He sees around him many tables at which are seated guests in the black habit of monks or the white habit of the canons regular, who belong to the most saintly order of all. They pray to God on our behalf, they sing the Masses, the Matins and the Hours
History of Charlemagne and Roland
Canons Regular of the Order of Saint Augustine maintained the shrines and infrastructure of the pilgrimage roads which promoted the legends of Charlemagne. Medieval pilgrimage and the monastic world went hand in hand. According to the tripartite feudal division of society only the clerics and monks could expect to enter Paradise on the Day of Judgment.
For the two other orders, those who fought and those who laboured, pilgrimage and Crusade held the potential to avoid the Leviathan’s Jaws and the portal to Hell.
The monasteries guarded the precious relics that pilgrims were ordained to venerate and they were also way stations providing alms and hospitality to pilgrims.
Towards the end of the eleventh century a new monastic order began to assume an important role in the Compostelan pilgrimage. These were the Canons Regular of the Rule of Saint Augustine, ordained clerics who abided by the same strictures and practices as the Benedictine monks.
The abbot of Saint Pons de Thomières, Frotarius, a close ally of Pope Gregory VII was a keen proponent of the canonical life for priests which the Augustinian order embodied
Frotarius established the hospice at Santa Cristina where pilgrims to Compostela were cared for by canons on the Somport Pass over the Pyrenees.
Previously a novice of Conques and subsequently monk of Frotarius’ abbey at Thomières, Pierre d’Andouque, in his role as bishop of Pamplona became one of the most influential figures in Spanish affairs.
Through the influence of Pierre d’Andouque, Canons Regular of the Order of Saint Augustine began to assume an increasingly active role in the pilgrimage to Compostela. They were installed at Saint Sernin at Toulouse and then in a number of key locations associated with the relics of the Carolingian past on the road to Compostela that passed through Pamplona.
A concerted attempt was made to integrate the legends of Charlemagne, both into the Compostelan pilgrimage and the Crusader ethos of the Spanish Reconquista. The driving force behind this appears to have been Pierre d’Andouque and his entourage at Pamplona. The instrument for effecting this strategy was the Augustinian Order
At some point between 1101 and 1104, Pierre d’Andouque acquired an almshouse and a villa at Roncevaux, the location of the great battle between the Franks and Saracens culminating in the martyrdom of the hero Roland.
There he established an Augustinian priory and hospice which he donated to Conques.
This was a vital location, both mythologically and geographically, being just below the Cize Pass that led Compostelan pilgrims from France towards Pamplona.
At Blaye on the Gironde estuary, the tomb of Roland at the abbey of Saint Romanus was served by a chapter of Augustinian canons.
The same was also true for the abbey of Saint Seurin at Bordeaux that held the celebrated Olifant, Roland’s ivory horn. The cemetery of the abbey contained the tombs of many of the fallen heroes of the battle of Roncevaux.
All of these sites were evoked in detail in the Pilgrim’s Guide as markers on the road to Saint James’ shrine. Even more, they were essential elements in the narrative of Turpin’s History that shows evident signs of being composed, in part at least by the circle around Pierre d’Andouque.
In the chronicle, a passage describes the Saracen leader, Aigolandus, visiting Charlemagne’s court. Aigolandus asks for an explanation of the different clerical and monastic orders he witness around the emperor.
Charlemagne himself explains that aside from the priests and bishops, there are two other orders, the monks in black who were the Benedictines and those wearing the white habit of the Augustinian canons whom he, significantly declares to be the most saintly of all.
The scene that Turpin describes is very much one that which would have been familiar at the courts and councils of the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain in the early twelfth century at the time of the composition of the History. Bishops and abbots both played a vital role in affairs which were then indistinguishable: the political and the spiritual.
Sources and Biblio: Les Origines Méridionales de la Chanson de Roland, Frédéric de Gournay, Cahiers de St-Michel de Cuxa, XXXII, 2001
Une Abbaye de Pelerinage: Sainte-Foy de Conques et ses rapports avec Saint-Jacques. Georges Gaillard Compostellanum Sección des Estudios Jacobeos, 1965
Etude sur les sculptures de Sainte-Foy de Conques et de Saint-Sernin de Toulouse et leurs relations avec celles de Saint-Isidore de Léon et de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Paul Deschamps
History of Charles the Great and Orlando Ascribed to Archbishop Turpin, Thomas Rodd, 1812
The Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin, Kevin R. Poole, Italica Press New York 2014
André de Mandach Naissance et Origines de la chanson de geste en Europe Vol. 1 La Geste de Charlemagne et de Roland Genève, Droz, 1961
Bernard Gicquel La Légende de Compostelle Le Livre de Saint Jacques, Tallandier 2003
Les sépultures des Français morts à Roncevaux, André Moisan, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 1981 Volume 24 pp. 129-145
Les légendes épiques : recherches sur la formation des chansons de geste. Bédier, Joseph, 1914
Barton Sholod. Charlemagne in Spain: The Cultural Legacy of Roncevalles, Geneva Droz 1966