Joyeuse: The Legendary Sword of Charlemagne

Joyeuse: The Legendary Sword of Charlemagne

(Read the article on one page)

The sword of Joyeuse, which today sits in the Louvre Museum, is one of the most famous swords in history.  Historical records link the sword to Charlemagne the Great, King of the Franks. If it did indeed belong to the famous king, who reigned some 1,200 years ago, the sword of Joyeuse would have been used in countless coronation ceremonies, and is tied with ancient myth and legend ascribing it with magical powers.

The story begins in the year 802 AD.  Legend states that the sword of Joyeuse, meaning “joyful” in French, was forged by the famous blacksmith Galas, and took three years to complete.  The sword was described as having magical powers associated with it.  It was said to have been so bright that it could outshine the sun and blind its wielder's enemies in battle, and any person who wielded the legendary sword could not be poisoned.  The Emperor Charlemagne, coming back from Spain was said to have set up camp in the region and acquired the sword. 

The finely crafted Joyeuse sword

The finely crafted Joyeuse sword ( Wikimedia Commons )

Charlemagne (742-814 AD), who was also known as Charles the Great, was king of the Franks and Christian emperor of the West. He did much to define the shape and character of medieval Europe and presided over the Carolingian Renaissance.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, he was the first to reunite Western Europe. He ruled a vast kingdom that encompassed what is now France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Low Countries, consolidating Christianity through his vast empire through forced conversions. His military ‘accomplishments’ frequently involved extreme brutality, such as the beheading of more than 2,500 Frankish and Saxon village chiefs.

The coronation of Charlemagne by Raphael, c 1515,

The coronation of Charlemagne by Raphael, c 1515, ( Wikimedia Commons )

The 11 th century Song of Roland, an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778, describes Charlemagne riding into battle with Joyeuse by his side:

[Charlemagne] was wearing his fine white coat of mail and his helmet with gold-studded stones; by his side hung Joyeuse, and never was there a sword to match it; its color changed thirty times a day.

One day, during battle, Charlemagne allegedly lost Joyeuse, and promised a reward for anyone who could find it.  After several attempts, one of his soldiers brought it to him and Charlemagne kept his promise by saying, “ Here will be built an estate of which you will be the lord and master, and your descendants will take the name of my wonderful sword: Joyeuse.”   Charlemagne is said to have planted his sword in the ground to mark the point where the town would be built.  According to the story, this is the origin of the French town of Joyeuse in Ardèche, which was founded on that spot and named in honor of the sword.     

The town of Joyeuse in Ardèche, France

The town of Joyeuse in Ardèche, France ( Wikimedia Commons )

There are no historical records to say what happened to the sword Joyeuse after the death of Charlemagne. However, in 1270AD, a sword identified as Joyeuse was used at the coronation ceremony of French King Philip the Bold, which was held in Reims Cathedral, France, and many kings after that. The sword was kept in the nearby monastery in Saint-Denis, a burial place for French kings, where it remained under the protection of the monks until at least 1505.

Joyeuse was moved to the Louvre on December 5, 1793 following the French Revolution.  It was last used by a French king in 1824 with the crowning of Charles X and is the only known sword to have served as the coronation sword of the Kings of France. 

King Louis XIV with Joyeuse by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701.

King Louis XIV with Joyeuse by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Today, the Joyeuse is preserved as a composite of various parts added over the centuries of use as coronation sword. The blade is characteristic of the Oakeshott Style XII, which features a broad, flat, evenly tapering blade.  The pommel (top fitting) of the sword dates from the 10 th and 11 th centuries, the cross to the second half of the 12 th century, and the grip to the 13 th century.

The grip once featured a fleur-de-lis, but was removed for the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804.  Two dragons form the cross section and their eyes are of lapis lazuli.   The scabbard, also modified, has a velvet sheath embroidered with fleur-de-lis and was added for the coronation of Charles X in 1824.  Both sides of the pommel are decorated with a repoussé motif representing birds affrontee, similar to Scandinavian ornaments of the 10 th and 11 th centuries. The two cross-guards, in the form of stylized winged dragon figures, can be dated to the 12 th century.  The gold spindle, covered with a diamond net pattern, is believed to be from the 13 th or 14 th century.


Pretty awesome to see it in Old paintings so long ago, with a king and it is considerably older than that, But then there it Sits ! Right in front of all future generations to see, see a true survivor of history, that has served and probably killed, so many :) Cool story !

I don't see the sword in the Raphael painting though. :(
It should be there !

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Tracing the origins of the Serpent Cult
In mythology, the serpent symbolises fertility and procreation, wisdom, death, and resurrection (due to the shedding of its skin, which is not akin to rebirth), and in the earliest schools of...

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Grinding stone, Dendera Temple, Egypt.
Most people know of the great construction achievements of the dynastic Egyptians such as the pyramids and temples of the Giza Plateau area as well as the Sphinx. Many books and videos show depictions of vast work forces hewing blocks of stone in the hot desert sun and carefully setting them into place.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article