Ordericus Vitalis

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Ordericus Vitalis (* 1075 ; † around 1142) was a Norman chronicler. He wrote one of the great contemporary English and Norman histories of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Médaillon mémorial d'Orderic Vital.JPG


Ordericus Vitalis was the eldest son of a French priest, Odeler of Orléans, who entered the service of Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and received a church in Shrewsbury from his patron . When Ordericus was five years old, his parents put him in a school at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury, which was run by an English priest named Siward. At the age of eleven he was accepted as a novice in the Norman monastery of Saint-Evroult-sur-Ouche , which Count Roger had previously persecuted, but then gave rich gifts. Ordericus did not speak a word of French at this time, something that was still noticeable years later in his writings.

His monastic superiors renamed him Vitalis (after a member of the legendary Thebaic Legion ) because they found it difficult to pronounce his baptismal name. In his chronicle, however, he combines both names and even adds the epithet Angligena .

His monastic life was uneventful. He became a deacon in 1093 and a priest in 1107. He left the monastery on several occasions, visiting Croyland Abbey , Worcester , Cambrai (1105) and Cluny (1132). He turned to the scriptures at an early age and appears to have spent the summer in the scriptorium for many years .

His superiors commissioned him between 1099 and 1122 to write a life story of St. Évroult . This work continued to grow under his hands until it became a general story of its time, the Historia Ecclesiastica . The rich monastery of Saint-Évroult had extensive property in England as well as a number of subsidiary monasteries in southern Italy , received regular visitors from these countries and was also a popular retirement home for war-weary knights . As a result, Ordericus was often well informed, although not an eyewitness to major events.

Ordericus gives a lot of information that one looks in vain in other authors. He throws a lot of light on the customs and ideas of his time, sometimes commenting with surprising acumen on the larger aspects and tendencies of history. His story breaks off in mid-1141, although he makes some final remarks about the year 1142. He reports that he is now old and insecure. Probably he did not survive this statement long.

Historia Ecclesiastica

The Historia Ecclesiastica is divided into three sections:

  1. Book I and II, which are historically worthless, with a history of Christianity that becomes a mere list of popes from 855 , ending with the name Innocent I. These two books were probably added to the original report and are believed to date from 1136 onwards.
  2. Books III to VI form the story of Saint Évroult, the original core of the work. Planned before 1122, they were mostly written before 1131. The fourth and fifth books contain lengthy accounts of the deeds of William the Conqueror in Normandy and England. Before 1067, these are of no value, as they essentially draw from other sources : Wilhelm von Jumièges ' Gesta Normannorum ducum and Wilhelm von Poitiers ' Gesta Guillemi . For the years up to 1071 it then connects to the last part of the Gesta Guillemi and thus becomes an important source itself. From 1071 he became an independent authority, although his statements on political events are less detailed here than in the later books.
  3. Books VII to XIII, in which ecclesiastical affairs are pushed into the background. This part takes Ordericus after briefly the history of France under the Carolingians and early Capetians treats, contemporary events, starting with the year 1082. He reported a lot about the Roman German Empire (a source was David Scholasticus ), the papacy , the Normans in Sicily and Apulia , the First Crusade (here he follows Fulcher of Chartres and Balderich of Bourgueil ). However, his main interests are Robert Courteouse , Wilhelm Rufus and Heinrich Beauclerk . He continued his work in the form of annals until the defeat and capture of King Stephen in Lincoln, Lincolnshire in 1141.


  • Auguste le Prévost (ed.): Orderici Vitalis angligenae, coenobii Uticensis monachi, Historiae ecclesiasticae libri tredecim , Julien Renouard, Paris 1838–1855, 5 volumes (digital copies at Google Books: [1] ).
  • Marjorie Chibnall (translator): The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis , 6 volumes, Oxford Medieval Texts, 1968–1980, ISBN 0-19-820220-2 .
  • The Battle of Brémule [2] , excerpts in the translation by Majorie Chibnall.
  • About Heinrich I , excerpts translated by David Burr.


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