The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 7: Bernardo at Roncesvalles

Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas While Bernardo was making ready for war, Charles was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured if not for Galalon’s treason. Charles did, however, take Nájera and Monte Jardín, and then prepared to return to France.

The barbarian King Marsil of Saragossa rallied an army of Saracens and allied with Bernardo and his Navarrese, and fell on the Frankish rear as they passed through Rocidevallis, killing Prefect Rodlandus of Brittany, Count Anselm, Egiardus the Steward, and many more. King Charles later had his revenge on the Saracens, killing a great number of them, [it is not clear if this is the second battle in the Song of Roland or an entirely new expedition]. After his revenge Charles went on pilgrimage to Saint James, made peace with King Alfonso, rebuilt the city of Iria, and obtained from Pope Leo III for Compostela to be elevated to a metropolitan [archbishopric]. He then returned to Germany with Bernaldus and died soon after, at Aix, where he was buried. Bernaldus served in the imperial household even after Charlemagne’s death, under Louis the Pious (814-840) and Lothair I (840-855).

Emperor Charles III (the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888) invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, who restored the Mozarabic rite in the churches of Spain. Charles went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John Metropolitan [archepiscopal] privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils. Lucas explains that there were three Emperors named Charles: Charles the Great, who lived in the days of Pope Leo and Alfonso the Chaste; another Charles who lived in the days of Pope John, and Charles the Hammer, who succeeded him. Continue reading


The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 4: Later Chronicles

There are a few later retellings of Bernardo del Carpio’s life that are worthy of mention.

The Poema de Fernán González briefly recounts the history of Bernardo at Roncesvalles.

The Segunda Crónica General is also known as the Crónica de 1344. It is a redaction of the Primera, which adds prosifications of many new ballads, but leaves the story of Bernardo essentially unchanged.1

The Tercera Crónica General, also called the Crónica General Vulgata was redacted towards 1390, and adds some skeptical comments about Bernardo. It also moves many of his adventures under Alfonso III to the reign of the II, but with few further changes. It was printed by Florián d’Ocampo in 1541, in a volume which became the standard history utilized by Siglo d’Oro authors, comparable to Holinshed in Elizabethan England. 2

The Cuarta Crónica General was redacted around 1460. An edition can be found in the Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España, volumes 105 and 106. Bernardo’s story begins in Volume 105, page 264.


Alfonso the Chaste built the church of San Salvador. King Charles sent him a message that he was coming to Spain to receive homage and tribute. King Alfonso replied that he would not pay him anything, and that though the French fought five years, they could not conquer Spain. Charles’ men gave him bad advice, telling him to invade. Charles, with an immeasurable army, headed for Castile. Bernardo del Carpio gathered an army and attacked them at Fuenterrabía, where he slew seven kings and great lords. Charles retreated to Marseilles, where he regrouped and tried again to enter Spain through Cize and Aspe. Bernardo crossed the Ebro and came to Saragossa, where he kissed the hands of King Marsil, and agreed that the troops of Castile would be in the vanguard against the Twelve Peers. Bernardo fought in the front lines, and dealt the French an even more crushing defeat than that of Fuenterrabía. The poet now digresses for a long praise of Spain and Castile in particular, and returns to history with the death of King Alfonso, after which he moves into his story proper, of Fernán González. Bernardo is not mentioned again.


According to Pidal, one MS, (which he infuriatingly does not identify) changes the numbers of Bernardo’s knights during his raid on Salamanca (the first one, with the ambush) to agree with the ballad of By the Rivers of Arlanza. Instead of two hundred lying in ambush and one hundred going with Bernardo, as in the PCG, it is two hundred in each group. Otherwise, I know of no differences.


Third Part, Chapter 10:

Both versions of Bernardo’s birth are given, and are dated to the seventeenth year of Alfonso the Chaste’s reign, [803], the 7th of Constantine’s Imperium [786], AD 796. The story of Doña Timbor, however, is stated to be untrue.

Year 30 [812]: Charles 12 [812], AD 809 Roncesvalles. To the battle came Roldan, Reynalte de Montalvan, Don Giralte, Count Terria Dardeña, Count Iarluyn, Argelero the Gascon, Archbishop Torpin, Oger de las Marchas, Salamano of Brittany, and many others. Some say that after the battle, Charlemagne took his revenge on King Marsil, with the help of Bernaldo and Alfonso. They also say that Charles took Bernaldo home with him and made him king of Italy, but we do not find this in old books, and so we do not assert that it was so.

At any rate, after Roncesvalles Bernardo learns his true parentage directly from the women, without a game involved.

Year 31 [812]: Charles 13 [813], AD 810. Charlemagne died [really 814]. Rodrigo’s dissection of Turpin is included.

Year 32 [813]: Louis 1 [814], AD 811. Bernardo saves Alfonso from King Ores of Merida.

Year 33 [814]: Louis 2 [815], AD 812. Alfonso saves Zamora from King Alzama of Badajoz.

Year 34 [815]: Louis 3 [816], AD 813. Alfonso and Bernardo defeat the Moors at Polvorega and Val de Moro, respectively. Alfonso also smites them by the Duero River. Pope Leo [III] dies and Stefan III [IV] is elected [816].

Year 35 [816]: Louis 4 [817], AD 814. The Don Bueso incident. Bueso’s kinship to Bernardo is denied. Pope Stephan dies and Paschal is elected [817].

Year 36 [817]: Louis 5 [818], AD 815. Alfonso holds court at Pentecost, and the Queen fails to obtain Count Sancho’s freedom. Bernardo is banished, and his kinsmen go with him. He made war against the king for a long time.

Year 37 [818]: Louis 6 [819], AD 816. Mahomad of Merida and Abderrahmen of Cordova.

