Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Rolando
Rolando is the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish equivalent of Roland; although it tends to be mainly preferred by the Spanish while the Italians more commonly use Orlando. Borrowed from the Old French, Roland is a masculine name with Frankish (Germanic) origins and made up of the elements “hrōd” meaning “fame” and “land” meaning “land, territory”. Roland was a medieval historical figure and Frankish hero who fought for Charlemagne during the 8th and early 9th centuries (during the Crusades); his exploits on the battlefield were made famous in the epic literary work “The Song of Roland”, a classical 12th century French poem and the oldest surviving major piece of French literature (French: La Chanson de Roland). The legends of Roland and his “song of heroic deeds” were well known throughout the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas where the name was generally adopted as Orlando and Rolando, respectively. The poem was written to inspire a call to arms during military campaigns, most specifically the First Crusade (the Crusades were a series of religious “holy” wars from the 11th to 13th centuries whereby the European Christians attempted to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims). The subject of the poem is a heroic knight named Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne, King of the Franks (French) and Holy Roman Emperor during the 8th and early 9th centuries. The epic deals with the Christian campaign against the Saracens (Muslims) in Spain in the late 8th century. Based on true events (but with typical literary liberties), Roland is betrayed by his step-father and sold out to the King of the Saracens. He and his rear guard are ambushed and outnumbered at which point Roland’s trusted comrade and fellow soldier, Oliver, appeals to his friend to blow his “olifant” (elephant) horn to summon back the main forces. Roland refuses (why, we’re not told exactly but perhaps meant to demonstrate the hero’s valiancy, bravery and hubris – qualities which were considered important on the medieval battlefield). As the losses became staggering, Roland finally blew the olifant horn so forcefully that his temples burst, dying heroically while facing toward his enemy’s land. He was then promptly whisked away to heaven by the angels Gabriel and Michael along with assorted cherubim. So goes “The Song of Roland”. Roland, Rolando, Orlando – no matter which language version of the name – was an important epic hero and Christian Crusader throughout Europe which served to popularize the name. Interestingly, today the name Rolando is most popular in the Philippines, likely due to Spanish and Portuguese influence on the islands dating back to Spanish colonization of the 16th century.