Sir Ferumbras

Bibliographic Information


Medieval Title:

As this text exists in one manuscript that begins imperfect, no manuscript title is given. However, the text is generally known to scholars today as Sir Ferumbras.



Unknown but believed to be a member of the clergy in the vicinity of Exeter based on re-used church documents deployed as parchment wrappers of manuscript.



Late 14th century

Regional language used is that of Devon, in South West England



Textual Information

Brief Summary:

The text begins with the arrival of the Saracen King Ferumbras who is described with reference to his recent conquest of Rome as part of the forces led by his father the Amerel Balan. During this conquest, Ferumbras killed the Pope and took possession of the Crown of Thorns and the three nails from Christ’s crucifixion. He arrives at Charlemagne’s camp and challenges Charles to send out his best knight to fight him in single combat. Roland refuses to take the challenge because he is angry that Charlemagne praised the martial acts of his old knights in battle and disparaged those of the younger knights like Roland. Oliver, though seriously wounded, accepts the challenge and rides out to meet Ferumbras. They fight nobly (and for many lines) until eventually Oliver defeats Ferumbras, who offers to convert to Christianity, join Charles’s army and return the relics. Oliver, attacked by huge numbers of Saracens, sets the wounded Ferumbras down and fights but is captured. Charles and other knights ride to his rescue albeit unsuccessfully, though they do pick Ferumbras up and arrange for his healing and baptism. Oliver and some other captured French knights are taken to the Amerel’s castle at Aigremont and are imprisoned in the dungeon. They are rescued by the Amerel’s daughter (and Ferumbras’s sister) Floripas, who kills their jailer and her governess and promises to release them if they will help her marry Gy de Burgoigne, with whom she fell in love at the battle for Rome. Charlemagne sends many of his Peers as messengers to Balan, who imprisons them and entrusts them to his daughter. Floripas takes them to her chambers where they meet their fellow prisoners and she negotiates an agreement to marry Gy. She has also been entrusted with the guardianship of the Passion relics and brings them out for Christian veneration in celebration of the betrothal (ll. 2104––>). Eventually, the alliance between the Peers and Floripas is discovered, and the Peers end up driving Balan and his men out of their own castle, but find themselves besieged within. Various sorties for food and battles ensue, including one where Gy is captured and later rescued by the Peers after they have been inspired by veneration of the Passion relics (ll. 2939à). Stuck in a stalemate against Balan’s forces, the French stage a diversionary sortie so that Duke Richard of Normandy can sneak away to bring Charlemagne to their rescue. Before Richard leaves, Roland makes him swear his commitment to delivering the message with an oath on the Passion relics (l. 3479à). Balan becomes more enraged and launches an even fiercer assault after Richard’s successful journey to Charlemagne. Eventually the tower in which the Peers and Floripas have taken refuge is so damaged and they are so hard-pressed that they accept they are fighting to their deaths and Floripas brings out the relics for a morale-boosting ostension. During this veneration of the relics, Naymes rushes, with unspecified Passion relics in his hand, to defend a window against 200 attacking Saracens (l. 5035à). The Saracens are so frightened at the sight of the relics that they fall to the ground and are killed. Charlemagne and his forces eventually arrive and defeat Balan and his forces. Balan refuses baptism twice and is beheaded. Charlemagne agrees to the wedding of Gy and Floripas, who is then undressed for baptism, at which point the manuscript breaks off incomplete.


Relics Appearing in Text:

Crown of Thorns


Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations


Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 33


List of Editions of the Medieval Text: 

“Sir Ferumbras”. In The English Charlemagne Romances Part 1. Edited by S. J. Herrtage. EETS ES 34, London: Trübner & Co., 1879.

Available online:

List of Translations of the Medieval Text: 




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