1. Education
  • Share

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:

http://historymedren.about.com/library/text/bltxtitineraryi2.htm

was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales
by Geraldus Cambrensis

Book I

Chapter II

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 desolation33 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 eternity.

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. Elwitus42 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 Newmarch44 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 mended.

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 land."

The lake also54 (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.

 

The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales
by Geraldus Cambrensis

Chapter I <<< Book I Contents >>> Chapter III

Main Contents


You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.