Year 38 [819]: Louis 7 [820], AD 817. Bernardo helps the Emir Alihatan [Al-Hakim] crush the Cordovan rebellion.

Year 39 [820]: Louis 8 [821], AD 818. Mahomad.

Year 40 [821]: Louis 9 [822], AD 819. More Muslim civil wars.

Year 41 [822]: Louis 10 [823], AD 820. Alfonso dies. King Alfonso had a wife he never saw, and some say she waas Berta, sister of Charlemagne.

Alfonso III the Great Year 4 [869]: Lothair 14 [853], AD 840. Alfonso repels a horde of Moors from Toledo in a battle along the Duero. Bernardo has helped him in his battles hitherto, lured on by promises of his father’s freedom, but Alfonso’s latest reneging is the last straw, and now he rebels, joined by men from Benavente, Toro, and Zamora [the dramatic scene at court is not repeated].

Year 5 [870]: Lothair 15 [854], AD 841. Bernardo builds El Carpio and raids Salamanca.

Year 6 [871]: Lothair 16 [855], AD 842. Alfonso posthumously frees Count Sancho, then sends Bernardo to France. Bernardo’s adventures in France and Catalonia follow, as in the PCG, but with a note that they are not found in the authentic books of wise men, but only in juglares en sus cantares, so that “we do not know for certain” if they are true. The discussion about the different Charleses and Alfonsos, and the date of Roncesvalles is copied, too.


Bernardo’s birth is dated to Alfonso’s fifteenth year [797], AD 792, Constantine’s seventh [786]. Crulor [Timbor] lay with Count Sandias willingly, though her story is still said to be a fiction.3 The other dates agree with the Tercera. The dead at Roncesvalles include Anselino, Reynalte of Monte Alban, Giralde or Guiralde the Steward, Count Oliver, Terrin, Count Albuey, “and many more.” When Bernardo begins his rebellion, the chronicle announces that it will speak no more of him until the reign of Alfonso III. Bernardo’s foundation of El Carpio in Salamanca, and his subsequent alliance with the Moors to raid Leon and Asturias are related under King Alfonso’s fourth year, and the story henceforth follows Rodrigo. In consequence of these events, however, King Alfonso really did set Count San Diaz free (though he has gone blind in prison), “and lived in love with him and with Bernardo his son.” The Arabs, however, are still in Christendom, and split their forces in two, sending one to Polvorosa and the other to King Alfonso, Bernardo marches to meet this latter and slaughters them in Valdemoro. Meanwhile, Alfonso has given them the slip and gone to Polvorosa, where he kills them. Bernardo and Alfonso next save Zamora, and Bernardo kills Alchaman the false prophet. The Moors make peace with Alfonso, the date of Roncesvalles and the different Charleses are discussed, and Bernardo vanishes from the history.

1 Horent, Jules, Book II, Part I, Paragraph 37.

2 Horent, Jules, Book II, Part I, Paragraph 38.

3 Entwhistle 1928, 449.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 3B: Origins of the Legend

Scholars are agreed that the legend of Bernardo del Carpio, as we have it in the Three Earliest Chronicles, is a combination of three different stories.

I: Bernardo del Carpio proper, a Castilian-Leonese legend about a man who spent his life in a vain attempt to free his father from prison.

II: Bernardo the Carolingian, a Pyrenees legend about a nephew of Charlemagne’s who spent most of his life fighting against his kinsmen (Roncesvalles, Don Bueso) for his fatherland of Spain.

III: Bernardo the Catalonian, who founded Canal de Jaca, fought the Moors, and married into the local nobility.

Fusion of the Legends

OLD THEORY: The legend began with Bernardo the Catalonian. Later developments made the hero nephew of Charlemagne and created the legend of Bernardo son of Timbor, half-Spaniard, half-Frank, who had a very conflicted relationship with his mother’s country and family. Later still, probably after King Sancho united Navarre and Castile, Bernardo became nephew of Alfonso, and the story of Count Sancho was created. The new versions did not replace the old ones, however, but circulated simultaneously, and the PCG tried to reconcile them. This theory was held by such great scholars as Milá y Fontanals, Menéndez y Pelayo, and Menéndez Pidal.

NEW THEORY: The three legends arose independently. First the Catalonian and Carolingian Bernardos were fused, and later the legend of Bernardo del Carpio was combined with them, probably owing to the heroes having the same name. Jules Horrent was the first to propose this theory, which has won widespread acceptance. Scholars continue to dispute whether this final fusion was done by the people, or by one learned scholar, and whether the first fuser of all three Bernardos ascribed his deeds to the reign of one Alfonso, or whether the fuser was also the man who divided his exploits between the Chaste and the Great. The Alfonsine division, whether made by Lucas or by his source, was almost certainly made after the fusion of the Bernardo legends, in an attempt to explain how Bernardo could have both fought at Roncesvalles [778] and been the founder of Canal de Jaca [late 800s].

Direct Sources of the Chronicles

It is clear from Lucas, Rodrigo, and the PCG that they were drawing on pre-existing sources that are now lost, but it is unclear exactly what those were.

Cantar de Bernardo. Most scholars postulate an epic poem much like the Poema del Cid, whether written by minstrels or by the people. It may have given the story essentially as we know it from the PCG, or it may have only told the story of the Carolingian Bernardo as fused with the Catalonian.

Estoria de Bernardo. Some also postulate a prose work, either Latin or Spanish. They think it told the story of the Carpian Bernardo, though perhaps already with some contamination (Roncesvalles, Don Bueso) from the Carolingian and the Catalonian.

