The Itinerary of Archibishop Baldwin through Wales
Giraldus Cambrensis

Part 1 out of 3

This etext was prepared by David Price, from the 1912 J. M. Dent edition.

The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales


Gerald the Welshman - Giraldus Cambrensis - was born, probably in
1147, at Manorbier Castle in the county of Pembroke. His father was
a Norman noble, William de Barri, who took his name from the little
island of Barry off the coast of Glamorgan. His mother, Angharad,
was the daughter of Gerald de Windsor {1} by his wife, the famous
Princess Nesta, the "Helen of Wales," and the daughter of Rhys ap
Tewdwr Mawr, the last independent Prince of South Wales.

Gerald was therefore born to romance and adventure. He was reared
in the traditions of the House of Dinevor. He heard the brilliant
and pitiful stories of Rhys ap Tewdwr, who, after having lost and
won South Wales, died on the stricken field fighting against the
Normans, an old man of over fourscore years; and of his gallant son,
Prince Rhys, who, after wrenching his patrimony from the invaders,
died of a broken heart a few months after his wife, the Princess
Gwenllian, had fallen in a skirmish at Kidwelly. No doubt he heard,
though he makes but sparing allusion to them, of the loves and
adventures of his grandmother, the Princess Nesta, the daughter and
sister of a prince, the wife of an adventurer, the concubine of a
king, and the paramour of every daring lover - a Welshwoman whose
passions embroiled all Wales, and England too, in war, and the
mother of heroes - Fitz-Geralds, Fitz-Stephens, and Fitz-Henries,
and others - who, regardless of their mother's eccentricity in the
choice of their fathers, united like brothers in the most
adventurous undertaking of that age, the Conquest of Ireland.

Though his mother was half Saxon and his father probably fully
Norman, Gerald, with a true instinct, described himself as a
"Welshman." His frank vanity, so naive as to be void of offence,
his easy acceptance of everything which Providence had bestowed on
him, his incorrigible belief that all the world took as much
interest in himself and all that appealed to him as he did himself,
the readiness with which he adapted himself to all sorts of men and
of circumstances, his credulity in matters of faith and his shrewd
common sense in things of the world, his wit and lively fancy, his
eloquence of tongue and pen, his acute rather than accurate
observation, his scholarship elegant rather than profound, are all
characteristic of a certain lovable type of South Walian. He was
not blind to the defects of his countrymen any more than to others
of his contemporaries, but the Welsh he chastised as one who loved
them. His praise followed ever close upon the heels of his
criticism. There was none of the rancour in his references to Wales
which defaces his account of contemporary Ireland. He was
acquainted with Welsh, though he does not seem to have preached it,
and another archdeacon acted as the interpreter of Archbishop
Baldwin's Crusade sermon in Anglesea. But he could appreciate the
charm of the Cynghanedd, the alliterative assonance which is still
the most distinctive feature of Welsh poetry. He cannot conceal his
sympathy with the imperishable determination of his countrymen to
keep alive the language which is their differentia among the nations
of the world. It is manifest in the story which he relates at the
end of his "Description of Wales." Henry II. asked an old Welshman
of Pencader in Carmarthenshire if the Welsh could resist his might.
"This nation, O King," was the reply, "may often be weakened and in
great part destroyed by the power of yourself and of others, but
many a time, as it deserves, it will rise triumphant. But never
will it be destroyed by the wrath of man, unless the wrath of God be
added. Nor do I think that any other nation than this of Wales, or
any other tongue, whatever may hereafter come to pass, shall on the
day of the great reckoning before the Most High Judge, answer for
this corner of the earth." Prone to discuss with his "Britannic
frankness" the faults of his countrymen, he cannot bear that any one
else should do so. In the "Description of Wales" he breaks off in
the middle of a most unflattering passage concerning the character
of the Welsh people to lecture Gildas for having abused his own
countrymen. In the preface to his "Instruction of Princes," he
makes a bitter reference to the prejudice of the English Court
against everything Welsh - "Can any good thing come from Wales?"
His fierce Welshmanship is perhaps responsible for the unsympathetic
treatment which he has usually received at the hands of English
historians. Even to one of the writers of Dr. Traill's "Social
England," Gerald was little more than "a strong and passionate

Sometimes it was his pleasure to pose as a citizen of the world. He
loved Paris, the centre of learning, where he studied as a youth,
and where he lectured in his early manhood. He paid four long
visits to Rome. He was Court chaplain to Henry II. He accompanied
the king on his expeditions to France, and Prince John to Ireland.
He retired, when old age grew upon him, to the scholarly seclusion
of Lincoln, far from his native land. He was the friend and
companion of princes and kings, of scholars and prelates everywhere
in England, in France, and in Italy. And yet there was no place in
the world so dear to him as Manorbier. Who can read his vivid
description of the old castle by the sea - its ramparts blown upon
by the winds that swept over the Irish Sea, its fishponds, its
garden, and its lofty nut trees - without feeling that here, after
all, was the home of Gerald de Barri? "As Demetia," he said in his
"Itinerary," "with its seven cantreds is the fairest of all the
lands of Wales, as Pembroke is the fairest part of Demetia, and this
spot the fairest of Pembroke, it follows that Manorbier is the
sweetest spot in Wales." He has left us a charming account of his
boyhood, playing with his brothers on the sands, they building
castles and he cathedrals, he earning the title of "boy bishop" by
preaching while they engaged in boyish sport. On his last recorded
visit to Wales, a broken man, hunted like a criminal by the king,
and deserted by the ingrate canons of St. David's, he retired for a
brief respite from strife to the sweet peace of Manorbier. It is
not known where he died, but it is permissible to hope that he
breathed his last in the old home which he never forgot or ceased to

He mentions that the Welsh loved high descent and carried their
pedigree about with them. In this respect also Gerald was Welsh to
the core. He is never more pleased than when he alludes to his
relationship with the Princes of Wales, or the Geraldines, or
Cadwallon ap Madoc of Powis. He hints, not obscurely, that the real
reason why he was passed over for the Bishopric of St. David's in
1186 was that Henry II. feared his natio et cognatio, his nation and
his family. He becomes almost dithyrambic in extolling the deeds of
his kinsmen in Ireland. "Who are they who penetrated into the
fastnesses of the enemy? The Geraldines. Who are they who hold the
country in submission? The Geraldines. Who are they whom the
foemen dread? The Geraldines. Who are they whom envy would
disparage? The Geraldines. Yet fight on, my gallant kinsmen,

" Felices facti si quid mea carmina possuit."

Gerald was satisfied, not only with his birthplace and lineage, but
with everything that was his. He makes complacent references to his
good looks, which he had inherited from Princess Nesta. "Is it
possible so fair a youth can die?" asked Bishop, afterwards
Archbishop, Baldwin, when he saw him in his student days. {2} Even
in his letters to Pope Innocent he could not refrain from repeating
a compliment paid to him on his good looks by Matilda of St. Valery,
the wife of his neighbour at Brecon, William de Braose. He praises
his own unparalleled generosity in entertaining the poor, the
doctors, and the townsfolk of Oxford to banquets on three successive
days when he read his "Topography of Ireland" before that
university. As for his learning he records that when his tutors at
Paris wished to point out a model scholar they mentioned Giraldus
Cambrensis. He is confident that though his works, being all
written in Latin, have not attained any great contemporary
popularity, they will make his name and fame secure for ever. The
most precious gift he could give to Pope Innocent III., when he was
anxious to win his favour, was six volumes of his own works; and
when good old Archbishop Baldwin came to preach the Crusade in
Wales, Gerald could think of no better present to help beguile the
tedium of the journey than his own "Topography of Ireland." He is
equally pleased with his own eloquence. When the archbishop had
preached, with no effect, for an hour, and exclaimed what a
hardhearted people it was, Gerald moved them almost instantly to
tears. He records also that John Spang, the Lord Rhys's fool, said
to his master at Cardigan, after Gerald had been preaching the
Crusade, "You owe a great debt, O Rhys, to your kinsman, the
archdeacon, who has taken a hundred or so of your men to serve the
Lord; for if he had only spoken in Welsh, you would not have had a
soul left." His works are full of appreciations of Gerald's
reforming zeal, his administrative energy, his unostentatious and
scholarly life.

Professor Freeman in his "Norman Conquest" described Gerald as "the
father of comparative philology," and in the preface to his edition
of the last volume of Gerald's works in the Rolls Series, he calls
him "one of the most learned men of a learned age," "the universal
scholar." His range of subjects is indeed marvellous even for an
age when to be a "universal scholar" was not so hopeless of
attainment as it has since become. Professor Brewer, his earliest
editor in the Rolls Series, is struck by the same characteristic.
"Geography, history, ethics, divinity, canon law, biography, natural
history, epistolary correspondence, and poetry employed his pen by
turns, and in all these departments of literature he has left
memorials of his ability." Without being Ciceronian, his Latin was
far better than that of his contemporaries. He was steeped in the
classics, and he had, as Professor Freeman remarks, "mastered more
languages than most men of his time, and had looked at them with an
approach to a scientific view which still fewer men of his time
shared with him." He quotes Welsh, English, Irish, French, German,
Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and with four or five of these languages
at least he had an intimate, scholarly acquaintance. His judgment
of men and things may not always have been sound, but he was a
shrewd observer of contemporary events. "The cleverest critic of
the life of his time" is the verdict of Mr. Reginald Poole. {3} He
changed his opinions often: he was never ashamed of being
inconsistent. In early life he was, perhaps naturally, an admirer
of the Angevin dynasty; he lived to draw the most terrible picture
extant of their lives and characters. During his lifetime he never
ceased to inveigh against Archbishop Hubert Walter; after his death
he repented and recanted. His invective was sometimes coarse, and
his abuse was always virulent. He was not over-scrupulous in his
methods of controversy; but no one can rise from a reading of his
works without a feeling of liking for the vivacious, cultured,
impulsive, humorous, irrepressible Welshman. Certainly no Welshman
can regard the man who wrote so lovingly of his native land, and who
championed her cause so valiantly, except with real gratitude and

But though it is as a writer of books that Gerald has become famous,
he was a man of action, who would have left, had Fate been kinder,
an enduring mark on the history of his own time, and would certainly
have changed the whole current of Welsh religious life. As a
descendant of the Welsh princes, he took himself seriously as a
Welsh patriot. Destined almost from his cradle, both by the bent of
his mind and the inclination of his father, to don "the habit of
religion," he could not join Prince Rhys or Prince Llewelyn in their
struggle for the political independence of Wales. His ambition was
to become Bishop of St. David's, and then to restore the Welsh
Church to her old position of independence of the metropolitan
authority of Canterbury. He detested the practice of promoting
Normans to Welsh sees, and of excluding Welshmen from high positions
in their own country. "Because I am a Welshman, am I to be debarred
from all preferment in Wales?" he indignantly writes to the Pope.
Circumstances at first seemed to favour his ambition. His uncle,
David Fitz-Gerald, sat in the seat of St. David's. When the young
scholar returned from Paris in 1172, he found the path of promotion
easy. After the manner of that age - which Gerald lived to denounce
- he soon became a pluralist. He held the livings of Llanwnda,
Tenby, and Angle, and afterwards the prebend of Mathry, in
Pembrokeshire, and the living of Chesterton in Oxfordshire. He was
also prebendary of Hereford, canon of St. David's, and in 1175, when
only twenty-eight years of age, he became Archdeacon of Brecon. In
the following year Bishop David died, and Gerald, together with the
other archdeacons of the diocese, was nominated by the chapter for
the king's choice. But the chapter had been premature, urged, no
doubt, by the impetuous young Archdeacon of Brecon. They had not
waited for the king's consent to the nomination. The king saw that
his settled policy in Wales would be overturned if Gerald became
Bishop of St. David's. Gerald's cousin, the Lord Rhys, had been
appointed the king's justiciar in South Wales. The power of the
Lord Marches was to be kept in check by a quasi-alliance between the
Welsh prince and his over-lord. The election of Gerald to the
greatest see in Wales would upset the balance of power. David Fitz-
Gerald, good easy man (vir sua sorte contentus is Gerald's
description of him), the king could tolerate, but he could not
contemplate without uneasiness the combination of spiritual and
political power in South Wales in the hands of two able, ambitious,
and energetic kinsmen, such as he knew Gerald and the Lord Rhys to
be. Gerald had made no secret of his admiration for the martyred
St. Thomas e Becket. He fashioned himself upon him as Becket did on
Anselm. The part which Becket played in England he would like to
play in Wales. But the sovereign who had destroyed Becket was not
to be frightened by the canons of St. David's and the Archdeacon of
Brecon. He summoned the chapter to Westminster, and compelled them
in his presence to elect Peter de Leia, the Prior of Wenlock, who
erected for himself an imperishable monument in the noble cathedral
which looks as if it had sprung up from the rocks which guard the
city of Dewi Sant from the inrush of the western sea.

