Matter of France  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of legendary history that springs from the Old French medieval literature of the chansons de geste. Its tales were first developed in these epics, but the stories they told lived on after the medieval epics themselves were no longer widely read.

It was contrasted by medieval French writers with the Matter of Britain, the legendary history of the British Isles; and the Matter of Rome, which represented the medieval poets' interpretations of Greek mythology and the history of classical antiquity. The three names were bestowed by the twelfth century French poet Jean Bodel, author of the Chanson de Saisnes, a chanson de geste in which he wrote:

Ne sont que III matières à nul homme atandant,
De France et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant.
(There are but three literary cycles that no one should be without: the matter of France, of Britain, and of great Rome.)

Central figures of the Matter of France include Charlemagne and his paladins, especially Roland, hero of the Chanson de Roland, and Oliver, a hero who was frequently cast in conflict with the Muslim champion Fierabras. Originally, the Matter of France contained tales of war and martial valour, being focused on the conflict between the Franks and Saracens or Moors during the period of Charles Martel and Charlemagne. The Chanson de Roland, for example, is about the Battle of Roncevaux Pass during the Moorish invasion of southern France. As the genre matured, elements of fantasy and magic tended to accrue to the tales. The magic horse Bayard, for example, is a recurring figure in many of the tales.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Matter of France" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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