The origins of the Legends

Turning now to the origins of the three legends before they were combined, Bernardo the Catalonian’s history is easiest to trace. He is, all agree, Bernardo of Ribagorza, whose deeds were greatly expanded (the uncharitable would say “forged”) around the 1000s, when charters appear claiming he founded monasteries and repopulated cities after his victories over the Moors. Also from this time is the Memoria Alaonis (c. 1080-1090) which falsely claims that Bernardo was descended from Charlemagne. The real Bernardo of Ribagorza is shrouded in mystery, and the documents are contradictory. He was the son of Count Raymond I of Ribagorza, and probably married Teuda (Toda), daughter of Count Galindo Aznárez II of Aragon. According to unreliable legend, he expelled the Moors from Ribagorza and Sobrarbe in 835. Some sources say, however, that Toda Galíndez married Bernardo’s son, Bernardo II. Others say it was not Bernardo I, but his father, or even his great-grandfather, who repopulated Ribagorza.1

In Catalonia today (or at least, up until the 1950’s), local legend has it that Bernat, son of Charlemagne’s daughter Bellisent, was banished from France because of a family feud, and went to Spain to fight Saracens and giants with his magic instantly-killing sword. He won the hand of the Christian princess of Jaca, built the Castle of Sort, and lived happily ever after.1

1 Sholdod, Barton. Charlemagne in Spain. Geneva, Librarie Droz, 1966.

Bernardo the Carolingian may also be based on Bernardo of Ribagorza. Scholars debate whether the legend of the Ribagorzan grew to include such incidents as Roncesvalles and Don Bueso, or whether an independent Pyrenees legend eventually swallowed the legend of Ribagorza whole. Those who believe in an independent legend are uncertain whether it dates all the way back to the battle of Roncesvalles, or whether it grew up under the influence of French pilgrims to Compostela, as a Spanish rebuttal to the legend as told in the Song of Roland and the Pseudo-Turpin, which must have irked the Spaniards and excited their patriotism.

If Bernardo the Carolingian arose independently, he may be partly based on Bernardo of Septimania, son of William of Gellone [the inspiration for William of Orange]. He was given Barcelona by Charlemagne in 803, married one Dhuoda (a name very similar to Theuda or Toda, the Ribagorzan), and had a tendency to get involved in the wars of the Frankish kings and to plunder the countryside. He was, on one occasion, banished from the Frankish court for allegedly having an affair with Empress Judith, and fled to Spain. He was captured and executed by Charles the Bald in 844, for having sided with Pepin the Younger.

Bernardo del Carpio proper is a mystery. No trace of such a character, or anyone like him, is found in the history of Alfonso II or Alfonso III. His story most likely arose out of the same epic-legendary milieu as the Seven Sons of Lara, El Cid, Fernán González, and others, though it is very strange that, out of all the epics of old Spain, Bernardo alone should be devoid of historical foundation.

Scholars also disagree as to the kernel of the Carpian story. Mercedes Vaquero thinks the legend grew out of the dispute between Bernardo and Alfonso over the fief of El Carpio, and that the entire story of Count Sancho was a later addition.2 Most, however, hold that the story of Count Sancho is at the root of the legend.

Ms. Vaquero has suggested that the story was inspired by Pedro Fernández de Castro (c. 1160-1214). Pedro was the son of Fernando Rodríguez el Castellano (1125-1185) and Estafanía the Unfortunate (d. 1180), bastard daughter of Emperor Alfonso VII of Castile and Leon (r. 1126-1157). Fernando murdered his wife out of jealousy, and, according to (inaccurate) legend, fought alongside the Moors against the Christians on various occasions. Pedro fought both for and against Alfonso VIII of Castile (r. 1185-1214) and Alfonso IX of Leon (r. 1171-1230), always opposed peace between the two kingdoms, and fought on the side of the Moors at the Battle of Alarcos. He was, at various times, chief advisor to Caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur (r. 1184-1199) and majordomo of Leon. He spent some time in exile in Catalonia with his kinsmen the Counts of Urgel, and at last died in Morocco. Furthermore, his father Fernando Rodríguez was (mistakenly) believed to have fought alongside the Moors as well. So Pedro, like Bernardo, was related to royalty, the rebel son of a (supposedly) rebel father, sometimes fighting for his king and sometime against him, fought on the side of the Moors, and after his final banishment spent some time in Catalonia.3

Other historical figures have been proposed as models for Bernardo, or at least as having some influence on his legend.

King Bernard of Italy (797-818), bastard son of King Pepin of Italy, son of Charlemagne. He married Cunigonde of Laon, and begot Pepin, Count of Vermandois. Bernard later got involved in a rebellion against Louis the Pious, who had him blinded, and the procedure killed him. This Bernard has nothing but his name in common and his bastardy in common with he of El Carpio. Some scholars point out that Lucas claims Bernardo del Carpio served in the imperial household under Louis the Pious (r. 814-840) and Lothair I (r. 840-855), but nowhere does Lucas even hint that the Carpian became a king.

King Fortunio of Sobrarbe (r. 802-815). This king, various chronicles tell us, married the daughter of Count Galindo Aznar, allied with Alfonso and Marsil to lead Asturians, Biscayans, Alaveses, Navarres, and the men of Sobrarbe against Charlemagne, and fought in the Battle of Roncesvalles in 809, when Roland and the Peers were slain. He had two daughters: Theuda, who married Bernardo of Ribagorza; and Galinda, who, some say, married Sancho Garces, who became king after Fortunio’s death. However, King Fortunio did not actually exist. The entire Kingdom of Sobrarbe is a fifteenth-century fabrication, made to glorify Aragon, and would not be worth mentioning here if serious scholars had not been deceived and attempted to link Fortunio to the Bernardo legend.