It is needless to recount the many activities in which Gerald
engaged during the next twenty-two years. They have been recounted
with humorous and affectionate appreciation by Dr. Henry Owen in his
monograph on "Gerald the Welshman," a little masterpiece of
biography which deserves to be better known. {4} In 1183 Gerald was
employed by the astute king to settle terms between him and the
rebellious Lord Rhys. Nominally as a reward for his successful
diplomacy, but probably in order to keep so dangerous a character
away from the turbulent land of Wales, Gerald was in the following
year made a Court chaplain. In 1185 he was commissioned by the king
to accompany Prince John, then a lad of eighteen, who had lately
been created "Lord of Ireland," to the city of Dublin. There he
abode for two years, collecting materials for his two first books,
the "Topography" and the "Conquest of Ireland." In 1188 he
accompanied Archbishop Baldwin through Wales to preach the Third
Crusade - not the first or the last inconsistency of which the
champion of the independence of the Welsh Church was guilty. His
"Itinerary through Wales" is the record of the expedition. King
Richard offered him the Bishopric of Bangor, and John, in his
brother's absence, offered him that of Llandaff. But his heart was
set on St. David's. In 1198 his great chance came to him. At last,
after twenty-two years of misrule, Peter de Leia was dead, and
Gerald seemed certain of attaining his heart's desire. Once again
the chapter nominated Gerald; once more the royal authority was
exerted, this time by Archbishop Hubert, the justiciar in the king's
absence, to defeat the ambitious Welshman. The chapter decided to
send a deputation to King Richard in Normandy. The deputation
arrived at Chinon to find Coeur-de-Lion dead; but John was anxious
to make friends everywhere, in order to secure himself on his
uncertain throne. He received the deputation graciously, he spoke
in praise of Gerald, and he agreed to accept the nomination. But
after his return to England John changed his mind. He found that no
danger threatened him in his island kingdom, and he saw the wisdom
of the justiciar's policy. Gerald hurried to see him, but John
point blank refused publicly to ratify his consent to the nomination
which he had already given in private. Then commenced the historic
fight for St. David's which, in view of the still active "Church
question" in Wales, is even now invested with a living interest and
significance. Gerald contended that the Welsh Church was
independent of Canterbury, and that it was only recently, since the
Norman Conquest, that she had been deprived of her freedom. His
opponents relied on political, rather than historical,
considerations to defeat this bold claim. King Henry, when a
deputation from the chapter in 1175 appeared before the great
council in London and had urged the metropolitan claims of St.
David's upon the Cardinal Legate, exclaimed that he had no intention
of giving this head to rebellion in Wales. Archbishop Hubert, more
of a statesman than an ecclesiastic, based his opposition on similar
grounds. He explained his reasons bluntly to the Pope. "Unless the
barbarity of this fierce and lawless people can be restrained by
ecclesiastical censures through the see of Canterbury, to which
province they are subject by law, they will be for ever rising in
arms against the king, to the disquiet of the whole realm of
England." Gerald's answer to this was complete, except from the
point of view of political expediency. "What can be more unjust
than that this people of ancient faith, because they answer force by
force in defence of their lives, their lands, and their liberties,
should be forthwith separated from the body corporate of
Christendom, and delivered over to Satan?"

The story of the long fight between Gerald on the one hand and the
whole forces of secular and ecclesiastical authority on the other
cannot be told here. Three times did he visit Rome to prosecute his
appeal - alone against the world. He had to journey through
districts disturbed by wars, infested with the king's men or the
king's enemies, all of whom regarded Gerald with hostility. He was
taken and thrown into prison as King John's subject in one town, he
was detained by importunate creditors in another, and at Rome he was
betrayed by a countryman whom he had befriended. He himself has
told us

Of the most disastrous chances
Of moving accidents by flood and field,

which made a journey from St. David's to Rome a more perilous
adventure in those unquiet days than an expedition "through darkest
Africa" is in ours. At last the very Chapter of St. David's, for
whose ancient rights he was contending, basely deserted him. "The
laity of Wales stood by me," so he wrote in later days, "but of the
clergy whose battle I was fighting scarce one." Pope Innocent III.
was far too wary a politician to favour the claims of a small and
distracted nation, already half-subjugated, against the king of a
rich and powerful country. He flattered our poor Gerald, he
delighted in his company, he accepted, and perhaps even read, his
books. But in the end, after five years' incessant fighting, the
decision went against him, and the English king's nominee has ever
since sat on the throne of St. David's. "Many and great wars," said
Gwenwynwyn, the Prince of Powis, "have we Welshmen waged with
England, but none so great and fierce as his who fought the king and
the archbishop, and withstood the might of the whole clergy and
people of England, for the honour of Wales."

Short was the memory and scant the gratitude of his countrymen.
When in 1214 another vacancy occurred at a time when King John was
at variance with his barons and his prelates, the Chapter of St.
David's nominated, not Gerald, their old champion, but Iorwerth, the
Abbot of Talley, from whose reforming zeal they had nothing to fear.
This last prick of Fortune's sword pierced Gerald to the quick. He
had for years been gradually withdrawing from an active life. He
had resigned his archdeaconry and his prebend stall, he had made a
fourth pilgrimage, this time for his soul's sake, to Rome, he had
retired to a quiet pursuit of letters probably at Lincoln, and
henceforward, till his death about the year 1223, he devoted himself
to revising and embellishing his old works, and completing his
literary labours. By his fight for St. David's he had endeared
himself to the laity of his country for all time. The saying of
Llewelyn the Great was prophetic. "So long as Wales shall stand by
the writings of the chroniclers and by the songs of the bards shall
his noble deed be praised throughout all time." The prophecy has
not yet been verified. Welsh chroniclers have made but scanty
references to Gerald; no bard has ever yet sung an Awdl or a
Pryddest in honour of him who fought for the "honour of Wales." His
countrymen have forgotten Gerald the Welshman. It has been left to
Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Foster, Professor Brewer, Dimmock, and
Professor Freeman to edit his works. Only two of his countrymen
have attempted to rescue one of the greatest of Welshmen from an
undeserved oblivion. In 1585, when the Renaissance of Letters had
begun to rouse the dormant powers of the Cymry, Dr. David Powel
edited in Latin a garbled version of the "Itinerary" and
"Description of Wales," and gave a short and inaccurate account of
Gerald's life. In 1889 Dr. Henry Owen published, "at his own proper
charges," the first adequate account by a Welshman of the life and
labours of Giraldus Cambrensis. When his monument is erected in the
cathedral which was built by his hated rival, the epitaph which he
composed for himself may well be inscribed upon it -

Cambria Giraldus genuit, sic Cambria mentem
Erudiit, cineres cui lapis iste tegit.

And by that time perhaps some competent scholar will have translated
some at least of Gerald's works into the language best understood by
the people of Wales.

It would be impossible to exaggerate the enormous services which
three great Welshmen of the twelfth century rendered to England and
to the world - such services as we may securely hope will be
emulated by Welshmen of the next generation, now that we have lived
to witness what Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton has called "the great
recrudescence of Cymric energy." {5} The romantic literature of
England owes its origin to Geoffrey of Monmouth; {6} Sir Galahad,
the stainless knight, the mirror of Christian chivalry, as well as
the nobler portions of the Arthurian romance, were the creation of
Walter Map, the friend and "gossip" of Gerald; {7} and John Richard
Green has truly called Gerald himself "the father of popular
literature." {8} He began to write when he was only twenty; he
continued to write till he was past the allotted span of life. He
is the most "modern" as well as the most voluminous of all the
mediaeval writers. Of all English writers, Miss Kate Norgate {9}
has perhaps most justly estimated the real place of Gerald in
English letters. "Gerald's wide range of subjects," she says, "is
only less remarkable than the ease and freedom with which he treats
them. Whatever he touches - history, archaeology, geography,
natural science, politics, the social life and thought of the day,
the physical peculiarities of Ireland and the manners and customs of
its people, the picturesque scenery and traditions of his own native
land, the scandals of the court and the cloister, the petty struggle
for the primacy of Wales, and the great tragedy of the fall of the
Angevin Empire - is all alike dealt with in the bold, dashing,
offhand style of a modern newspaper or magazine article. His first
important work, the 'Topography of Ireland,' is, with due allowance
for the difference between the tastes of the twelfth century and
those of the nineteenth, just such a series of sketches as a special
correspondent in our own day might send from some newly-colonised
island in the Pacific to satisfy or whet the curiosity of his
readers at home." The description aptly applies to all that Gerald
wrote. If not a historian, he was at least a great journalist. His
descriptions of Ireland have been subjected to much hostile
criticism from the day they were written to our own times. They
were assailed at the time, as Gerald himself tells us, for their
unconventionality, for their departure from established custom, for
the freedom and colloquialism of their style, for the audacity of
their stories, and for the writer's daring in venturing to treat the
manners and customs of a barbarous country as worthy the attention
of the learned and the labours of the historian. Irish scholars,
from the days of Dr. John Lynch, who published his "Cambrensis
Eversus" in 1622, have unanimously denounced the work of the
sensational journalist, born out of due time. His Irish books are
confessedly partisan; the "Conquest of Ireland" was expressly
designed as an eulogy of "the men of St. David's," the writer's own
kinsmen. But in spite of partisanship and prejudice, they must be
regarded as a serious and valuable addition to our knowledge of the
state of Ireland at the latter end of the twelfth century. Indeed,
Professor Brewer does not hesitate to say that "to his industry we
are exclusively indebted for all that is known of the state of
Ireland during the whole of the Middle Ages," and as to the
"Topography," Gerald "must take rank with the first who descried the
value and in some respects the limits of descriptive geography."

