Monastic Wales.

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Gerald of Wales; Giraldus Cambrensis , archdeacon of Brecon
(Gerald of Wales; Giraldus Cambrensis; Gerald de Barry)

Born: c. 1146   Died: 1220x1223   

Author and ecclesiastic.

Gerald's father, William de Barry, was a knightly vassal of the earls of Pembroke. However through his mother Gerald was related to the native Welsh princes for his grandmother, Nest, was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth. Accordingly, Gerald was related to Rhys ap Gruffudd, the Lord Rhys (d. 1197), who was the chief representative of the Deheubarth line in the later twelfth century. Gerald was educated at St Peter's Abbey, Gloucester, and in the schools of Paris. In 1176 he was made archdeacon of Brecon and had hoped to succeed his uncle as bishop of St David's but his intentions were thwarted by Henry II who opposed the appointment of one so closely connected with the native princes of South Wales. Gerald resumed his studies in Paris, visited Ireland and in 1184 Henry II took him into royal service. During this time he acted as an envoy for the princes of Wales, accompanied Prince John to Ireland and in 1188 joined Archbishop Baldwin who preached the Crusade around Wales. Gerald also produced a number of literary works, notably, the Topographia Hibernica [The Topography of Ireland], the Expugnatio Hibernica [The Conquest of Ireland], Itinerarium Cambriae [The Journey through Wales], and Descriptio Cambriae [The Description of Wales]. These provide a wealth of detail on the customs and habits of the Irish and Welsh and are a rich source for twelfth-century history. After Gerald left royal service, c. 1196, he continued to write and until 1203 dedicated himself to securing the bishopric of St David's which he sought to elevate to an archiepiscopal seat. Failure to do so left Gerald embittered. In his later years he wrote prodigiously, his works often critical, acerbic and self-justifying. Gerald died between 1220 and 1223, perhaps in Lincoln.

Sites associated with this person

Bardsey Abbey, Gwynedd (Commentator)

Basingwerk Abbey, Flintshire (guest)

Caldey Priory, Pembrokeshire (Commentator)

Goldcliff Priory, Newport (commentator)

Llanbadarn Fawr Priory, Ceredigion (commentator)

Llandovery Priory, Carmarthenshire (commentator)

Llanll?r Abbey, Ceredigion (commentator)

Margam Abbey, Neath Port Talbot (GUEST)

Strata Florida Abbey, Ceredigion (guest)

Whitland Abbey, Carmarthenshire (visits)

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

The Autobiography of Gerald of Wales, ed. H. E. Butler (Boydell and Brewer: Woodbridge, 2005)

'Translated extracts from Welsh and Latin records: Introduction', in Cardiff Records, 5, ed. John Hobson Matthews (1905)

Bartlett, Robert, Gerald of Wales, 1146-1223 (Oxford, 1982)

Bezant, Jemma, 'Travel and communication', in Monastic Wales: New Approaches, ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (University of Wales: Cardiff, 2013), pp. 133-145

Cartwright, Jane, 'Abbess Annes and the ape', in Monastic Wales: New Approaches ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (University of Wales: Cardiff, 2013), pp. 191-207

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales / The Description of Wales (Harmondsworth, 1978)

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), Giraldi Cambresensis Opera, Rolls Series, 21, 8 vols, ed. J. S. Brewer, J. F. Dimock and G. F. Warner (London, 1861-1891)

Harrison, Julian, 'A note on Gerald of Wales and Annales Cambriae', in Welsh History Review, 17 (University of Wales Press: 1994-5), pp. 252-255

Hogan, Arlene, 'Wales and Ireland: monastic links', in Monastic Wales: New Approaches, ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (University of Wales: Cardiff, 2013), pp. 163-174

Kerr, Julie E., 'Health and safety in the medieval monasteries of Britain', History, 93 (2008), pp. 3-19

Kightly, C., A Mirror of Medieval Wales: Gerald of Wales and his Journey of 1188, ed. D. M. Robinson (Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments: Cardiff, 1988)

O’Loughlin, T., 'An early thirteenth-century map in Dublin: a window into the world of Giraldus Cambrensis', Imago Mundi, 51 (1999), p. 24–39

Richter, M., 'Giraldus Cambrensis and Llanthony Priory', Studia Celtica, 12-13 (1977-78), pp. 118-132

Williams, E. A., 'A bibliography of Giraldus Cambrensis c. 1147- c. 1223', The National Library of Wales Journal, 12 (1961-2), pp. 97-140

Web links (open in new window)

Bartlett, Robert, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online - Gerald of Wales (View website) (Subscription reqd.)

Archival sources

National Library of Wales, 'Margam Chronicle; manuscript of Gerald’s Journey through Wales', (Document), (View website)