Sulayman b. Yaqzan al-Kalbi l-Arabi. The Moorish governor of Saragossa who invited Charlemagne into Spain in the first place. Late accounts tell us that Charles took him as hostage when he prepared to leave Spain, but that his sons attacked the camp and set him free. He may have been a participant at Roncesvalles, if the Moors were really part of that battle. The identification of him with Bernardo, however, seems to be first made by Pedro Chalemta, but as he presents neither evidence or explanation, one can hardly take him seriously.4

People and Places

Alfonso II is said in some sources to have married Bertinalda, a French princess, though the marriage was never consummated. This story is first found in Bishop Pelagius of Oviedo’s Chronicon (1132), and repeated in the PCG. Pelagius never mentions Bernardo, however. Lucas calls her Berta, Charlemagne’s sister. Perhaps she was invented to explain why Alfonso was willing (and permitted) to raise Timbor’s son as his own.5

Timbor herself is unknown outside of Spain, as is Don Bueso.

Sancho Diaz and Jimena first appear in Lucas. Sancho has been identified with Nepociano, who attempted to claim the throne after Alfonso II’s death and was defeated and blinded by Ramiro I, but this is extremely unlikely.

A tomb said to be Count Sancho’s is in S. Román de Entrepeñas. Unfortunately, that monastery was not founded until the 900’s.6 Also, Saldaña was not a County until that same century. Barrios del Luna, where the Count was imprisoned, is a real castle, now in ruins.

Doña Jimena’s alleged tomb is in the monastery of Saint Vincent and Saint Pelayo, in Oviedo, with “Castisima Scemena,” inscribed on it in ninth or tenth century letters. The only Jimenas known to have lived during this period are the queens of Alfonso III and Fruela II, who are buried elsewhere. Since few believe that Jimena the mother of Bernardo actually existed, most scholars attribute this tomb to the first abbess.7

There are many El Carpios in Spain, but the most likely candidate for our hero’s fief is a fortress in the debatable land between Castile and Leon, which changed hands frequently. Bernardo’s alleged tomb is not there, however, but in Aguilar de Campo. The tradition is at least as old as the 1500’s, when Charles V visited there.

In short, there is no evidence that Bernardo del Carpio or any of his family (Alfonso excepted) ever existed.

1 Katherine P. Oswald, “The Formation and Transmission of the Legend of Bernardo del Carpio” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015), pp. 12-13.

2 Vaquero, Mercedes. “Relaciones feudo-vasalláticas y problemas territoriales en el Cantar de Bernardo del Carpio”, Charlemagne in the North: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference of the Société Rencesvals, Edinburgh, 4th to 11th August 1991, eds. Philip E. Bennett, Anne Elizabeth Cobby and Graham A. Runnalls, Edinburgh, Société Rencesvals British Branch; London, Grant and Cutler, 1993, p. 475-484.

3 Oswald, pp. 17-19; and gen . ref. for dates.

4 Pedro Chalmeta, “Rozaballes & Bernardo,” Arabica 55, no. 1 (2008).

5 Jules Horrent, La chanson de Roland dans les littératures française et espagnole au Moyen Âge (Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège, Les Belles Lettres, 1951), , Book II, Part II, Chapter IV, Note 44.

6 Vicente José González García, Bernardo del Carpio y la Batalla de Roncesvalles (Oviedo, Spain: Fundación Gustavo Bueno, 2007) p. 59.

7 González García 2007, p. 50.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 3: The Three Chronicles

There are only three chronicles which seem to present independent accounts of Bernardo’s life. All later works, with the possible exception of a few ballads, derive from the chronicles of Lucas of Tuy, Rodigo of Rada, and Alfonso the Wise.



Lucas of Tuy was born in Leon and grew up to be well-learned and well-traveled, having been to Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, and Paris, among other places. In 1239 he was elected bishop of Tuy, which position he held until his death in 1249. Besides his Chronicon Mundi (1232-1237), he was also author of De miraculis sancti Isidori (1220-1235), and of De altera vita, in three books against the Albigensians (1230-1240). A Vita sancti Isidori and a Historia translationis sancti Isidori were once wrongly attributed to him, but in fact predate him.

The Chronicon, written for Alfonso VIII’s daughter Berenguela, is divided into four books, the first three of which are copied straight from Isidore, Ildefonso of Toledo and others. Not until the fourth book does Lucas present any original material, though still drawing largely on the Chronicle of Alfonso III and the Historia Silense, and others. He gives no source for his information about Bernardo.

Lucas’ chronicle was printed in Volume IV of Hispaniae illustratae seu rerum, urbiumque Hispaniae, Lusitaniae, Aethiopiae et Indiae scriptores varii, Frankfurt, 1608. Pages 1-116. A modern critical edition forms Volume 74 of the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieavalis.

Book IV, Section 14: The king’s sister Xemena is impregnated by Count Sanctius and brings forth Bernaldus. King Alfonso, furious, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna, swearing that he will never come out alive. He confines his sister to a nunnery and raises the boy as his own. The lad grew up to be a strong and daring knight.

Section 15: In those days Charles the Great, King of France and Emperor of Rome, expelled the Saracens from Burgundy, Poitou, and all Gaul, and then crossed the Pyrenees via Roscidevallis to continue the war. He brought under his yoke the Goths and Spaniards who lived in Catalonia, in the Basque mountains, and in Navarre, and ordered Alfonso to become his vassal. Bernaldus was indignant at the suggestion, and formed an alliance with the Saracens. Charles at that time was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured if not for Galalon’s treason. Charles did, however, take Nájera and Monte Jardín, and then prepared to return to France.