When he came to deal with the affairs of state on a larger stage,
his methods were still that of the modern journalist. He was always
an impressionist, a writer of personal sketches. His character
sketches of the Plantagenet princes - of King Henry with his large
round head and fat round belly, his fierce eyes, his tigerish
temper, his learning, his licentiousness, his duplicity, and of
Eleanor of Aquitaine, his vixenish and revengeful wife, the
murderess of "Fair Rosamond" (who must have been known to Gerald,
being the daughter of Walter of Clifford-on-the-Wye), and of the
fierce brood that they reared - are of extraordinary interest. His
impressions of the men and events of his time, his fund of anecdotes
and bon mots, his references to trivial matters, which more
dignified writers would never deign to mention, his sprightly and
sometimes malicious gossip, invest his period with a reality which
the greatest of fiction-writers has failed to rival. Gerald lived
in the days of chivalry, days which have been crowned with a halo of
deathless romance by the author of "Ivanhoe" and the "Talisman." He
knew and was intimate with all the great actors of the time. He had
lived in the Paris of St. Louis and Philip Augustus, and was never
tired of exalting the House of Capet over the tyrannical and
bloodthirsty House of Anjou. He had no love of England, for her
Plantagenet kings or her Saxon serfs. During the French invasion in
the time of King John his sympathies were openly with the Dauphin as
against the "brood of vipers," who were equally alien to English
soil. For the Saxon, indeed, he felt the twofold hatred of Welshman
and Norman. One of his opponents is denounced to the Pope as an
"untriwe Sax," and the Saxons are described as the slaves of the
Normans, the mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for their
conquerors. He met Innocent III., the greatest of Popes, in
familiar converse, he jested and gossiped with him in slippered
ease, he made him laugh at his endless stories of the glory of
Wales, the iniquities of the Angevins, and the bad Latin of
Archbishop Walter. He knew Richard Coeur-de-Lion, the flower of
chivalry, and saw him as he was and "not through a glass darkly."
He knew John, the cleverest and basest of his house. He knew and
loved Stephen Langton, the precursor of a long line of statesmen who
have made English liberty broad - based upon the people's will. He
was a friend of St. Hugh of Lincoln, the sweetest and purest spirit
in the Anglican Church of the Middle Ages, the one man who could
disarm the wrath of the fierce king with a smile; and he was the
friend and patron of Robert Grosstete, afterwards the great Bishop
of Lincoln. He lived much in company with Ranulph de Glanville, the
first English jurist, and he has "Boswellised" some of his
conversations with him. He was intimate with Archbishop Baldwin,
the saintly prelate who laid down his life in the Third Crusade on
the burning plains of Palestine, heart-broken at the unbridled
wickedness of the soldiers of the Cross. He was the near kinsman
and confidant of the Cambro-Normans, who, landing in Leinster in
1165, effected what may be described as the first conquest of
Ireland. There was scarcely a man of note in his day whom he had
not seen and conversed with, or of whom he does not relate some
piquant story. He had travelled much, and had observed closely.
Probably the most valuable of all his works, from the strictly
historical point of view, are the "Itinerary" and "Description of
Wales," which are reprinted in the present volume. {10} Here he is
impartial in his evidence, and judicial in his decisions. If he
errs at all, it is not through racial prejudice. "I am sprung," he
once told the Pope in a letter, "from the princes of Wales and from
the barons of the Marches, and when I see injustice in either race,
I hate it."

The text is that of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, who published an English
translation, chiefly from the texts of Camden and Wharton, in 1806.
The valuable historical notes have been curtailed, as being too
elaborate for such a volume as this, and a few notes have been added
by the present editor. These will be found within brackets.
Hoare's translation, and also translations (edited by Mr. Foster) of
the Irish books have been published in Bohn's Antiquarian Library.

The first of the seven volumes of the Latin text of Gerald,
published in the Rolls Series, appeared in 1861. The first four
volumes were edited by Professor Brewer; the next two by Mr.
Dimmock; and the seventh by Professor Freeman.


The following is a list of the more important of the works of

Topographia Hibernica, Expugnatio Hibernica, Itinerarium Kambriae,
Descriptio Kambriae, Gemma Ecclesiastica, Libellus Invectionum, De
Rebus a se Gestis, Dialogus de jure et statu Menevensis Ecclesiae,
De Instructione Principum, De Legendis Sanctorum, Symbolum


As the times are affected by the changes of circumstances, so are
the minds of men influenced by different manners and customs. The
satirist [Persius] exclaims,

"Mille hominum species et mentis discolor usus;
Velle suum cuique est, nec voto vivitur uno."

"Nature is ever various in her name;
Each has a different will, and few the same."

The comic poet also says, "Quot capita tot sententiae, suus cuique
mos est." "As many men, so many minds, each has his way." Young
soldiers exult in war, and pleaders delight in the gown; others
aspire after riches, and think them the supreme good. Some approve
Galen, some Justinian. Those who are desirous of honours follow the
court, and from their ambitious pursuits meet with more
mortification than satisfaction. Some, indeed, but very few, take
pleasure in the liberal arts, amongst whom we cannot but admire
logicians, who, when they have made only a trifling progress, are as
much enchanted with the images of Dialectics, as if they were
listening to the songs of the Syrens.

But among so many species of men, where are to be found divine
poets? Where the noble assertors of morals? Where the masters of
the Latin tongue? Who in the present times displays lettered
eloquence, either in history or poetry? Who, I say, in our own age,
either builds a system of ethics, or consigns illustrious actions to
immortality? Literary fame, which used to be placed in the highest
rank, is now, because of the depravity of the times, tending to ruin
and degraded to the lowest, so that persons attached to study are at
present not only not imitated nor venerated, but even detested.
"Happy indeed would be the arts," observes Fabius, "if artists alone
judged of the arts;" but, as Sydonius says, "it is a fixed principle
in the human mind, that they who are ignorant of the arts despise
the artist."

But to revert to our subject. Which, I ask, have rendered more
service to the world, the arms of Marius or the verses of Virgil?
The sword of Marius has rusted, while the fame of him who wrote the
AEneid is immortal; and although in his time letters were honoured
by lettered persons, yet from his own pen we find,

" - tantum
Carmina nostra valent tela inter Martia, quantum
Chaonias dicunt, aquila veniente, columbas."

Who would hesitate in deciding which are more profitable, the works
of St. Jerom, or the riches of Croesus? but where now shine the gold
and silver of Croesus? whilst the world is instructed by the example
and enlightened by the learning of the poor coenobite. Yet even he,
through envy, suffered stripes and contumely at Rome, although his
character was so illustrious; and at length being driven beyond the
seas, found a refuge for his studies in the solitude of Bethlehem.
Thus it appears, that gold and arms may support us in this life, but
avail nothing after death; and that letters through envy profit
nothing in this world, but, like a testament, acquire an immortal
value from the seal of death.

According to the poet,

"Pascitur in vivis livor, post fata quiescit;
Cum suus ex merito quemque tuetur honor."

And also

"Denique si quis adhuc praetendit nubila, livor
Occidet, et meriti post me referentur honores."

Those who by artifice endeavour to acquire or preserve the
reputation of abilities or ingenuity, while they abound in the words
of others, have little cause to boast of their own inventions. For
the composers of that polished language, in which such various cases
as occur in the great body of law are treated with such an
appropriate elegance of style, must ever stand forward in the first
ranks of praise. I should indeed have said, that the authors of
refined language, not the hearers only, the inventors, not the
reciters, are most worthy of commendation. You will find, however,
that the practices of the court and of the schools are extremely
similar; as well in the subtleties they employ to lead you forward,
as in the steadiness with which they generally maintain their own
positions. Yet it is certain that the knowledge of logic (the
acumen, if I may so express it, of all other sciences as well as
arts) is very useful, when restricted within proper bounds; whilst
the court (i.e. courtly language), excepting to sycophants or
ambitious men, is by no means necessary. For if you are successful
at court, ambition never wholly quits its hold till satiated, and
allures and draws you still closer; but if your labour is thrown
away, you still continue the pursuit, and, together with your
substance, lose your time, the greatest and most irretrievable of
all losses. There is likewise some resemblance between the court
and the game of dice, as the poet observes:-

"Sic ne perdiderit non cessat perdere lusor,
Dum revocat cupidas alea blanda manus;"

which, by substituting the word CURIA for ALEA, may be applied to
the court. This further proof of their resemblance may be added;
that as the chances of the dice and court are not productive of any
real delight, so they are equally distributed to the worthy and the

Since, therefore, among so many species of men, each follows his own
inclination, and each is actuated by different desires, a regard for
posterity has induced me to choose the study of composition; and, as
this life is temporary and mutable, it is grateful to live in the
memory of future ages, and to be immortalized by fame; for to toil
after that which produces envy in life, but glory after death, is a
sure indication of an elevated mind. Poets and authors indeed
aspire after immortality, but do not reject any present advantages
that may offer.

I formerly completed with vain and fruitless labour the Topography
of Ireland for its companion, the king Henry the Second, and
Vaticinal History, for Richard of Poitiou, his son, and, I wish I
were not compelled to add, his successor in vice; princes little
skilled in letters, and much engaged in business. To you,
illustrious Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, equally commendable
for your learning and religion, I now dedicate the account of our
meritorious journey through the rugged provinces of Cambria, written
in a scholastic style, and divided into two parts. For as virtue
loves itself, and detests what is contrary to it, so I hope you will
consider whatever I may have written in commendation of your late
venerable and eminent predecessor, with no less affection than if it
related to yourself. To you also, when completed, I destine my
treatise on the Instruction of a Prince, if, amidst your religious
and worldly occupations, you can find leisure for the perusal of it.
For I purpose to submit these and other fruits of my diligence to be
tasted by you at your discretion, each in its proper order; hoping
that, if my larger undertakings do not excite your interest, my
smaller works may at least merit your approbation, conciliate your
favour, and call forth my gratitude towards you; who, unmindful of
worldly affections, do not partially distribute your bounties to
your family and friends, but to letters and merit; you, who, in the
midst of such great and unceasing contests between the crown and the
priesthood, stand forth almost singly the firm and faithful friend
of the British church; you, who, almost the only one duly elected,
fulfil the scriptural designation of the episcopal character. It is
not, however, by bearing a cap, by placing a cushion, by shielding
off the rain, or by wiping the dust, even if there should be none,
in the midst of a herd of flatterers, that I attempt to conciliate
your favour, but by my writings. To you, therefore, rare, noble,
and illustrious man, on whom nature and art have showered down
whatever becomes your supereminent situation, I dedicate my works;
but if I fail in this mode of conciliating your favour, and if your
prayers and avocations should not allow you sufficient time to read
them, I shall consider the honour of letters as vanished, and in
hope of its revival I shall inscribe my writings to posterity.


Since those things, which are known to have been done through a
laudable devotion, are not unworthily extolled with due praises; and
since the mind, when relaxed, loses its energy, and the torpor of
sloth enervates the understanding, as iron acquires rust for want of
use, and stagnant waters become foul; lest my pen should be injured
by the rust of idleness, I have thought good to commit to writing
the devout visitation which Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, made
throughout Wales; and to hand down, as it were in a mirror, through
you, O illustrious Stephen, to posterity, the difficult places
through which we passed, the names of springs and torrents, the
witty sayings, the toils and incidents of the journey, the memorable
events of ancient and modern times, and the natural history and
description of the country; lest my study should perish through
idleness, or the praise of these things be lost by silence.



