Although it conforms heavily to the conventions of twelfth-century romance, as a work of the early thirteenth century, Gilles de Chin is perhaps the earliest continental chivalric biography. It follows the story of the historical lord of Berlaymont, Gilles de Chin (d. 1137), from his early career as a tournament champion and chaste courtly lover through his crusade to the Holy Land, return, death in battle and burial at the abbey of St. Ghislain. The poem contains a very striking account – nearly unique in Old French literature – of the hero’s decision to take the cross, and also recounts events at the royal court of Jerusalem, ruled by a king and a wicked queen, who perhaps represents Queen Melisende (r. 1131-1153).
Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal MS 3140 (unique)
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