The barbarian King Marsil of Saragossa rallied an army of Saracens and allied with Bernardo and his Navarrese, and fell on the Frankish rear as they passed through Rocidevallis, killing Prefect Rodlandus of Brittany, Count Anselm, Egiardus the Steward, and many more. King Charles later had his revenge on the Saracens, killing a great number of them, [it is not clear if this is the second battle in the Song of Roland or an entirely new expedition]. After his revenge Charles went on pilgrimage to Saint James, made peace with King Alfonso, rebuilt the city of Iria, and obtained from Pope Leo III for Compostela to be elevated to a metropolitan [archbishopric]. He then returned to Germany with Bernaldus and died soon after, at Aix, where he was buried. Bernaldus served in the imperial household even after Charlemagne’s death, under Louis the Pious (814-840) and Lothair I (840-855). [Bernardo now passes from the story until the reign of Alfonso III (866-910)].

Section 16. Alfonso, in the 47th year of his reign, made an alliance with a Moorish emir named Mahomet against the Moorish king Abd-er-Rahman, and returned to Oviedo with great spoils, after which he married Berta, sister of King Charles of France, but as he never saw her, he was called the Chaste. After 52 years of reigning, he died and was laid in Saint Mary’s church in Oviedo.

Section 20: Alfonso III fought a battle against the Saracens at Toledo, in which Bernaldus’ assistance was invaluable. After the battle, Bernaldus built the castle of Carpio near Salamanca, and rebelled against King Alfonso, on account of his father’s imprisonment in the Castle of Luna. The Saracens seized this opportunity to attack Astorga and Leon and lay them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso promised Bernaldus his father’s liberty if he would make peace, which was done, and they fell upon the Saracens, who had split into two parties. Alfonso massacred them at Polvorosa, and Bernaldus chased them away from Valdemora. Afterwards, the Saracens laid siege to Zamora, so Alfonso and Bernaldus defeated them there, too. Bernardo at this battle killed Alchamam, a heathen prophet. King Alfonso married Xemena, who was first cousin to Charlemagne [she wasn’t; in reality, she was a princess from Pamplona].

Section 21: Emperor Charles III (the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888) invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, who restored the Mozarabic rite in the churches of Spain. Charles went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John Metropolitan [archepiscopal] privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils. Lucas explains that there were three Emperors named Charles: Charles the Great, who lived in the days of Pope Leo and Alfonso the Chaste; another Charles who lived in the days of Pope John, and Charles the Hammer, who succeeded him.

Section 22: The Saracens laid siege to Leon, under two dukes named Ymundar and Alcatenetel, but Bernaldus captured them. Alfonso did many other works [related in detail] including building the church of San Salvador in Zamora, and around that time Bernaldus died. [We are never told if Count Sancho was actually freed or not]. Shortly after his death, Queen Xemena began her rebellion.



Rodricus Ximenius de Rada, or Rodrigo Jiménez (1170-1247), born in Navarre, studied in Bologna and Paris, returned to Castile, where he was elected Archbishop of Toledo in 1207. He took part at the famous battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, attended Lateran IV in, and died on June 10, 1247.

He was the author of numerous histories, of the Romans; Ostrogoths; Huns, Vandals, Sueves, Alans and Silongorum; Arabs; the Catholic Church; and that with which we are concerned, Historia de Rebus Hispaniae, sive Historia Gothica. This last chronicle is mostly compiled from Jordanus, Isidore, the Mozarbic Chronicle, those of Alfonso III, Sampiro, Najera, Pelagius, and Lucas of Tuy.

For his history of Alfonso II, he draws on the Chronicles of Alfonso III, Najera, and Lucas. For Alfonso III, he draws from Sampiro and Lucas. He also adds many details of his own, some apparently drawn from popular tradition, others likely his own invention. In many ways his history is a rival to Lucas’. Lucas, Bishop of Tuy, was in the archdiocese of Compostela, and hence accepted the legend of Charlemagne’s pilgrimage to that shrine, and the myth that he had bestowed upon it the primacy over Spain. Rodrigo, archbishop of the much older see of Toledo, denies the whole legend and devotes an entire chapter to refuting Turpin’s account of Charles’ conquest of Spain. He generally portrays kings in a more favorable light than his sources do (such as attributing the victory at Roncesvalles to Alfonso), and plays up the Reconquista spirit (such as minimizing the Moors’ role at that battle).

There are several old printings, including Volume II Hispaniae illustratae, page 25 sq.. and Sanctorum Patrum Toletanorum Opera, Vol. III, pp. 1-208. A modern critical edition forms Volume 72 of the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieavalis. Old Spanish translations were made by various hands, but none, to my knowledge have been printed.

Book IV, Chapter 9: Alfonso II’s sister Semena secretly marries Count Sancius and bears him a son, Berinaldus. The king, learning of this, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna and his sister in a nunnery. As he is childless, he raises Berinaldus as his own son, and the boy grows up to be a fine knight.

Chapter 10: Alfonso, old and tired of reigning, secretly sends word to Charles, Emperor of Italy, Germany, and Gaul, to offer him the throne. Charles drives the Arabs out of France and then sends some men over the Pyrenees, subduing Catalonia. At this juncture, Alfonso’s men, led by Berinaldus, learn of his offer and force him to rescind it or they will depose him. They say they would rather die as free men than live as vassals of the Franks. Charles is furious, and abandons his war against the Arabs to attack Alfonso. As the bulk of his army is crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, they are met with Alfonso’s army, gathered from Asturias, Alava, Biscay, Navarre, Ruchonia, and Aragon. The Spaniards meet Charles’ vanguard, [not rearguard] in Hospita Vallis, also called Val de Carlos, and destroy it, killing Rollandus, Anselmus, and Egiardus, among others. Charlemagne, coming upon the aftermath, blows his horn to rally the survivors. They return to Germany, where Charles plots his revenge, but dies before he can carry it out and is buried at Aachen in a magnificent tomb.

