The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis - Vol. 2

The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis - Vol. 2

The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis - Vol. 2

The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis - Vol. 2

Excerpt

Orderic Vitalis of St. Évroul is one of the most remarkable of Anglo-Norman historians; and the Ecclesiastical History to which he devoted the last thirty years of his life is his greatest work. The little that we know of his life comes from incidental notices in his writings. He was of mixed descent; his father was Odelerius of Orleans, a priest in the household of Roger of Montgomery, and his mother must have been an Englishwoman, since Orderic repeatedly refers to himself as angligena, and his father was French. Born near Shrewsbury in 1075 and baptized with the name of Orderic in St. Eata's church at Atcham, he began his grammatical studies under a priest in Shrewsbury at the age of five, and remained there till he was ten. From an early age he was destined for the cloister. His father's decision not to place him as an oblate in the new monastery of St. Peter's at Shrewsbury, but to send him to the distant Norman monastery of St. Évroul is best described in Orderic's own words. As an old man completing the thirteenth book of his History he thanked God for the many mercies of his past life, and enumerated them.

It was not thy will, O God [he wrote], that I should serve thee longer in that place, for fear that I might be less attentive to thee among kinsfolk, who are often a burden and an impediment to thy servants, or might in any way be distracted from obeying thy law through human affection for my family. And so, O glorious God, who didst command Abraham to depart from his country and from his kindred and from his father's house, thou didst inspire my father Odelerius to renounce me utterly and submit me in all things to thy governance. So, weeping, he gave me, a weeping child, into the care of the monk Reginald, and sent me away into exile for love of thee, and never saw me again. And I, a mere boy, did not presume to oppose my father's wishes, but obeyed . . .

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