Journey through Hereford and Radnor

In the year 1188 from the incarnation of our Lord, Urban the Third
{11} being the head of the apostolic see; Frederick, emperor of
Germany and king of the Romans; Isaac, emperor of Constantinople;
Philip, the son of Louis, reigning in France; Henry the Second in
England; William in Sicily; Bela in Hungary; and Guy in Palestine:
in that very year, when Saladin, prince of the Egyptians and
Damascenes, by a signal victory gained possession of the kingdom of
Jerusalem; Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, a venerable man,
distinguished for his learning and sanctity, journeying from England
for the service of the holy cross, entered Wales near the borders of

The archbishop proceeded to Radnor, {12} on Ash Wednesday (Caput
Jejunii), accompanied by Ranulph de Glanville, privy counsellor and
justiciary of the whole kingdom, and there met Rhys, {13} son of
Gruffydd, prince of South Wales, and many other noble personages of
those parts; where a sermon being preached by the archbishop, upon
the subject of the Crusades, and explained to the Welsh by an
interpreter, the author of this Itinerary, impelled by the urgent
importunity and promises of the king, and the persuasions of the
archbishop and the justiciary, arose the first, and falling down at
the feet of the holy man, devoutly took the sign of the cross. His
example was instantly followed by Peter, bishop of St. David's, {14}
a monk of the abbey of Cluny, and then by Eineon, son of Eineon
Clyd, {15} prince of Elvenia, and many other persons. Eineon rising
up, said to Rhys, whose daughter he had married, "My father and
lord! with your permission I hasten to revenge the injury offered to
the great father of all." Rhys himself was so fully determined upon
the holy peregrination, as soon as the archbishop should enter his
territories on his return, that for nearly fifteen days he was
employed with great solicitude in making the necessary preparations
for so distant a journey; till his wife, and, according to the
common vicious licence of the country, his relation in the fourth
degree, Guendolena, (Gwenllian), daughter of Madoc, prince of Powys,
by female artifices diverted him wholly from his noble purpose;
since, as Solomon says, "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the
Lord directeth his steps." As Rhys before his departure was
conversing with his friends concerning the things he had heard, a
distinguished young man of his family, by name Gruffydd, and who
afterwards took the cross, is said thus to have answered: "What man
of spirit can refuse to undertake this journey, since, amongst all
imaginable inconveniences, nothing worse can happen to any one than
to return."

On the arrival of Rhys in his own territory, certain canons of Saint
David's, through a zeal for their church, having previously secured
the interest of some of the prince's courtiers, waited on Rhys, and
endeavoured by every possible suggestion to induce him not to permit
the archbishop to proceed into the interior parts of Wales, and
particularly to the metropolitan see of Saint David's (a thing
hitherto unheard of), at the same time asserting that if he should
continue his intended journey, the church would in future experience
great prejudice, and with difficulty would recover its ancient
dignity and honour. Although these pleas were most strenuously
urged, the natural kindness and civility of the prince would not
suffer them to prevail, lest by prohibiting the archbishop's
progress, he might appear to wound his feelings.

Early on the following morning, after the celebration of mass, and
the return of Ranulph de Glanville to England, we came to Cruker
Castle, {16} two miles distant from Radnor, where a strong and
valiant youth named Hector, conversing with the archbishop about
taking the cross, said, "If I had the means of getting provisions
for one day, and of keeping fast on the next, I would comply with
your advice;" on the following day, however, he took the cross. The
same evening, Malgo, son of Cadwallon, prince of Melenia, after a
short but efficacious exhortation from the archbishop, and not
without the tears and lamentations of his friends, was marked with
the sign of the cross.

But here it is proper to mention what happened during the reign of
king Henry the First to the lord of the castle of Radnor, in the
adjoining territory of Builth, {17} who had entered the church of
Saint Avan (which is called in the British language Llan Avan), {18}
and, without sufficient caution or reverence, had passed the night
there with his hounds. Arising early in the morning, according to
the custom of hunters, he found his hounds mad, and himself struck
blind. After a long, dark, and tedious existence, he was conveyed
to Jerusalem, happily taking care that his inward sight should not
in a similar manner be extinguished; and there being accoutred, and
led to the field of battle on horseback, he made a spirited attack
upon the enemies of the faith, and, being mortally wounded, closed
his life with honour.

Another circumstance which happened in these our days, in the
province of Warthrenion, {19} distant from hence only a few
furlongs, is not unworthy of notice. Eineon, lord of that district,
and son-in-law to prince Rhys, who was much addicted to the chase,
having on a certain day forced the wild beasts from their coverts,
one of his attendants killed a hind with an arrow, as she was
springing forth from the wood, which, contrary to the nature of her
sex, was found to bear horns of twelve years' growth, and was much
fatter than a stag, in the haunches as well as in every other part.
On account of the singularity of this circumstance, the head and
horns of this strange animal were destined as a present to king
Henry the Second. This event is the more remarkable, as the man who
shot the hind suddenly lost the use of his right eye, and being at
the same time seized with a paralytic complaint, remained in a weak
and impotent state until the time of his death.

In this same province of Warthrenion, and in the church of Saint
Germanus, {20} there is a staff of Saint Cyric, {21} covered on all
sides with gold and silver, and resembling in its upper part the
form of a cross; its efficacy has been proved in many cases, but
particularly in the removal of glandular and strumous swellings;
insomuch that all persons afflicted with these complaints, on a
devout application to the staff, with the oblation of one penny, are
restored to health. But it happened in these our days, that a
strumous patient on presenting one halfpenny to the staff, the
humour subsided only in the middle; but when the oblation was
completed by the other halfpenny, an entire cure was accomplished.
Another person also coming to the staff with the promise of a penny,
was cured; but not fulfilling his engagement on the day appointed,
he relapsed into his former disorder; in order, however, to obtain
pardon for his offence, he tripled the offering by presenting three-
pence, and thus obtained a complete cure.

At Elevein, in the church of Glascum, {22} is a portable bell,
endowed with great virtues, called Bangu, {23} and said to have
belonged to Saint David. A certain woman secretly conveyed this
bell to her husband, who was confined in the castle of Raidergwy,
{24} near Warthrenion, (which Rhys, son of Gruffydd, had lately
built) for the purpose of his deliverance. The keepers of the
castle not only refused to liberate him for this consideration, but
seized and detained the bell; and in the same night, by divine
vengeance, the whole town, except the wall on which the bell hung,
was consumed by fire.

The church of Luel, {25} in the neighbourhood of Brecheinoc
(Brechinia), was burned, also in our time, by the enemy, and
everything destroyed, except one small box, in which the consecrated
host was deposited.

It came to pass also in the province of Elvenia, which is separated
from Hay by the river Wye, in the night in which king Henry I.
expired, that two pools {26} of no small extent, the one natural,
the other artificial, suddenly burst their bounds; the latter, by
its precipitate course down the declivities, emptied itself; but the
former, with its fish and contents, obtained a permanent situation
in a valley about two miles distant. In Normandy, a few days before
the death of Henry II., the fish of a certain pool near Seez, five
miles from the castle of Exme, fought during the night so furiously
with each other, both in the water and out of it, that the
neighbouring people were attracted by the noise to the spot; and so
desperate was the conflict, that scarcely a fish was found alive in
the morning; thus, by a wonderful and unheard-of prognostic,
foretelling the death of one by that of many.

But the borders of Wales sufficiently remember and abhor the great
and enormous excesses which, from ambitious usurpation of territory,
have arisen amongst brothers and relations in the districts of
Melenyth, Elvein, and Warthrenion, situated between the Wye and the


Journey through Hay and Brecheinia

Having crossed the river Wye, we proceeded towards Brecheinoc, and
on preaching a sermon at Hay, {27} we observed some amongst the
multitude, who were to be signed with the cross (leaving their
garments in the hands of their friends or wives, who endeavoured to
keep them back), fly for refuge to the archbishop in the castle.
Early in the morning we began our journey to Aberhodni, and the word
of the Lord being preached at Landeu, {28} we there spent the night.
The castle and chief town of the province, situated where the river
Hodni joins the river Usk, is called Aberhodni; {29} and every place
where one river falls into another is called Aber in the British
tongue. Landeu signifies the church of God. The archdeacon of that
place (Giraldus) presented to the archbishop his work on the
Topography of Ireland, which he graciously received, and either read
or heard a part of it read attentively every day during his journey;
and on his return to England completed the perusal of it.

I have determined not to omit mentioning those occurrences worthy of
note which happened in these parts in our days. It came to pass
before that great war, in which nearly all this province was
destroyed by the sons of Jestin, {30} that the large lake, and the
river Leveni, {31} which flows from it into the Wye, opposite
Glasbyry, {32} were tinged with a deep green colour. The old people
of the country were consulted, and answered, that a short time
before the great desolation {33} caused by Howel, son of Meredyth,
the water had been coloured in a similar manner. About the same
time, a chaplain, whose name was Hugo, being engaged to officiate at
the chapel of Saint Nicholas, in the castle of Aberhodni, saw in a
dream a venerable man standing near him, and saying, "Tell thy lord
William de Braose, {34} who has the audacity to retain the property
granted to the chapel of Saint Nicholas for charitable uses, these
words: 'The public treasury takes away that which Christ does not
receive; and thou wilt then give to an impious soldier, what thou
wilt not give to a priest.'" This vision having been repeated three
times, he went to the archdeacon of the place, at Landeu, and
related to him what had happened. The archdeacon immediately knew
them to be the words of Augustine; and shewing him that part of his
writings where they were found, explained to him the case to which
they applied. He reproaches persons who held back tithes and other
ecclesiastical dues; and what he there threatens, certainly in a
short time befell this withholder of them: for in our time we have
duly and undoubtedly seen, that princes who have usurped
ecclesiastical benefices (and particularly king Henry the Second,
who laboured under this vice more than others), have profusely
squandered the treasures of the church, and given away to hired
soldiers what in justice should have been given only to priests.

Yet something is to be said in favour of the aforesaid William de
Braose, although he greatly offended in this particular (since
nothing human is perfect, and to have knowledge of all things, and
in no point to err, is an attribute of God, not of man); for he
always placed the name of the Lord before his sentences, saying,
"Let this be done in the name of the Lord; let that be done by God's
will; if it shall please God, or if God grant leave; it shall be so
by the grace of God." We learn from Saint Paul, that everything
ought thus to be committed and referred to the will of God. On
taking leave of his brethren, he says, "I will return to you again,
if God permit;" and Saint James uses this expression, "If the Lord
will, and we live," in order to show that all things ought to be
submitted to the divine disposal. The letters also which William de
Braose, as a rich and powerful man, was accustomed to send to
different parts, were loaded, or rather honoured, with words
expressive of the divine indulgence to a degree not only tiresome to
his scribe, but even to his auditors; for as a reward to each of his
scribes for concluding his letters with the words, "by divine
assistance," he gave annually a piece of gold, in addition to their
stipend. When on a journey he saw a church or a cross, although in
the midst of conversation either with his inferiors or superiors,
from an excess of devotion, he immediately began to pray, and when
he had finished his prayers, resumed his conversation. On meeting
boys in the way, he invited them by a previous salutation to salute
him, that the blessings of these innocents, thus extorted, might be
returned to him. His wife, Matilda de Saint Valery, observed all
these things: a prudent and chaste woman; a woman placed with
propriety at the head of her house, equally attentive to the
economical disposal of her property within doors, as to the
augmentation of it without; both of whom, I hope, by their devotion
obtained temporal happiness and grace, as well as the glory of

It happened also that the hand of a boy, who was endeavouring to
take some young pigeons from a nest, in the church of Saint David of
Llanvaes, {35} adhered to the stone on which he leaned, through the
miraculous vengeance, perhaps, of that saint, in favour of the birds
who had taken refuge in his church; and when the boy, attended by
his friends and parents, had for three successive days and nights
offered up his prayers and supplications before the holy altar of
the church, his hand was, on the third day, liberated by the same
divine power which had so miraculously fastened it. We saw this
same boy at Newbury, in England, now advanced in years, presenting
himself before David the Second, {36} bishop of Saint David's, and
certifying to him the truth of this relation, because it had
happened in his diocese. The stone is preserved in the church to
this day among the relics, and the marks of the five fingers appear
impressed on the flint as though it were in wax.