Some of the Franks thought, in their panic, that Bernardo was with an army of Muslims in the Spanish rearguard and led them through Aspae Pass [Somport] and Secolae Pass [Soule]. In reality, however, he was always with Alfonso in the van.

Chapter 11: Rodrigo devotes this chapter to refuting Turpin’s account of Charles’ adventures in Spain. He goes through Turpin’s list of conquests city by city and explains when each of them were really retaken. He also denies that Charles was the founder of the Way of Saint James, though he admits that Charles spent time at King Galafre’s court in his youth and married his daughter Galiana, and perhaps he hence had some influence on Spanish affairs.

Chapter 15: Alfonso III fought a battle against the Saracens at Toledo, in which Berinaldus’ assistance was invaluable. After the battle, however, Berinaldus, because his father was still imprisoned, built the castle of Carpio in the land of Salamanca, and allied with the Saracens to harry Alfonso’s borders. He attacked Astorga and Leon and laid them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso made peace with Berinaldus by pardoning his father. Alfonso and Berinaldus then fell upon the Saracens, who had split into two parties. Alfonso massacred them at Polvoroso, and Berinaldus at Valdemora. Only ten survived Polvorosa, by pretending to be dead.

Chapter 16: Later, the Saracens were laying siege to Zamora, so Alfonso and Berinaldus defeated them there, too. Berinaldus at this battle killed Alchamam, a heathen prophet. The Saracens were obliged to make peace with Alfonso. In those days, some say, Alfonso fought the battle of Roscide Vallis against Charles the Hammer, but this is an error, and the truth is that that battle was fought against Charles the Great. This, at least, is what Rodrigo thinks most likely, but he says he is open to correction. Alfonso engaged in many other wars, the details of which are given. [Berinaldus does not feature, and disappears from the chronicle].

Chapter 17: Pope John grants the privileges to Alfonso without Charles III’s intercession.



The Estoria de España, also known as the Primera Crónica General, is a history of Spain commissioned by King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile, and written in the vernacular. This massive undertaking draws primarily on Lucas and Rodrigo, but also on other chronicles (both Latin and Arab), saints’ lives, cantares de gesta, and generally anything Alfonso’s men could get their hands on. The first edition was completed in 1271, but Alfonso ordered a revision in 1282. A further revision was made by his son Sancho IV in 1289. These versions all continued to circulate, and there are a bewildering number of further revisions, combinations, and additions, which mercifully need not concern us here, as the section about Bernardo remained unchanged. Alfonso’s men did their best to reconcile Lucas and Rodriguez, and added incidents and details from other versions they knew, which seem to have included both cantares de gesta and a now-lost prose history.

Chapter 617: In the 21st year of Alfonso’s reign [803], the 5th of Charlemagne’s [804], AD 800, his sister Ximena secretly married Count San Diaz of Saldaña, and bore him a son named Bernaldo. The king, on hearing the news, held a court, and sent Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte to bring the count to him. The count came, suspecting no ill, but Alfonso had him arrested. His men bound the count so tightly he bled, and Alfonso approved thereof. He imprisoned San Diaz in the Castle of Luna, and his sister in a nunnery. The only thing San Diaz asked was that Alfonso would treat Bernaldo well. Alfonso agreed, and raised the boy as his own, and he became a good knight. Some say in their cantares et fablas, however, that Bernaldo was son of Charlemagne’s sister Timbor, who was raped by San Diaz as she returned from a pilgrimage to Saint James. Alfonso adopted their son, since he had no heir of his own [The implication, though this is not stated until later, is that Alfonso was married to Charlemagne’s other sister Berta, as in Pelagius of Oviedo].

Chapter 618: Deals with Abderrahmen and Anbroz’ attack on Toledo.

Chapter 619: In the 27th year1 of Alfonso’s reign [809], the 12th of Charlemagne’s [811], AD 806, Alfonso, being old and childless, sent to Charles offering him his throne, if he would help him fight the Moors. Charles expelled the Moors from Provence, Bordeaux, Piteos, and Aquitaine, and then crossed the Pyrenees to Spain, conquering Catalonia. Lucas of Tuy says he also conquered Gascony and Navarre. The men of Spain, however, led by Bernaldo, learned of Alfonso’s offer and forced him to rescind it, or else they would depose him. Bernaldo formed an alliance with the Saracen King Marsil of Saragossa. Charles at that time was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured had it not been for Count Galaron’s treason. After taking Nájera, Charles and his army went into the mountains of Spain, where the Christians had fled to escape the sword of the Moors. They all declared, however, that they would rather die than submit to the Frankish yoke, and the men of Asturias, Alava, Biscay, Navarre, Ruconia (the Basques) and Aragon united under Alfonso’s banner against Charles, whose rearguard they encountered in Val Carlos in the Pyrenees. There Alfonso, Marsil, and Bernardo defeated the Franks, killing Don Roldan, Count Anselmo, Guiralte the Steward, and many more. Don Rodrigo says Bernaldo fought with Alfonso in the vanguard. Don Lucas says he fought in the rearguard with Marsil. Be that as it may, Charles hurried back to the valley, but when he saw his men dead, he blew his horn to gather the survivors, and they retreated to Germany to plot his revenge.

620: The Moors of Cordova rebel against Alhacan their lord, who puts them to the sword with the help of Abdelcarin.

621: In the 28th year of Alfonso’s reign [810], the 12th of Charlemagne’s [811], AD 807, two of Bernardo’s kinsmen, Blasco Meléndez and Suero Velásquez, having sworn an oath to Alfonso not to tell Bernardo about Count Sancho, make a plan with two of their kinswomen, Maria Meléndez and Urraca Sánchez. The women play chess with Bernardo, let him win, and then inform him how his father languishes in durance vile. Bernardo asked Alfonso for his father’s liberty, which was refused, but Bernardo swore he would nonetheless stay faithful to his king.

