Pas Bayard; hoof prints in stones in Belgium

This stone at Dinant is said to have been cleaved by the mythical horse. Le rocher Bayard, la nuit; painting from 1838

At Vitron, about 50 kilometers from La-Roche-en-Ardenne, there is a stone that is comparable to the stone at the source of Saint Thibaut (see the article Sacred stones and miraculous springs). The stone at Vitron would be the footprint of Pas Bayard (the steed Beiaard). There are also similar stones in France. The discovery of a plaque commemorating Mars Ianus, fragments of two other votive inscriptions, two column bases with serpent-footed giants, and an altar suggest that there was once an important pre-Christian shrine at Vitron.

Another Pas Bayard stone is located in the municipality of Durbuy in the Belgian province of Luxembourg. It is one of several legend stones in the area, next to the Pierre Haina and the Devil’s Bed (see Wéris: dolmen, menhirs, the Pierre Haina and equinoxes – not yet translated, but available in Dutch). The Pas Bayard stone is located in a front garden in the hamlet of Pas-Bayard and has a long groove at the top. According to legend, this groove is an imprint of the hoof of the Ros Beiaard when the horse pushed off to jump (with the four Heemskinderen – Quatre Fils Aymon – on its back) to Durbuy, a jump of about 10 kilometers.

Pas Bayard stone in Pas-Bayard
The groove
Pas Bayard stone

The impression of a horse (hoof) is more common in megaliths, as can be read in Horseshoe shapes and megaliths. Other prints in the stone also occur, such as the fingerprints or footprints of a giant, hero, devil or saint. These imprints were left in the stone during a jump, or while the stone was thrown, for example. Sometimes it is the imprint of a knee (made while praying) or elbow (see also Stories about sacrificial stones and Stories about sacrificial stones – 2).

With Pas Bayard or Ros Beiaard it is not about a normal horse, but about a very special mythical creature. The saga of the Ros Beiaard and the Four Heemskinderen was widely spread across Europe. Depending on the city or region, variations on the original story arose. This can be explained by the fact that the saga of the Ros Beiaard is part of the oral and written tradition of medieval chivalric romances in Europe. In many cities in neighboring countries, processions with the Ros Carillon are known or known, and there are statues or other references to the legend. In addition to Belgium, references to the Ros Carillon can also be found in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands.

A procession with this (wooden) horse still exists in Dendermonde, Lier, Ath, Mechelen and Duffel. The Ros Carillon folklore of Dendermonde, Ath and Mechelen are on the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. The saga of the Four Heemskinderen is a derivative of the Frankish novel Les quatre fils Aymon, which is set in the Meuse valley. In the original story, the horse, called le Cheval Bayard there, is drowned in the Meuse. His Flemish counterpart dies in the Scheldt.

The Procession with the Horse Bayard in the Guldenhoofdstraat in Brussels, David Noviliers, 1615

A popular interpretation makes Bayard the mount of a fallen Celtic sun god. This horse, probably the most famous of the Middle Ages, seems to date back to pagan beliefs that predate most texts in which the horse appears. Henri Dontenville sees in Bayard a name derived from “Bélénique”, that is to say that it can be associated with the Celtic god Bélénos (“shining”, “brilliant”, “bright”, “burning”, “magnificent”, “ shining” and also “strong powerful”), a Gallic god. The god is related to spring, waters and springs.

Roman monolith dedicated to the cult of Maponos/Apollo/Bélénos.

All shrines dedicated to light or solar worship were within his domain. His cult seems to have been important throughout the Celtic world.

Bélénos can be compared with the Germanic Baldr (from the same root *bhel- “bright, luminous”), see also Baldr’s stone.

His Irish equivalent is Bile, father of Mile, king of the Milesians (the last people to invade Ireland). The Welsh equivalent of Belenos is Beli. The Gallic Bélénos merged with the Greco-Roman Apollo, retaining only a truncated solar aspect.

It is clear that the Roman god has attributes and characteristics identical to those of Bélénos: youth, beauty, sunlight.

In the last three verses of Maugis d’Aigremont it is related that Bayard, since the attempted drowning, has been sounding his neigh every year from the summer solstice to Fête de la Saint-Jean (Saint John’s Day, June 24). The testimony of a child from the Ardennes in 1861 tells: “Fortunately, Bayard was a fairy. Charlemagne could not drown him and even now, every year on St. John’s Day at midnight, he runs through our mountains; his neighing sometimes imitates the sound of the horn, sometimes the voice of man. His feet burn everything they touch and the traces of his passage remain imprinted on the ground”.

Maugis aka Malegijs (sometimes Maeldegijs or Madelgijs) is a knight and mage who appears in medieval legends. He would have lived in the time of both Charles Martel (ca. 689 – 741) and Charlemagne (747 or 748 – 814) and was an opponent of the Carolingian dynasty. The earliest extant version of Maugris’ story was the anonymous Old French chanson de geste Quatre Fils Aymon from the late 12th century.

Maugis was raised by Oriande the fairy and he became a great wizard. He won the magic horse Bayard and the sword Froberge which he later gave to his cousin Renaud. Renaud is banished because he allegedly killed a cousin and his brothers (Richard, Alard and Guiscard) also did some things. These four brothers are known as the Heemskinderen.

Maugis on his horse Bayard, fighting the infidels in Renaud de Montaubant. Loyset Liedet, Bruges, 1462-1470
Maugis fights the Saracen wizard Noiron in Aigremont in Renaud de Montaubant. David Aubert, Bruges, 1462-1470

Renaud or Reinout was leader of the Gascons (Basques) and would be a cousin of the leader Roland. (The death of) Roland has already been told in Charlemagne and (the destruction of) megalitts. The story of the horse and the four boys is told in various ways; there is also a legend in which it is said that the horse cleaved the rock Bayard in Dinant in two. This rock is the first image in this article.

