he may have entered a monastery, but he could hardly have been a mason or an overseer, though he could conceivably have been martyred for some reason. Count Renaud of Herbauges, who was killed in battle, obviously could not have been killed by angry masons. Chilperic II was raised in a monastery but did not die in one. Hunaud II (if he was not the same as I), vanishes from history after being betrayed. Einhard is silent about him after his capture. Perhaps he was sent (back?) to a monastery, but more probably he was executed. Einhard seldom tells an outright lie, but he prefers to gloss over Charlemagne’s failings and focus on his good points. If Charles had exercised clemency here, Einhard would surely have not failed to mention it. None of the candidates who have been proposed as inspirations for Renaud died by stones or hammers, except for (possibly) Hunaud I. Despite the similarity of Hunaud’s last days and Renaud’s, since Hunaud died in Rome, apparently in battle, it seems that we must leave Saint Reinold of Cologne as one of those martyrs whose acts are known only to God.


The story as we know it was probably in existence by the 1180’s, as witness Neckham, and certainly by 1200, as is proved by allusions to the Four Sons and Maugis as rebels and relations of the Nanteuil family in Aye d’Avignon and Gui de Nanteuil, dating from c. 1200 and 1164-1207, respectively.

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