A small miracle happened at St. Edmundsbury to a poor woman, who
often visited the shrine of the saint, under the mask of devotion;
not with the design of giving, but of taking something away, namely,
the silver and gold offerings, which, by a curious kind of theft,
she licked up by kissing, and carried away in her mouth. But in one
of these attempts her tongue and lips adhered to the altar, when by
divine interposition she was detected, and openly disgorged the
secret theft. Many persons, both Jews and Christians, expressing
their astonishment, flocked to the place, where for the greater part
of the day she remained motionless, that no possible doubt might be
entertained of the miracle.

In the north of England beyond the Humber, in the church of
Hovedene, {37} the concubine of the rector incautiously sat down on
the tomb of St. Osana, sister of king Osred, {38} which projected
like a wooden seat; on wishing to retire, she could not be removed,
until the people came to her assistance; her clothes were rent, her
body was laid bare, and severely afflicted with many strokes of
discipline, even till the blood flowed; nor did she regain her
liberty, until by many tears and sincere repentance she had showed
evident signs of compunction.

What miraculous power hath not in our days been displayed by the
psalter of Quindreda, sister of St. Kenelm, {39} by whose
instigation he was killed? On the vigil of the saint, when,
according to custom, great multitudes of women resorted to the feast
at Winchelcumbe, {40} the under butler of that convent committed
fornication with one of them within the precincts of the monastery.
This same man on the following day had the audacity to carry the
psalter in the procession of the relics of the saints; and on his
return to the choir, after the solemnity, the psalter stuck to his
hands. Astonished and greatly confounded, and at length calling to
his mind his crime on the preceding day, he made confession, and
underwent penance; and being assisted by the prayers of the
brotherhood, and having shown signs of sincere contrition, he was at
length liberated from the miraculous bond. That book was held in
great veneration; because, when the body of St. Kenelm was carried
forth, and the multitude cried out, "He is the martyr of God! truly
he is the martyr of God!" Quindreda, conscious and guilty of the
murder of her brother, answered, "He is as truly the martyr of God
as it is true that my eyes be on that psalter;" for, as she was
reading the psalter, both her eyes were miraculously torn from her
head, and fell on the book, where the marks of the blood yet remain.

Moreover I must not be silent concerning the collar (torques) which
they call St. Canauc's; {41} for it is most like to gold in weight,
nature, and colour; it is in four pieces wrought round, joined
together artificially, and clefted as it were in the middle, with a
dog's head, the teeth standing outward; it is esteemed by the
inhabitants so powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely
when it is laid before him: it bears the marks of some severe
blows, as if made with an iron hammer; for a certain man, as it is
said, endeavouring to break the collar for the sake of the gold,
experienced the divine vengeance, was deprived of his eyesight, and
lingered the remainder of his days in darkness.

A similar circumstance concerning the horn of St. Patrick (not
golden indeed, but of brass [probably bronze], which lately was
brought into these parts from Ireland) excites our admiration. The
miraculous power of this relic first appeared with a terrible
example in that country, through the foolish and absurd blowing of
Bernard, a priest, as is set forth in our Topography of Ireland.
Both the laity and clergy in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales held in
such great veneration portable bells, and staves crooked at the top,
and covered with gold, silver, or brass, and similar relics of the
saints, that they were much more afraid of swearing falsely by them
than by the gospels; because, from some hidden and miraculous power
with which they are gifted, and the vengeance of the saint to whom
they are particularly pleasing, their despisers and transgressors
are severely punished. The most remarkable circumstance attending
this horn is, that whoever places the wider end of it to his ear
will hear a sweet sound and melody united, such as ariseth from a
harp gently touched.

In our days a strange occurrence happened in the same district. A
wild sow, which by chance had been suckled by a bitch famous for her
nose, became, on growing up, so wonderfully active in the pursuit of
wild animals, that in the faculty of scent she was greatly superior
to dogs, who are assisted by natural instinct, as well as by human
art; an argument that man (as well as every other animal) contracts
the nature of the female who nurses him. Another prodigious event
came to pass nearly at the same time. A soldier, whose name was
Gilbert Hagernel, after an illness of nearly three years, and the
severe pains as of a woman in labour, in the presence of many
people, voided a calf. A portent of some new and unusual event, or
rather the punishment attendant on some atrocious crime. It appears
also from the ancient and authentic records of those parts, that
during the time St. Elwitus {42} led the life of a hermit at
Llanhamelach, {43} the mare that used to carry his provisions to him
was covered by a stag, and produced an animal of wonderful speed,
resembling a horse before and a stag behind.

Bernard de Newmarch {44} was the first of the Normans who acquired
by conquest from the Welsh this province, which was divided into
three cantreds. {45} He married the daughter of Nest, daughter of
Gruffydd, son of Llewelyn, who, by his tyranny, for a long time had
oppressed Wales; his wife took her mother's name of Nest, which the
English transmuted into Anne; by whom he had children, one of whom,
named Mahel, a distinguished soldier, was thus unjustly deprived of
his paternal inheritance. His mother, in violation of the marriage
contract, held an adulterous intercourse with a certain knight; on
the discovery of which, the son met the knight returning in the
night from his mother, and having inflicted on him a severe corporal
punishment, and mutilated him, sent him away with great disgrace.
The mother, alarmed at the confusion which this event caused, and
agitated with grief, breathed nothing but revenge. She therefore
went to king Henry I., and declared with assertions more vindictive
than true, and corroborated by an oath, that her son Mahel was not
the son of Bernard, but of another person with whom she had been
secretly connected. Henry, on account of this oath, or rather
perjury, and swayed more by his inclination than by reason, gave
away her eldest daughter, whom she owned as the legitimate child of
Bernard, in marriage to Milo Fitz-Walter, {46} constable of
Gloucester, with the honour of Brecheinoc as a portion; and he was
afterwards created earl of Hereford by the empress Matilda, daughter
of the said king. By this wife he had five celebrated warriors;
Roger, Walter, Henry, William, and Mahel; all of whom, by divine
vengeance, or by fatal misfortunes, came to untimely ends; and yet
each of them, except William, succeeded to the paternal inheritance,
but left no issue. Thus this woman (not deviating from the nature
of her sex), in order to satiate her anger and revenge, with the
heavy loss of modesty, and with the disgrace of infamy, by the same
act deprived her son of his patrimony, and herself of honour. Nor
is it wonderful if a woman follows her innate bad disposition: for
it is written in Ecclesiastes, "I have found one good man out of a
thousand, but not one good woman;" and in Ecclesiasticus, "There is
no head above the head of a serpent; and there is no wrath above the
wrath of a woman;" and again, "Small is the wickedness of man
compared to the wickedness of woman." And in the same manner, as we
may gather grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles, Tully,
describing the nature of women, says, "Men, perhaps, for the sake of
some advantage will commit one crime; but woman, to gratify one
inclination, will not scruple to perpetrate all sorts of
wickedness." Thus Juvenal, speaking of women, say,

" - Nihil est audacior illis
Deprensis, iram atque animos a crimine sumunt.
- Mulier saevissima tunc est
Cum stimulos animo pudor admovet.
- colllige, quod vindicta
Nemo magis gaudet quam foemina.

But of the five above-mentioned brothers and sons of earl Milo, the
youngest but one, and the last in the inheritance, was the most
remarkable for his inhumanity; he persecuted David II., bishop of
St. David's, to such a degree, by attacking his possessions, lands,
and vassals, that he was compelled to retire as an exile from the
district of Brecheinoc into England, or to some other parts of his
diocese. Meanwhile, Mahel, being hospitably entertained by Walter
de Clifford, {47} in the castle of Brendlais, {48} the house was by
accident burned down, and he received a mortal blow by a stone
falling from the principal tower on his head: upon which he
instantly dispatched messengers to recal the bishop, and exclaimed
with a lamentable voice, "O, my father and high priest, your saint
has taken most cruel vengeance of me, not waiting the conversion of
a sinner, but hastening his death and overthrow." Having often
repeated similar expressions, and bitterly lamented his situation,
he thus ended his tyranny and life together; the first year of his
government not having elapsed.

A powerful and noble personage, by name Brachanus, was in ancient
times the ruler of the province of Brecheinoc, and from him it
derived this name. The British histories testify that he had four-
and-twenty daughters, all of whom, dedicated from their youth to
religious observances, happily ended their lives in sanctity. There
are many churches in Wales distinguished by their names, one of
which, situated on the summit of a hill, near Brecheinoc, and not
far from the castle of Aberhodni, is called the church of St.
Almedda, {49} after the name of the holy virgin, who, refusing there
the hand of an earthly spouse, married the Eternal King, and
triumphed in a happy martyrdom; to whose honour a solemn feast is
annually held in the beginning of August, and attended by a large
concourse of people from a considerable distance, when those persons
who labour under various diseases, through the merits of the Blessed
Virgin, received their wished-for health. The circumstances which
occur at every anniversary appear to me remarkable. You may see men
or girls, now in the church, now in the churchyard, now in the
dance, which is led round the churchyard with a song, on a sudden
falling on the ground as in a trance, then jumping up as in a
frenzy, and representing with their hands and feet, before the
people, whatever work they have unlawfully done on feast days; you
may see one man put his hand to the plough, and another, as it were,
goad on the oxen, mitigating their sense of labour, by the usual
rude song: {50} one man imitating the profession of a shoemaker;
another, that of a tanner. Now you may see a girl with a distaff,
drawing out the thread, and winding it again on the spindle; another
walking, and arranging the threads for the web; another, as it were,
throwing the shuttle, and seeming to weave. On being brought into
the church, and led up to the altar with their oblations, you will
be astonished to see them suddenly awakened, and coming to
themselves. Thus, by the divine mercy, which rejoices in the
conversion, not in the death, of sinners, many persons from the
conviction of their senses, are on these feast days corrected and

This country sufficiently abounds with grain, and if there is any
deficiency, it is amply supplied from the neighbouring parts of
England; it is well stored with pastures, woods, and wild and
domestic animals. River-fish are plentiful, supplied by the Usk on
one side, and by the Wye on the other; each of them produces salmon
and trout; but the Wye abounds most with the former, the Usk with
the latter. The salmon of the Wye are in season during the winter,
those of the Usk in summer; but the Wye alone produces the fish
called umber, {51} the praise of which is celebrated in the works of
Ambrosius, as being found in great numbers in the rivers near Milan;
"What," says he, "is more beautiful to behold, more agreeable to
smell, or more pleasant to taste?" The famous lake of Brecheinoc
supplies the country with pike, perch, excellent trout, tench, and
eels. A circumstance concerning this lake, which happened a short
time before our days, must not be passed over in silence. "In the
reign of king Henry I., Gruffydd, {52} son of Rhys ap Tewdwr, held
under the king one comot, namely, the fourth part of the cantred of
Caoc, {53} in the cantref Mawr, which, in title and dignity, was
esteemed by the Welsh equal to the southern part of Wales, called
Deheubarth, that is, the right-hand side of Wales. When Gruffydd,
on his return from the king's court, passed near this lake, which at
that cold season of the year was covered with water-fowl of various
sorts, being accompanied by Milo, earl of Hereford, and lord of
Brecheinoc, and Payn Fitz-John, lord of Ewyas, who were at that time
secretaries and privy counsellors to the king; earl Milo, wishing to
draw forth from Gruffydd some discourse concerning his innate
nobility, rather jocularly than seriously thus addressed him: "It
is an ancient saying in Wales, that if the natural prince of the
country, coming to this lake, shall order the birds to sing, they
will immediately obey him." To which Gruffydd, richer in mind than
in gold, (for though his inheritance was diminished, his ambition
and dignity still remained), answered, "Do you therefore, who now
hold the dominion of this land, first give the command;" but he and
Payn having in vain commanded, and Gruffydd, perceiving that it was
necessary for him to do so in his turn, dismounted from his horse,
and falling on his knees towards the east, as if he had been about
to engage in battle, prostrate on the ground, with his eyes and
hands uplifted to heaven, poured forth devout prayers to the Lord:
at length, rising up, and signing his face and forehead with the
figure of the cross, he thus openly spake: "Almighty God, and Lord
Jesus Christ, who knowest all things, declare here this day thy
power. If thou hast caused me to descend lineally from the natural
princes of Wales, I command these birds in thy name to declare it;"
and immediately the birds, beating the water with their wings, began
to cry aloud, and proclaim him. The spectators were astonished and
confounded; and earl Milo hastily returning with Payn Fitz-John to
court, related this singular occurrence to the king, who is said to
have replied, "By the death of Christ (an oath he was accustomed to
use), it is not a matter of so much wonder; for although by our
great authority we commit acts of violence and wrong against these
people, yet they are known to be the rightful inheritors of this