Renaud is said to have received Monteban or Mantalban Castle from his parents. A (Saracen) castle had previously stood on the same site and there was an underground tunnel that led from the castle to the Forest of the Serpent. According to some, the castle was close to Dinant, but foundations have also been found near Virton.

Charlemagne besieges Montalban and the Heemskinderen flee to a castle in the Ardennes. Then Aye mediates peace between her brother Karel and the Heemskinderen, provided that Reinout gives up his horse Bayard. Charlemagne, as punishment for the horse’s exploits, has a large stone tied around Bayard’s neck and pushed into the river; However, Bayard smashes the stone with his hooves and escapes to live in the woods forever. The famous horse drowns in other versions (on the third attempt, when he is finally tied to ten millstones).

The four children of Heems on the horse Carillon at the castle of Dourdonne. Manuscrit de Renaut de Montauban en prose, circa 1470

The three brothers stay with Karel, Reinout returns to Montalban alone. He becomes a hermit and lives in the desert for three years. Then he leaves for the Holy Land to fight against the pagans. Reinout meets Malegijs there and together they reconquer Jerusalem. Malegijs dies from an arrow and Reinout returns to Paris. From there he goes to Cologne to build St. Peter’s Church. Colleagues are jealous of his work ethic and dedication, kill him and put him in a sack and throw him into the Rhine. Later he is buried in a church in Dortmund.

The Pas Bayard stone near the road from Stoumont to Desnié and Spa is generally associated with a rock in which one can see a basin about ten centimeters in diameter and about eight centimeters deep.

These basins are mostly natural, but their shape and the regularity of their rims sometimes suggest they were used to make polished stone tools in the Neolithic period. This basin is interpreted as the imprint of a horse’s hoof.

It is of course not from just any horse, but here too it is about the mythical horse of the Ardennes, Bayard’s horse.

In Hargnies, the Pas Bayard is a block of quartzite that lies in undergrowth to the right of the road to Monthermé. You reach the stone via a winding path called the Pas Bayard path. In fact, it is a broken and unfinished millstone, probably dating from the Gallo-Roman or medieval period. The surface of the block follows the shape of a circular arc quite irregularly. At one of the edges, a small gap, smooth and semicircular, looks quite like a horse’s step.

According to tradition, Bayard made a miraculous leap from Vireux-Molhain, where Mont Vireux is said to be the site of an ancient castle of the Four Heemskinderen. When the horse fell, the hoof hit the stone and marked it with its imprint, breaking it in two. The surrounding undergrowth, as well as nearby meadows, are littered with erratic (the growing stones). One of them, the Roche du Berger, is considered by some to be a menhir.

The hoofprint in Pas Bayard stone

Another stone, located between Petit-Thier and Logbiermé on the wooded hills of Clair-Fa, is called Pas d’âne because it shows in its center the petrified imprint of one of the hooves of Saint Remacle’s donkey. o help build his monastery, Saint Remacle was accompanied by a donkey that served as a beast of burden. During one of his trips to the quarry to load stones, the donkey was attacked by one of these ferocious wolves, very common in the Ardennes forests. Remacle condemns this animal to replace the donkey and now carry the stones himself. Hence the presence of this wolf on all coats of arms of the abbey and still today on those of the City.

According to another tradition, Joseph’s donkey, which carried the Holy Family on the flight to Egypt, is said to be the maker of this track. There is also talk of the Bayard horse which, after a formidable leap, is said to have fallen backward on the stone and deeply marked it with its foot.

According to a superstition (found in many stones), women who aspired to motherhood or wanted to end too long infertility came to the stone. They placed one foot on the miraculous imprint (which was often filled with water) or sat on it for a long time to become fertile and enjoy its beneficial effects. Similar customs around stones have already been mentioned in Children’s Stones and Marrying at a Megalith.

In ancient times, some of these stones served as sacrificial altars. The memory of these pre-Christian cults has tarnished the image of the stones in many cases. But although these stones were destroyed, Christianized, belittled or demonized by the Church, in many cases they remained the object of superstitious devotions mainly related to love and fertility or celebrations on important days such as Midsummer.

Charlemagne has Bayard thrown into the Meuse with a large stone tied around his neck. Histoire des Quatre Fils Aymon, 1883

Charlemagne commands that the horse be thrown into a river with a whetstone round his neck, and rejoices at approaching death: “But as he looked afar off, to a place where the river widens, he sees the horse with swim vigorously and beat his hooves on the grindstone which shatters into many shards so that at last it breaks like a clod of earth. When he gets rid of it, he crosses the wide river and ends up again on the other bank where he climbs to the top of the slope; then he shakes himself from head to tail, neighing and beating his hooves on the ground. Finally, faster than a lark, he disappears into the heart of the wild forest of the Ardennes.’

Bayard escaped death in some versions of the stories. It is still said in the Kingdom that he still lives in the forest and that when he sees someone, instead of approaching him, he runs away as quickly as possible, like a devil who fears God.

Marinda Ruiter

Bas-relief in small granite from Sprimont by Louis Dupont, Liège, Pont des Arches, 1949. On the left the work features the Birth Mystery, which is reminiscent of the work of the Liège Romanist Rita Lejeune (1936) and on the right the horse Bayard des 4 Fils Aymon from the Meuse where it was thrown in by Charlemagne.

This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in that article: Pas Bayard; hoefafdrukken in stenen in België


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