In the 29th year of Alfonso’s reign, nothing of interest happened.

622: In the 30th year, King Alhacan of Cordova died.

623: In the 31st year [813], the 15th of Charlemagne’s [814], AD 810, Charlemagne died [really 814]. His tomb was covered with lavish ornament, save for the side which looked towards Ronçasvalles, which was left blank. But Don Lucas says that after that loss King Charles laid siege to Saragossa, took Bernardo prisoner, and killed King Marsil. Then they returned into France together, and Charles eventually freed Bernardo and bestowed gifts on him. But at last he returned to Spain and fought many battles and died, as we shall relate. But some say in their cantares and fablas de gesta that Charles conquered many cities in Spain and founded the Way of Saint James, but this is a lie. [An account of the Reconquista follows, agreeing with Rodrigo’s IV:11]. It is certain, at any rate, that Charles and his host were defeated at Ronçasvalles, whether by Christians or Moors, and hence he cannot have opened the Way of Saint James, though he may have exerted his influence at King Galafre’s court. Don Lucas says that Charles made peace with Alfonso and then went on pilgrimage to Saint James and San Salvador, and obtained privileges for them from the Pope, and King Alfonso imposed the Hispanic rite on all Spain.

624: Year 31. King Abderrahmen of Cordova captures Barcelona.

Year 32 to 37, nothing interesting.

Chapter 625: Year 37, a Moor of Merida, named Mahomad, went to war against Abderrahmen of Cordova, and lost, and King Alfonso let him live in Galicia (?)

Years 38-39, nothing interesting.

Chapter 626: Year 40, the 9th of Louis the Pious’, AD 819, [822] Mahomad betrayed King Alfonso and rebelled against him, but Alfonso slew him.

King Alfonso was married, but never saw his wife. Don Lucas says his wife’s name was Berta, the sister of Charlemagne.

Chapter 627: Year 41 [823], the 10th of Louis the Pious [824], AD 820, Alfonso died and was buried in Saint Mary’s. [Really died 842. Don Ramiro succeeds to the throne, and Bernardo is not mentioned again until the reign of Alfonso III.]

Chapter 643: Alfonso III the Great becomes king, AD 837 [really 866], 1st year of Lothair’s reign [840].

Chapter 648: Year 4, AD 840 [869], 4th of Lothair [843]. A great army of Moors from Toledo raided the Christian lands. King Alfonso defeated them by the river Duero, with the help of Bernaldo.

Chapter 649: Year 5, AD 841 [870], 5th of Lothair [844]. King Ores of Merida invaded Christendom and laid siege to Benavento. King Alfonso rode to the rescue and personally killed Ores. Bernaldo was there, too, and fought well. King Alchaman laid siege to Zamora, but Bernaldo killed him.

Chapter 650: Year 6, AD 842 [871], 6th of Lothair [845]. Some Moors invaded again, and split into two parts. One went to Polvorosa, and the other to Valdemoro. Alfonso slaughtered one division by the River Orvego, and Bernaldo in Valdemoro. The king returned to Toro, laden with loot and glory.

Chapter 651: Year 7, AD 843 [872], 7th of Lothair [846]. Don Bueso of France invaded Spain. King Alfonso meets him in battle by Ordeion in Castile, near a castle called Amaya. Some say in their cantares segund cuenta la estoria that Buseo was Bernaldo’s cousin. Bernaldo killed Bueso in the fray. After the battle, Bernaldo kissed Alfonso’s hand and asked for the liberty of his father, and called to mind all the times he had helped him against the Moors. But Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo renounced his service, and did not go to war or court for a year

Chapter 652: Year 8, AD 844 [873], 8th of Lothair [847]. King Alfonso held court at Pentecost, to which came, among others, Orios Godos and Tiobalt. But Bernaldo did not come, until the Queen promised him that she would ask for his father’s liberty. He came, and she asked, but Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo denounced and insulted him in front of the whole court, reminding him of all his faithful service, prompting Alfonso to banish him. His kinsmen Blasco Meléndez, Suero Velásquez, and Nuño de Leon left with him. They retreated to Saldaña, whence they made war against Alfonso for two years.

Chapter 653. Year 9. King Mahomet of Cordova makes war against Toledo.

Chapter 654. Year 10, AD 846 [875], 10th of Lothair [849]. Bernaldo was joined by many men from Benavente, Toro, and Zamora, who swore not to leave him until his father was free. With his new army, Bernaldo marched on Salamanca. He advanced with a small division, and then retreated, luring Alfonso’s troops into an ambush, where Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte were captured. Bernaldo then founded El Carpio near Salamanca. He made alliance with the Muslims and raided Astorga and Leon, prompting Alfonso to lay siege to El Carpio. Bernaldo freed Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte, but Alfonso still refused to free his father. Bernaldo, in revenge, raided Salamanca, but cautioned his men not to go overboard plundering it, lest there be nothing left to take in the future.

Chapter 655: Year 11, AD 847 [876], 11th of Lothair [850]. Alfonso’s men at last prevailed upon him to release San Diaz. Bernaldo agreed to this, and handed over his castle of El Carpio. Alfonso sent Orios and Tiobalte to fetch Count San Diaz, but they arrived three days after his death. They say in their songs that Alfonso ordered the corpse to be cleaned, mounted on a horse, and paraded before Saldaña. Bernardo surrendered the city and went forth to meet his father. When he realized he had been deceived, he rounded on the king with fury, and the king banished him again.

