778 - The Song of Roland - 778 - La Chanson de Roland

Monument to Roldán (Puerto de Ibañeta).

778 - La Chanson de Roland is a documentary film released in Spain on January 28, 2011. It is directed by Olivier van der Zee and includes historians, geographers and other experts who try to explain what is real and fictional in singing of feat La Chanson de Roland . The premiere on January 28 was held in Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Zaragoza, Bilbao, Vitoria and San Sebastián.

The Cantar de Roldán ( La Chanson de Roland , in French) is an epic poem of several hundred verses, written at the end of the 11th century in Old French, attributed to a Norman monk, Turoldo, whose name appears in the last and enigmatic verse : « Ci falt la geste that Turoldus declined ».


The 78-minute documentary takes place on four axes; that of the director as an archaeologist after discovering in the Basque Country a plaque in homage to the Basque soldiers who defeated the Emperor Charlemagne , contradicting what he learned as a child, [ 1 ] a re-creation of historical events, archaeological discoveries and the testimonies of experts.

Historical facts

The 78-minute documentary deals with the analysis of the Cantar de Roldán , a deed song whose exact date is unknown, although it is known that the events were written some three centuries later. It narrates legendarily distorting the events of the battle of Roncesvalles , which historically was no more than a skirmish, and which was able to confront Basque tribes against the rear of the Carolingian forces under the command of Count Roldán , prefect of the Brand of Britain .

Director and inspiration

A small review by the author appears on the film's website, made under the Creative Commons License ;

I was born in Amsterdam in 1969. I studied film direction there and later at the AFI in Los Angeles.

When I moved to live near San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, I discovered a monument in homage to the Basque soldiers who defeated the Emperor Charlemagne in Roncesvalles, contradicting what I had learned as a child: that an army of 400,000 Saracens annihilated their rearguard commanded by Roland. That piqued my curiosity and I began to investigate the real historical events of the years 777 and 778.

The result is this documentary film, 778 - La Chanson de Roland , a 1200-year journey into the past, searching for the origins and meaning of one of the oldest and best-known literary pieces of European culture.

I have traveled the same path as Charlemagne, from Paderborn in northern Germany to Zaragoza in Spain. And I have stopped at Roncesvalles and Fact to look for how and where the heroic deeds and the battle that are told in La Chanson de Roland , actually written 300 years later, could have taken place.


For the historical reenactment of the events, the help of several specialized companies such as Ulfhednar, Clan del Cuervo and Westcentingas was requested, which contributed everything related to clothing, footwear, chain mail , shields , weapons, cavalry items, tents and items. military. These are exact replicas of those used in the 6th century. [ 2 ]

Apart from this, an attempt was made to record all the historical reenactment images in situ . [ 2 ]


The channels ETB , France 3 , Aragón TV and Canal Historia participated in the documentary and received aid from MEDIA, CNC, the Aquitaine Region , the Government of Navarra and the Government of Aragon .


Among the experts that appear in the documentary we can mention:

Expert Scope / Specialty Plays
Alessandro Barbero Professor of medieval history at the University of Piemonte , in Turin , Italy . Charlemagne, father of Europe .
Armando Besga Marroquín Professor of medieval history at the University of Deusto between the 8th and 10th centuries in Bilbao , Spain . Winners, losers and Roncesvalles .
Philippe Senac Professor of medieval history at the University of Toulouse -Le Mirail II, France (specialist in studies on Al-Andalus and the areas of contact between Muslims and Christians in ancient Hispania from the 8th to the 14th centuries). Author of numerous publications.
Isabel Ubieto Documentation professor at the University of Zaragoza , Spain .
Manuel Martin Good Professor of archeology, epigraphy and numismatics at the University of Zaragoza , Spain (specialist in underwater archeology).
Mercedes Unzu Director of the Cabinet of Archeology TRAMA. Discovery of the most important Muslim cemetery in the Iberian Peninsula .
Juan Maria Martinez Txoperena Restorer of antiques and objects of art. He has discovered and participated in multiple studies and archaeological excavations.
Marie-Ange Landais Archaeologist and director of the Historical Museum of the City of Blaye , France .
Anthony Hunt Professor at the University of Oxford (knows all the details about the Oxford Manuscript , the oldest on La Chanson de Roland ).


The documentary was shot between France , Spain , the United Kingdom and Germany , although most of the locations are in France and Spain .

country Locations Other information
Spain Spanish flag Hurray Behind the pediment is the Roldán stone.
Passages of San Juan Where is the commemorative plaque that attracted the attention of Olivier van der Zee.
Pamplona Interview with Mercedes Unzu.
Zaragoza Filming of the Roman walls that prevented Charlemagne from entering the city; the Aljafería Palace and a recreation of its appearance upon the arrival of the Carolingian army in the summer of 778.
Done Filming of «The Valley of Hecho», the gorge of the «Mouth of Hell», the «Crown of the Dead» - excavation sites. Interview with Dr. Antonio Ubieto .
Roncesvalles Location - according to the song - where the battle would have taken place. Filming of historical re-enactment in the Calzada de Don Simón, an old Roman pass, in Garralda and in the town of Roncesvalles. Excavation site of archaeologist Mercedes Unzu.
United Kingdom Flag of the United Kingdom Oxford Bodleian Library , where the oldest known copy of the Chanson de Roland is located .
Germany Flag of germany Aachen Aachener Dom Cathedral , where the Palatine Chapel was ordered to be built ; there lies Charlemagne.
France Flag of France Douzy Charlemagne spends the winter of 777 here.
Attigny Roman road where the Carolingian army would move.
Reims The Roman Gate of Mars, which Charlemagne went through to Spain .
Chartres Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady where the Song of Roldán is collected in the form of a stained glass window .
Chassneuil Charlemagne 's going on here on the way to Zaragoza the Passover of 778.
Blaye Church of Saint Romain de Blaye, today in ruins where it is said that Roldán , Olivier and Archbishop Turpin lie .
Rocamadour Where is the sword of Roldán Durendal .
Bordeaux Filming of a school where the Song of Roldán is studied .
Toulouse Paul Dupuy Museum , where you can see an Olifant that was used in the Middle Ages as a bugle for hunting warning and in battle.


In Filmaffinity it obtained a 6.3 out of 10 in the voting carried out by users.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Elseptimoarte.com, cinema website. "Synopsis of 778 - La Chanson de Roland " . Retrieved January 31, 2011 .
  2. ^ A b lachansonderoland.com, official website. "Recreation Specialists and Groups" . Archived from the original on January 22, 2011 . Retrieved January 31, 2011 .

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