The lake also {54} (according to the testimony of the inhabitants)
is celebrated for its miracles; for, as we have before observed, it
sometimes assumed a greenish hue, so in our days it has appeared to
be tinged with red, not universally, but as if blood flowed
partially through certain veins and small channels. Moreover it is
sometimes seen by the inhabitants covered and adorned with
buildings, pastures, gardens, and orchards. In the winter, when it
is frozen over, and the surface of the water is converted into a
shell of ice, it emits a horrible sound resembling the moans of many
animals collected together; but this, perhaps, may be occasioned by
the sudden bursting of the shell, and the gradual ebullition of the
air through imperceptible channels. This country is well sheltered
on every side (except the northern) by high mountains; on the
western by those of cantref Bychan; {55} on the southern, by that
range, of which the principal is Cadair Arthur, {56} or the chair of
Arthur, so called from two peaks rising up in the form of a chair,
and which, from its lofty situation, is vulgarly ascribed to Arthur,
the most distinguished king of the Britons. A spring of water rises
on the summit of this mountain, deep, but of a square shape, like a
well, and although no stream runs from it, trout are said to be
sometimes found in it.

Being thus sheltered on the south by high mountains, the cooler
breezes protect this district from the heat of the sun, and, by
their natural salubrity, render the climate most temperate. Towards
the east are the mountains of Talgarth and Ewyas. {57} The natives
of these parts, actuated by continual enmities and implacable
hatred, are perpetually engaged in bloody contests. But we leave to
others to describe the great and enormous excesses, which in our
time have been here committed, with regard to marriages, divorces,
and many other circumstances of cruelty and oppression.


Ewyas and Llanthoni

In the deep vale of Ewyas, {58} which is about an arrow-shot broad,
encircled on all sides by lofty mountains, stands the church of
Saint John the Baptist, covered with lead, and built of wrought
stone; and, considering the nature of the place, not unhandsomely
constructed, on the very spot where the humble chapel of David, the
archbishop, had formerly stood decorated only with moss and ivy. A
situation truly calculated for religion, and more adapted to
canonical discipline, than all the monasteries of the British isle.
It was founded by two hermits, in honour of the retired life, far
removed from the bustle of mankind, in a solitary vale watered by
the river Hodeni. From Hodeni it was called Lanhodeni, for Lan
signifies an ecclesiastical place. This derivation may appear far-
fetched, for the name of the place, in Welsh, is Nanthodeni. Nant
signifies a running stream, from whence this place is still called
by the inhabitants Landewi Nanthodeni, {59} or the church of Saint
David upon the river Hodeni. The English therefore corruptly call
it Lanthoni, whereas it should either be called Nanthodeni, that is,
the brook of the Hodeni, or Lanhodeni, the church upon the Hodeni.
Owing to its mountainous situation, the rains are frequent, the
winds boisterous, and the clouds in winter almost continual. The
air, though heavy, is healthy; and diseases are so rare, that the
brotherhood, when worn out by long toil and affliction during their
residence with the daughter, retiring to this asylum, and to their
mother's {60} lap, soon regain their long-wished-for health. For as
my Topographical History of Ireland testifies, in proportion as we
proceed to the eastward, the face of the sky is more pure and
subtile, and the air more piercing and inclement; but as we draw
nearer to the westward, the air becomes more cloudy, but at the same
time is more temperate and healthy. Here the monks, sitting in
their cloisters, enjoying the fresh air, when they happen to look up
towards the horizon, behold the tops of the mountains, as it were,
touching the heavens, and herds of wild deer feeding on their
summits: the body of the sun does not become visible above the
heights of the mountains, even in a clear atmosphere, till about the
hour of prime, or a little before. A place truly fitted for
contemplation, a happy and delightful spot, fully competent, from
its first establishment, to supply all its own wants, had not the
extravagance of English luxury, the pride of a sumptuous table, the
increasing growth of intemperance and ingratitude, added to the
negligence of its patrons and prelates, reduced it from freedom to
servility; and if the step-daughter, no less enviously than
odiously, had not supplanted her mother.

It seems worthy of remark, that all the priors who were hostile to
this establishment, died by divine visitation. William, {61} who
first despoiled the place of its herds and storehouses, being
deposed by the fraternity, forfeited his right of sepulture amongst
the priors. Clement seemed to like this place of study and prayer,
yet, after the example of Heli the priest, as he neither reproved
nor restrained his brethren from plunder and other offences, he died
by a paralytic stroke. And Roger, who was more an enemy to this
place than either of his predecessors, and openly carried away every
thing which they had left behind, wholly robbing the church of its
books, ornaments, and privileges, was also struck with a paralytic
affection long before his death, resigned his honours, and lingered
out the remainder of his days in sickness.

In the reign of king Henry I., when the mother church was as
celebrated for her affluence as for her sanctity (two qualities
which are seldom found thus united), the daughter not yet being in
existence (and I sincerely wish she never had been produced), the
fame of so much religion attracted hither Roger, bishop of
Salisbury, who was at that time prime minister; for it is virtue to
love virtue, even in another man, and a great proof of innate
goodness to show a detestation of those vices which hitherto have
not been avoided. When he had reflected with admiration on the
nature of the place, the solitary life of the fraternity, living in
canonical obedience, and serving God without a murmur or complaint,
he returned to the king, and related to him what he thought most
worthy of remark; and after spending the greater part of the day in
the praises of this place, he finished his panegyric with these
words: "Why should I say more? the whole treasure of the king and
his kingdom would not be sufficient to build such a cloister."
Having held the minds of the king and the court for a long time in
suspense by this assertion, he at length explained the enigma, by
saying that he alluded to the cloister of mountains, by which this
church is on every side surrounded. But William, a knight, who
first discovered this place, and his companion Ervistus, a priest,
having heard, perhaps, as it is written in the Fathers, according to
the opinion of Jerome, "that the church of Christ decreased in
virtues as it increased in riches," were accustomed often devoutly
to solicit the Lord that this place might never attain great
possessions. They were exceedingly concerned when this religious
foundation began to be enriched by its first lord and patron, Hugh
de Lacy, {62} and by the lands and ecclesiastical benefices
conferred upon it by the bounty of others of the faithful: from
their predilection to poverty, they rejected many offers of manors
and churches; and being situated in a wild spot, they would not
suffer the thick and wooded parts of the valley to be cultivated and
levelled, lest they should be tempted to recede from their
heremitical mode of life.

But whilst the establishment of the mother church increased daily in
riches and endowments, availing herself of the hostile state of the
country, a rival daughter sprang up at Gloucester, under the
protection of Milo, earl of Hereford; as if by divine providence,
and through the merits of the saints and prayers of those holy men
(of whom two lie buried before the high altar), it were destined
that the daughter church should be founded in superfluities, whilst
the mother continued in that laudable state of mediocrity which she
had always affected and coveted. Let the active therefore reside
there, the contemplative here; there the pursuit of terrestrial
riches, here the love of celestial delights; there let them enjoy
the concourse of men, here the presence of angels; there let the
powerful of this world be entertained, here let the poor of Christ
be relieved; there, I say, let human actions and declamations be
heard, but here let reading and prayers be heard only in whispers;
there let opulence, the parent and nurse of vice, increase with
cares, here let the virtuous and golden mean be all-sufficient. In
both places the canonical discipline instituted by Augustine, which
is now distinguished above all other orders, is observed; for the
Benedictines, when their wealth was increased by the fervour of
charity, and multiplied by the bounty of the faithful, under the
pretext of a bad dispensation, corrupted by gluttony and indulgence
an order which in its original state of poverty was held in high
estimation. The Cistercian order, derived from the former, at first
deserved praise and commendation from its adhering voluntarily to
the original vows of poverty and sanctity: until ambition, the
blind mother of mischief, unable to fix bounds to prosperity, was
introduced; for as Seneca says, "Too great happiness makes men
greedy, nor are their desires ever so temperate, as to terminate in
what is acquired:" a step is made from great things to greater, and
men having attained what they did not expect, form the most
unbounded hopes; to which the poet Ovid thus alludes.

"Luxuriant animi rebus plerumque secundis,
Nec facile est aequa commoda mente pati;

And again:

"Creverunt opes et opum furiosa cupido,
Et eum possideant plurima, plura petunt."

And also the poet Horace:

" - scilicet improbae
Crescunt divitiae, tamen
Curtae nescio quid semper abest rei.
Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam
Majorumque fames."

To which purpose the poet Lucan says:

" - O vitae tuta facultas
Pauperis, angustique lares, o munera nondum
Intellecta Deum!"

And Petronius:

Non bibit inter aquas nec poma fugacia carpit
Tantalus infelix, quem sua vota premunt.
Divitis hic magni facies erit, omnia late
Qui tenet, et sicco concoquit ore famem."

The mountains are full of herds and horses, the woods well stored
with swine and goats, the pastures with sheep, the plains with
cattle, the arable fields with ploughs; and although these things in
very deed are in great abundance, yet each of them, from the
insatiable nature of the mind, seems too narrow and scanty.
Therefore lands are seized, landmarks removed, boundaries invaded,
and the markets in consequence abound with merchandise, the courts
of justice with law-suits, and the senate with complaints.
Concerning such things, we read in Isaiah, "Woe unto them that join
house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place,
that they be placed alone in the midst of the earth."

If therefore, the prophet inveighs so much against those who proceed
to the boundaries, what would he say to those who go far beyond
them? From these and other causes, the true colour of religion was
so converted into the dye of falsehood, that manners internally
black assumed a fair exterior:

"Qui color albus erat, nunc est contrarius albo."

