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Roncesvalles(rōn'thāsvä`lyās), Fr. Roncevaux, mountain pass (alt. 3,468 ft/1,057 m), in the Pyrenees, between Pamplona (Spain) and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France). Tradition has made it the scene of the death of the hero RolandRoland
, the great French hero of the medieval Charlemagne cycle of chansons de geste, immortalized in the Chanson de Roland (11th or 12th cent.). Existence of an early Roland poem is indicated by the historian Wace's statement that Taillefer sang of Roland's deeds
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(French, Roncevaux), a village in the Western Pyrenees in the Spanish province of Navarre. The village is situated below the pass where on Aug. 15, 778, the Basques, allies of the Moors, fell upon and destroyed the rear guard of Charlemagne’s Frankish army, which was retreating to France after an unsuccessful siege of Zaragoza. The commander Roland, hero of the French epic Song of Roland, was killed in the battle.