The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne Characters

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Charlemagne (shahr-leh-MAHN-yeh), the king of the Franks and emperor of the West. When his wife declares that Hugo, the emperor of Greece, is the more handsome of the two kings, Charlemagne angrily sets forth, with his Twelve Peers, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After the pilgrims sit in the chairs of Christ and His apostles in the great cathedral in Jerusalem and receive many relics from the Patriarch, they depart for Constantinople and are received as guests by the magnificent Hugo. In the bedchamber, the Franks drink their wine and each makes a boast concerning his host. When Charlemagne is challenged to prove the boasts true or be beheaded with his peers, he and his men, assisted by an angel, overcome Hugo and return to France, where Charlemagne forgives his wife for her unfortunate comparison.


Hugo (ew-GOH), the emperor of Greece and Constantinople.


Roland (roh-LAH[N]),


Olivier (oh-lee-VYAY),

William of Orange

William of Orange,


Naimes (nehm),

Ogier of Denmark

Ogier of Denmark (oh-ZHYAY),


Gerin (geh-RA[N]),


Berenger (beh-rehn-ZHAY),

Turpin the Archbishop

Turpin the Archbishop (tewr-PA[N]),


Ernaut (ehr-NOH),


Aymer (eh-MAY),

Bernard of Brusban

Bernard of Brusban (behr-NAHR, brews-BAH[N]), and


Bertram (behr-TRAHM), Charlemagne’s Twelve Peers, who boast of the ways each will overcome King Hugo. When confronted with the demand that they prove their boasts or lose their heads, they are aided by prayer and an angel, who warns them never to boast in such a way again.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cobby, Anne Elizabeth. Introduction to “The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne” and “Aucassin and Nicollette,” translated by Glyn S. Burgess, and edited by Glyn S. Burgess and Anne Elizabeth Cobby. New York: Garland, 1988. Discusses the aesthetic qualities of the work, provides information on textual matters, and comments on possible sources.

Grigsby, John L. “A Note on the Genre of The Voyage of Charlemagne.” In Essays in Early French Literature Presented to Barbara M. Craig, edited by Norris J. Lang and Jerry C. Nash. York, S.C.: French Literature Publishing, 1982. Comments on the implications of different titles used by medieval and twentieth century editors. Claims that the author creates a new genre by altering traditional elements of medieval romances.

Holmes, U. T. A History of Old French Literature, from the Origins to 1300. New York: F. S. Crofts, 1938. Describes ways in which the French version of the tale was linked to the legend of St. Denis and the city of Paris, where it was used as part of an annual ceremony honoring the patron saint of the city.

Muir, Lynette. Literature and Society in Medieval France: The Mirror and the Image, 1100-1500. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985. Traces the composition history of the poem; notes how the work differs from other chansons de geste in its extensive use of humor and fantastic detail.

Polak, Lucie. “Charlemagne and the Marvels of Constantinople.” In The Medieval Alexander Legend and Romance Epic, edited by Peter Noble et al. Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus International Publication, 1982. Examines the technological marvels described as part of the hero’s visit to Constantinople; suggests possible historical inspirations for them.