They say in cantares that Bernaldo went to France, where King Charles the Bald welcomed him, but Timbor’s son rejected him. Despairing, Bernaldo left the court. Charles gave him horses and arms, but Bernaldo still ravaged the land as he returned to Spain, where he founded Canal de Jaca, married Doña Galiana, daughter of Count Alardos de Latre, and begot on her Galín Galíndez, who grew up to be a fine knight in his own right. Bernardo fought three great battles against the Moors before his death. Some say that it was Alfonso III who fought at Ronçasvalles, but the best authors, French and Spanish, say it was Charlemagne and Alfonso II.

Chapter 656. Year 12. Irrelevant to us. Years 13-20. Nothing interesting. Year 21, AD 857 [886]. Bernardo del Carpio died, as Don Lucas says.

For the curious, Bernardo is seven at the battle of Roncesvalles [!], forty-three when he vanquishes Don Bueso, forty-seven when he frees his father, and fifty-seven at his death.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 2: Chronicles Which do not Mention Bernardo

Bernardo del Carpio goes unmentioned by any chronicler until 1236. However, the early chronicles do have some things to say about Alfonso the Chaste, his Great namesake, and Charlemagne and Roncesvalles. An incomplete summary of the historiography follows.

The real Alfonso II was born in 760, became king in 791, (probably) never married, and died in 842. Alfonso III was born 848, became king of Galicia, Leon, and Asturias in 866, married Princess Jimena of Pamplona, and died in 910.

Einhard: Einhard’s Life of Charles the Great was written sometime in the early 800s, after Charles’ death.

King Alfonso of Asturias and Galicia always called himself Charles’ man [vassal] in his letters.

Chronica Albeldense: Also called the Epitome Ovediense, written 881.

Alfonso the Chaste, also called the Great, founded Oviedo. He reigned for fifty-one years, though in his eleventh year he was deposed and locked in the monastery of Abelania. After escaping, he built many churches, adopted the Toledan [Mozarabic] Rite, and gave refuge in Asturias to a certain Muhammad who was fleeing the King of Cordova. Muhammad betrayed him, however, and Alfonso killed him in battle. He never married.

Alfonso son of Ordoño (the Great) conquered at Ebrellos. He took the throne at eighteen, fought civil and foreign wars, and built many churches. In 916, Almundar, son of King Mohamat, led an army from Cordova to Astorga and Leon. Part of his army was attacked at Polvorosa on the Órbigo by King Alfonso III, who killed almost 13,000 Moors. When the news reached Almundar, he retreated. Alfonso fought more wars and built many churches.

Roncesvalles and Charlemagne are nowhere mentioned.

Chronicle of Alfonso III: From the early 900s, written at the behest of Alfonso III. It exists in two major reactions, known as the Crónica Rotensis and the later and longer Crónica ad Sebastianum. There are also two minor redactions, simply called the Third and the Fourth. All versions printed 1918 by Zacarías García Villada.

Fourth Redaction only: In Era 815 [AD 777] Ibn al-Arabi, who held Saragossa under Abd-er-Rahman, rebelled and asked King Charles of the Franks for aid, who had been fighting the Saxons for thirty years. Charles was welcomed at Pamplona, and came to Saragossa, but did not take it, corrupted by gold. He destroyed “a certain city” on his way back, whose inhabitants ambushed him in Ruscidis Vallibus, where Egiardus, Anselmus, and Rotolanus died. The next year Charles became Emperor, AD 778. He reigned 47 years. (Copied, but not exactly, from Silense)

Chronicle of Alfonso III, MS Emilianse 39: [The Nota Emilianese, c. 1070] In Era 816 [AD 778] King Charles came to Saragossa. He had twelve nephews, each with three thousand  knights in armor: Rodlane, Bertlane, Oggero Spatacurta [Shortsword] Ghigelmo Alcorbanitas [Hooknose], Olibero, and the bishop Don Toripini. Each spent a month in the king’s service. Charles’ vassals advised him to return home, which he did, leaving Roldan in the rearguard, where, in the Puerto de Sicera, in Rozaballes, the Saracens killed him.

Sampiro (1098) A continuation of the Chronicle of Alfonso III, covering 866 to 982. Incorporated into the Historia Silense.

The Historia Silense (c. 1100-1130) does not mention Bernardo. However, this chronicle is only interested in the deeds of kings, and ignores the Counts of Castile entirely. It can be most conveniently found in the appendices  to volume XVII of España Sagrada.

After fighting the Saxons for 33 years, Charles entered Spain between the reigns of Roderick (d. 712) and Pelagius (r. 718-737), invited by a Moor named Hibinnaxalabi, king of Saragossa. He laid siege to Saragossa, but the Franks were corrupted by bribes and abandoned the war. They razed the walls of Pampelona, and their rearguard was attacked by the Navarrese, and Anselm, Egginhard, and Roland died.

The Chronicon of Bishop Pelagius of Oviedo (finished 1132), is the earliest (known) source to claim that Alfonso II the Chaste had a wife. According to Pelagius, her name was Bertinalda and she was related to the Royal House of France. Hence it has been suggested that Pelagius knew some version of the legend of Bernardo del Carpio, though makes no other allusions to that hero.

The Crónica Najerense, written by a Castilian around 1160 and championing Castilian independence, does not mention Bernardo del Carpio. However, it also ignores the Seven Sons of Lara and the Cid Campeador, whose stories are known to have been circulating at this date.

Roncesvalles was in the third year of King Silo [777], and is described in an account copied from the Silense. Charles was made Emperor the year after, and reigned for 47 years.

The Anales Toledanos Primeros (1219) (España Sagrada XXIII) assert that Alfonso the Chaste died in 850, Charlemagne entered Spain in 862 [most likely referring to Mainet, not to the beginning of the Spanish War], Roncesvalles “where the Twelve Peers died” was fought in 882, and Charlemagne died in 911.