So that the scripture seems to be fulfilled concerning these men,
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but
inwardly they are ravenous wolves." But I am inclined to think this
avidity does not proceed from any bad intention. For the monks of
this Order (although themselves most abstemious) incessantly
exercise, more than any others, the acts of charity and beneficence
towards the poor and strangers; and because they do not live as
others upon fixed incomes, but depend only on their labour and
forethought for subsistence, they are anxious to obtain lands,
farms, and pastures, which may enable them to perform these acts of
hospitality. However, to repress and remove from this sacred Order
the detestable stigma of ambition, I wish they would sometimes call
to mind what is written in Ecclesiasticus, "Whoso bringeth an
offering of the goods of the poor, doth as one that killeth the son
before his father's eyes;" and also the sentiment of Gregory, "A
good use does not justify things badly acquired;" and also that of
Ambrose, "He who wrongfully receives, that he may well dispense, is
rather burthened than assisted." Such men seem to say with the
Apostle, "Let us do evil that good may come." For it is written,
"Mercy ought to be of such a nature as may be received, not
rejected, which may purge away sins, not make a man guilty before
the Lord, arising from your own just labours, not those of other
men." Hear what Solomon says; "Honour the Lord from your just
labours." What shall they say who have seized upon other men's
possessions, and exercised charity? "O Lord! in thy name we have
done charitable deeds, we have fed the poor, clothed the naked, and
hospitably received the stranger:" to whom the Lord will answer; "Ye
speak of what ye have given away, but speak not of the rapine ye
have committed; ye relate concerning those ye have fed, and remember
not those ye have killed." I have judged it proper to insert in
this place an instance of an answer which Richard, king of the
English, made to Fulke, {63} a good and holy man, by whom God in
these our days has wrought many signs in the kingdom of France.
This man had among other things said to the king; "You have three
daughters, namely, Pride, Luxury, and Avarice; and as long as they
shall remain with you, you can never expect to be in favour with
God." To which the king, after a short pause, replied: "I have
already given away those daughters in marriage: Pride to the
Templars, Luxury to the Black Monks, and Avarice to the White." It
is a remarkable circumstance, or rather a miracle, concerning
Lanthoni, that, although it is on every side surrounded by lofty
mountains, not stony or rocky, but of a soft nature, and covered
with grass, Parian stones are frequently found there, and are called
free-stones, from the facility with which they admit of being cut
and polished; and with these the church is beautifully built. It is
also wonderful, that when, after a diligent search, all the stones
have been removed from the mountains, and no more can be found, upon
another search, a few days afterwards, they reappear in greater
quantities to those who seek them. With respect to the two Orders,
the Cluniac and the Cistercian, this may be relied upon; although
the latter are possessed of fine buildings, with ample revenues and
estates, they will soon be reduced to poverty and destruction. To
the former, on the contrary, you would allot a barren desert and a
solitary wood; yet in a few years you will find them in possession
of sumptuous churches and houses, and encircled with an extensive
property. The difference of manners (as it appears to me) causes
this contrast. For as without meaning offence to either party, I
shall speak the truth, the one feels the benefits of sobriety,
parsimony, and prudence, whilst the other suffers from the bad
effects of gluttony and intemperance: the one, like bees, collect
their stores into a heap, and unanimously agree in the disposal of
one well-regulated purse; the others pillage and divert to improper
uses the largesses which have been collected by divine assistance,
and by the bounties of the faithful; and whilst each individual
consults solely his own interest, the welfare of the community
suffers; since, as Sallust observes, "Small things increase by
concord, and the greatest are wasted by discord." Besides, sooner
than lessen the number of one of the thirteen or fourteen dishes
which they claim by right of custom, or even in a time of scarcity
or famine recede in the smallest degree from their accustomed good
fare, they would suffer the richest lands and the best buildings of
the monastery to become a prey to usury, and the numerous poor to
perish before their gates.

The first of these Orders, at a time when there was a deficiency in
grain, with a laudable charity, not only gave away their flocks and
herds, but resigned to the poor one of the two dishes with which
they were always contented. But in these our days, in order to
remove this stain, it is ordained by the Cistercians, "That in
future neither farms nor pastures shall be purchased; and that they
shall be satisfied with those alone which have been freely and
unconditionally bestowed upon them." This Order, therefore, being
satisfied more than any other with humble mediocrity, and, if not
wholly, yet in a great degree checking their ambition; and though
placed in a worldly situation, yet avoiding, as much as possible,
its contagion; neither notorious for gluttony or drunkenness, for
luxury or lust; is fearful and ashamed of incurring public scandal,
as will be more fully explained in the book we mean (by the grace of
God) to write concerning the ecclesiastical Orders.

In these temperate regions I have obtained (according to the usual
expression) a place of dignity, but no great omen of future pomp or
riches; and possessing a small residence {64} near the castle of
Brecheinoc, well adapted to literary pursuits, and to the
contemplation of eternity, I envy not the riches of Croesus; happy
and contented with that mediocrity, which I prize far beyond all the
perishable and transitory things of this world. But let us return
to our subject.


The journey by Coed Grono and Abergevenni

From thence {65} we proceeded through the narrow, woody tract called
the bad pass of Coed Grono, leaving the noble monastery of Lanthoni,
inclosed by its mountains, on our left. The castle of Abergevenni
is so called from its situation at the confluence of the river
Gevenni with the Usk.

It happened a short time after the death of king Henry I., that
Richard de Clare, a nobleman of high birth, and lord of
Cardiganshire, passed this way on his journey from England into
Wales, accompanied by Brian de Wallingford, lord of this province,
and many men-at-arms. At the passage of Coed Grono, {66} and at the
entrance into the wood, he dismissed him and his attendants, though
much against their will, and proceeded on his journey unarmed; from
too great a presumption of security, preceded only by a minstrel and
a singer, one accompanying the other on the fiddle. The Welsh
awaiting his arrival, with Iorwerth, brother of Morgan of Caerleon,
at their head, and others of his family, rushed upon him unawares
from the thickets, and killed him and many of his followers. Thus
it appears how incautious and neglectful of itself is too great
presumption; for fear teaches foresight and caution in prosperity,
but audacity is precipitate, and inconsiderate rashness will not
await the advice of the leader.

A sermon having been delivered at Abergevenni, {67} and many persons
converted to the cross, a certain nobleman of those parts, named
Arthenus, came to the archbishop, who was proceeding towards the
castle of Usk, and humbly begged pardon for having neglected to meet
him sooner. Being questioned whether he would take the cross, he
replied, "That ought not be done without the advice of his friends."
The archbishop then asked him, "Are you not going to consult your
wife?" To which he modestly answered, with a downcast look, "When
the work of a man is to be undertaken, the counsel of a woman ought
not to be asked;" and instantly received the cross from the

We leave to others the relation of those frequent and cruel excesses
which in our times have arisen amongst the inhabitants of these
parts, against the governors of castles, and the vindictive
retaliations of the governors against the natives. But king Henry
II. was the true author, and Ranulf Poer, sheriff of Hereford, the
instrument, of the enormous cruelties and slaughter perpetrated here
in our days, which I thought better to omit, lest bad men should be
induced to follow the example; for although temporary advantage may
seem to arise from a base cause, yet, by the balance of a righteous
judge, the punishment of wickedness may be deferred, though not
totally avoided, according to the words of the poet, -

"Non habet eventus sordida praeda bonos."

For after seven years of peace and tranquillity, the sons and
grandsons of the deceased, having attained the age of manhood, took
advantage of the absence of the lord of the castle (Abergevenni),
and, burning with revenge, concealed themselves, with no
inconsiderable force during the night, within the woody foss of the
castle. One of them, name Sisillus (Sitsylt) son of Eudaf, on the
preceding day said rather jocularly to the constable, "Here will we
enter this night," pointing out to him a certain angle in the wall
where it seemed the lowest; but since

" - Ridendo dicere verum
Quis vetat?"


" - fas est et ab hoste doceri,"

the constable and his household watched all night under arms, till
at length, worn out by fatigue, they all retired to rest on the
appearance of daylight, upon which the enemy attacked the walls with
scaling-ladders, at the very place that had been pointed out. The
constable and his wife were taken prisoners, with many others, a few
persons only escaping, who had sheltered themselves in the principal
tower. With the exception of this stronghold, the enemy violently
seized and burned everything; and thus, by the righteous judgment of
God, the crime was punished in the very place where it had been
committed. A short time after the taking of this fortress, when the
aforesaid sheriff was building a castle at Landinegat, {68} near
Monmouth, with the assistance of the army he had brought from
Hereford, he was attacked at break of day, when

"Tythoni croceum linquens Aurora cubile"

was only beginning to divest herself of the shades of night, by the
young men from Gwent and the adjacent parts, with the descendants of
those who had been slain. Through aware of this premeditated
attack, and prepared and drawn up in battle array, they were
nevertheless repulsed within their intrenchments, and the sheriff,
together with nine of the chief men of Hereford, and many others,
were pierced to death with lances. It is remarkable that, although
Ranulf, besides many other mortal wounds, had the veins and arteries
of his neck and his windpipe separated with a sword, he made signs
for a priest, and from the merit of his past life, and the honour
and veneration he had shewn to those chosen into the sacred order of
Christ, he was confessed, and received extreme unction before he
died. And, indeed, many events concur to prove that, as those who
respect the priesthood, in their latter days enjoy the satisfaction
of friendly intercourse, so do their revilers and accusers often die
without that consolation. William de Braose, who was not the author
of the crime we have preferred passing over in silence, but the
executioner, or, rather, not the preventer of its execution, while
the murderous bands were fulfilling the orders they had received,
was precipitated into a deep foss, and being taken by the enemy, was
drawn forth, and only by a sudden effort of his own troops, and by
divine mercy, escaped uninjured. Hence it is evident that he who
offends in a less degree, and unwillingly permits a thing to be
done, is more mildly punished than he who adds counsel and authority
to his act. Thus, in the sufferings of Christ, Judas was punished
with hanging, the Jews with destruction and banishment, and Pilate
with exile. But the end of the king, who assented to and ordered
this treachery, sufficiently manifested in what manner, on account
of this and many other enormities he had committed (as in the book
"De Instructione Principis," by God's guidance, we shall set forth),
he began with accumulated ignominy, sorrow, and confusion, to suffer
punishment in this world. {69}

It seems worthy of remark, that the people of what is called Venta
{70} are more accustomed to war, more famous for valour, and more
expert in archery, than those of any other part of Wales. The
following examples prove the truth of this assertion. In the last
capture of the aforesaid castle, which happened in our days, two
soldiers passing over a bridge to take refuge in a tower built on a
mound of earth, the Welsh, taking them in the rear, penetrated with
their arrows the oaken portal of the tower, which was four fingers
thick; in memory of which circumstance, the arrows were preserved in
the gate. William de Braose also testifies that one of his
soldiers, in a conflict with the Welsh, was wounded by an arrow,
which passed through his thigh and the armour with which it was
cased on both sides, and, through that part of the saddle which is
called the alva, mortally wounded the horse. Another soldier had
his hip, equally sheathed in armour, penetrated by an arrow quite to
the saddle, and on turning his horse round, received a similar wound
on the opposite hip, which fixed him on both sides of his seat.
What more could be expected from a balista? Yet the bows used by
this people are not made of horn, ivory, or yew, but of wild elm;
unpolished, rude, and uncouth, but stout; not calculated to shoot an
arrow to a great distance, but to inflict very severe wounds in
close fight.

But let us again return to our Itinerary.


Of the progress by the castle of Usk and the town of Caerleon

At the castle of Usk, a multitude of persons influenced by the
archbishop's sermon, and by the exhortations of the good and worthy
William bishop of Landaf, {71} who faithfully accompanied us through
his diocese, were signed with the cross; Alexander archdeacon of
Bangor {72} acting as interpreter to the Welsh. It is remarkable
that many of the most notorious murderers, thieves, and robbers of
the neighbourhood were here converted, to the astonishment of the
spectators. Passing from thence through Caerleon and leaving far on
our left hand the castle of Monmouth, and the noble forest of Dean,
situated on the other side of the Wye and on this side the Severn,
and which amply supplies Gloucester with iron and venison, we spent
the night at Newport, having crossed the river Usk three times. {73}
Caerleon means the city of Legions, Caer, in the British language,
signifying a city or camp, for there the Roman legions, sent into
this island, were accustomed to winter, and from this circumstance
it was styled the city of legions. This city was of undoubted
antiquity, and handsomely built of masonry, with courses of bricks,
by the Romans. Many vestiges of its former splendour may yet be
seen; immense palaces, formerly ornamented with gilded roofs, in
imitation of Roman magnificence, inasmuch as they were first raised
by the Roman princes, and embellished with splendid buildings; a
tower of prodigious size, remarkable hot baths, relics of temples,
and theatres, all inclosed within fine walls, parts of which remain
standing. You will find on all sides, both within and without the
circuit of the walls, subterraneous buildings, aqueducts,
underground passages; and what I think worthy of notice, stoves
contrived with wonderful art, to transmit the heat insensibly
through narrow tubes passing up the side walls.

Julius and Aaron, after suffering martyrdom, were buried in this
city, and had each a church dedicated to him. After Albanus and
Amphibalus, they were esteemed the chief protomartyrs of Britannia
Major. In ancient times there were three fine churches in this
city: one dedicated to Julius the martyr, graced with a choir of
nuns; another to Aaron, his associate, and ennobled with an order of
canons; and the third distinguished as the metropolitan of Wales.
Amphibalus, the instructor of Albanus in the true faith, was born in
this place. This city is well situated on the river Usk, navigable
to the sea, and adorned with woods and meadows. The Roman
ambassadors here received their audience at the court of the great
king Arthur; and here also, the archbishop Dubricius ceded his
honours to David of Menevia, the metropolitan see being translated
from this place to Menevia, according to the prophecy of Merlin
Ambrosius. "Menevia pallio urbis Legionum induetur." "Menevia
shall be invested with the pall of the city of Legions."

Not far hence is a rocky eminence, impending over the Severn, called
by the English Gouldcliffe {74} or golden rock, because from the
reflections of the sun's rays it assumes a bright golden colour:

"Nec mihi de facili fieri persuasio posset,
Quod frustra tantum dederit natura nito rem
Saxis, quodque suo fuerit flos hic sine fructu."

Nor can I be easily persuaded that nature hath given such splendour
to the rocks in vain, and that this flower should be without fruit,
if any one would take the pains to penetrate deeply into the bowels
of the earth; if any one, I say, would extract honey from the rock,
and oil from the stone. Indeed many riches of nature lie concealed
through inattention, which the diligence of posterity will bring to
light; for, as necessity first taught the ancients to discover the
conveniences of life, so industry, and a greater acuteness of
intellect, have laid open many things to the moderns; as the poet
says, assigning two causes for these discoveries,

" - labor omnia vincit
Improbus, et duris urgens in rebus egestas."

It is worthy of observation, that there lived in the neighbourhood
of this City of Legions, in our time, a Welshman named Melerius,
who, under the following circumstances, acquired the knowledge of
future and occult events. Having, on a certain night, namely that
of Palm Sunday, met a damsel whom he had long loved, in a pleasant
and convenient place, while he was indulging in her embraces,
suddenly, instead of a beautiful girl, he found in his arms a hairy,
rough, and hideous creature, the sight of which deprived him of his
senses, and he became mad. After remaining many years in this
condition, he was restored to health in the church of St. David's,
through the merits of its saints. But having always an
extraordinary familiarity with unclean spirits, by seeing them,
knowing them, talking with them, and calling each by his proper
name, he was enabled, through their assistance, to foretel future
events. He was, indeed, often deceived (as they are) with respect
to circumstances at a great distance of time or place, but was less
mistaken in affairs which were likely to happen nearer, or within
the space of a year. The spirits appeared to him, usually on foot,
equipped as hunters, with horns suspended from their necks, and
truly as hunters, not of animals, but of souls. He particularly met
them near monasteries and monastic cells; for where rebellion
exists, there is the greatest need of armies and strength. He knew
when any one spoke falsely in his presence, for he saw the devil, as
it were, leaping and exulting upon the tongue of the liar. If he
looked on a book faultily or falsely written, or containing a false
passage, although wholly illiterate, he would point out the place
with his finger. Being questioned how he could gain such knowledge,
he said that he was directed by the demon's finger to the place. In
the same manner, entering into the dormitory of a monastery, he
indicated the bed of any monk not sincerely devoted to religion. He
said, that the spirit of gluttony and surfeit was in every respect
sordid; but that the spirit of luxury and lust was more beautiful
than others in appearance, though in fact most foul. If the evil
spirits oppressed him too much, the Gospel of St. John was placed on
his bosom, when, like birds, they immediately vanished; but when
that book was removed, and the History of the Britons, by Geoffrey
Arthur, {75} was substituted in its place, they instantly reappeared
in greater numbers, and remained a longer time than usual on his
body and on the book.

It is worthy of remark, that Barnabas placed the Gospel of St.
Matthew upon sick persons, and they were healed; from which, as well
as from the foregoing circumstance, it appears how great a dignity
and reverence is due to the sacred books of the gospel, and with
what danger and risk of damnation every one who swears falsely by
them, deviates from the paths of truth. The fall of Enoch, abbot of
Strata Marcella, {76} too well known in Wales, was revealed to many
the day after it happened, by Melerius, who, being asked how he knew
this circumstance, said, that a demon came to him disguised as a
hunter, and, exulting in the prospect of such a victory, foretold
the ruin of the abbot, and explained in what manner he would make
him run away with a nun from the monastery. The end in view was
probably the humiliation and correction of the abbot, as was proved
from his shortly returning home so humbled and amended, that he
scarcely could be said to have erred. Seneca says, "He falls not
badly, who rises stronger from his fall." Peter was more strenuous
after his denial of Christ, and Paul after being stoned; since,
where sin abounds, there will grace also superabound. Mary Magdalen
was strengthened after her frailty. He secretly revealed to Canon,
the good and religious abbot of Alba-domus, his opinion of a certain
woman whom he had seen; upon which the holy man confessed, with
tears in his eyes, his predilection for her, and received from three
priests the discipline of incontinence. For as that long and
experienced subtle enemy, by arguing from certain conjectural signs,
may foretell future by past events, so by insidious treachery and
contrivance, added to exterior appearances, he may sometimes be able
to discover the interior workings of the mind.

At the same time there was in Lower Gwent a demon incubus, who, from
his love for a certain young woman, and frequenting the place where
she lived, often conversed with men, and frequently discovered
hidden things and future events. Melerius being interrogated
concerning him, said he knew him well, and mentioned his name. He
affirmed that unclean spirits conversed with mankind before war, or
any great internal disturbance, which was shortly afterwards proved,
by the destruction of the province by Howel, son of Iorwerth of
Caerleon. At the same time, when king Henry II., having taken the
king of Scotland prisoner, had restored peace to his kingdom, Howel,
fearful of the royal revenge for the war he had waged, was relieved
from his difficulties by these comfortable words of Melerius: "Fear
not," says he, "Howel, the wrath of the king, since he must go into
other parts. An important city which he possesses beyond sea is now
besieged by the king of France, on which account he will postpone
every other business, and hasten thither with all possible
expedition." Three days afterwards, Howel received advice that this
event had really come to pass, owing to the siege of the city of
Rouen. He forewarned also Howel of the betraying of his castle at
Usk, a long time before it happened, and informed him that he should
be wounded, but not mortally; and that he should escape alive from
the town. In this alone he was deceived, for he soon after died of
the same wound. Thus does that archenemy favour his friends for a
time, and thus does he at last reward them.

In all these singular events it appears to me most wonderful that he
saw those spirits so plainly with his carnal eyes, because spirits
cannot be discerned by the eyes of mortals, unless they assume a
corporeal substance; but if in order to be seen they had assumed
such a substance, how could they remain unperceived by other persons
who were present? Perhaps they were seen by such a miraculous
vision as when king Balthazar saw the hand of one writing on the
wall, "Mane, Techel, Phares," that is, weighed, numbered, divided;
who in the same night lost both his kingdom and his life. But
Cambria well knows how in these districts, from a blind desire of
dominion, a total dissolution of the endearing ties of
consanguinity, and a bad and depraved example diffused throughout
the country, good faith has been so shamefully perverted and abused.


Newport and Caerdyf

At Newport, where the river Usk, descending from its original source
in Cantref Bachan, falls into the sea, many persons were induced to
take the cross. Having passed the river Remni, we approached the
noble castle of Caerdyf, {77} situated on the banks of the river
Taf. In the neighbourhood of Newport, which is in the district of
Gwentluc, {78} there is a small stream called Nant Pencarn, {79}
passable only at certain fords, not so much owing to the depth of
its waters, as from the hollowness of its channel and muddy bottom.
The public road led formerly to a ford, called Ryd Pencarn, that is,
the ford under the head of a rock, from Rhyd, which in the British
language signifies a ford, Pen, the head, and Cam, a rock; of which
place Merlin Sylvester had thus prophesied: "Whenever you shall see
a mighty prince with a freckled face make an hostile irruption into
the southern part of Britain, should he cross the ford of Pencarn,
then know ye, that the force of Cambria shall be brought low." Now
it came to pass in our times, that king Henry II. took up arms
against Rhys, the son of Gruffydd, and directed his march through
the southern part of Wales towards Caermardyn. On the day he
intended to pass over Nant Pentcarn, the old Britons of the
neighbourhood watched his approach towards the ford with the utmost
solicitude; knowing, since he was both mighty and freckled, that if
the passage of the destined ford was accomplished, the prophecy
concerning him would undoubtedly be fulfilled. When the king had
followed the road leading to a more modern ford of the river (the
old one spoken of in the prophecy having been for a long time in
disuse), and was preparing to pass over, the pipers and trumpeters,
called Cornhiriet, from HIR, long, and CORNU, a horn, began to sound
their instruments on the opposite bank, in honour of the king. The
king's horse, startling at the wild, unusual noise, refused to obey
the spur, and enter the water; upon which, the king, gathering up
the reins, hastened, in violent wrath, to the ancient ford, which he
rapidly passed; and the Britons returned to their homes, alarmed and
dismayed at the destruction which seemed to await them. An
extraordinary circumstance occurred likewise at the castle of
Caerdyf. William earl of Gloucester, son of earl Robert, {80} who,
besides that castle, possessed by hereditary right all the province
of Gwladvorgan, {81} that is, the land of Morgan, had a dispute with
one of his dependants, whose name was Ivor the Little, being a man
of short stature, but of great courage. This man was, after the
manner of the Welsh, owner of a tract of mountainous and woody
country, of the whole, or a part of which, the earl endeavoured to
deprive him. At that time the castle of Caerdyf was surrounded with
high walls, guarded by one hundred and twenty men-at-arms, a
numerous body of archers, and a strong watch. The city also
contained many stipendiary soldiers; yet, in defiance of all these
precautions of security, Ivor, in the dead of night, secretly scaled
the walls, and, seizing the count and countess, with their only son,
carried them off into the woods, and did not release them until he
had recovered everything that had been unjustly taken from him, and
received a compensation of additional property; for, as the poet

"Spectandum est semper ne magna injuria fiat
Fortibus et miseris; tollas licet omne quod usquam est
Argenti atque auri, spoliatis arma supersunt."

In this same town of Caerdyf, king Henry II., on his return from
Ireland, the first Sunday after Easter, passed the night. In the
morning, having heard mass, he remained at his devotions till every
one had quitted the chapel of St. Piranus. {82} As he mounted his
horse at the door, a man of a fair complexion, with a round tonsure
and meagre countenance, tall, and about forty years of age, habited
in a white robe falling down to his naked feet, thus addressed him
in the Teutonic tongue: "God hold the, cuing," which signifies,
"May God protect you, king;" and proceeded, in the same language,
"Christ and his Holy Mother, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Peter
salute thee, and command thee strictly to prohibit throughout thy
whole dominions every kind of buying or selling on Sundays, and not
to suffer any work to be done on those days, except such as relates
to the preparation of daily food; that due attention may be paid to
the performance of the divine offices. If thou dost this, all thy


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