We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Written World

Past and Place in the Work of Orderic Vitalis

Amanda Jane Hingst

Publication Year: 2009

The Anglo-Norman monk Orderic Vitalis (1075-c.1142) wrote his monumental, highly individual Historia Ecclesiastica as an exercise in monastic discipline intended to preserve the events and character of Christendom for future generations. Though cloistered since childhood in a Benedictine monastery near Normandy's southern border, Orderic gained access to an intellectual world that extended from Scotland to Jerusalem through his engagement with texts and travelers that made their way into his monastic milieu. His Historia Ecclesiastica, with a breadth of vision unparalleled in its time, is a particularly fertile source for an investigation of concepts of space and historiography in the high Middle Ages. In The Written World: Past and Place in the Work of Orderic Vitalis, Amanda Jane Hingst draws on the blend of intellectual intimacy and historiographical breadth in Orderic's writings to investigate the ways in which high medieval historians understood geographical space to be a temporally meaningful framework for human affairs. Hingst explores Orderic's manipulation of the classical geographical tradition, his balancing of spatial scale between the local and the universal, and his sophisticated and original utilization of the new intellectual currents of the twelfth century. She argues that Orderic, along with some of his contemporaries, interpreted Christendom's terrain not merely as a static stage for human action but as a meaningful element in human history. Using a theoretical framework marrying modern spatial theory with medieval philosophical traditions, Hingst suggests that, at its most nuanced, medieval historiography affirmed the symbolic topography of Christendom by linking history and geography in such a way that they mutually forged and reinforced each other. With a clarity of style and ideas, Hingst makes available to both students and trained scholars a fascinating account of a heretofore underappreciated medieval figure and his work.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.6 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (37.3 KB)
pp. ix-x

Monks, Orderic Vitalis said, need only two things to survive: wood and water. Historians need three: money, books, and friends. The first was provided by a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, which supported four years of my graduate study, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (77.5 KB)
pp. xi-xxiii

“In the year of our Lord 1118, on the vigil of the birth of the Lord, a violent gale leveled many buildings and woods in western regions,” the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman monk and historian Orderic Vitalis opened the twelfth book of his Historia Ecclesiastica. He immediately went on. ...

read more

Ouche: The History of a Place

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.5 KB)
pp. 1-18

Normandy’s characteristic rolling hills grow more pronounced in the Pays d’Ouche. The peaks there are more panoramic, the valleys more thoroughly folded away. Set along the border where in the eleventh and twelfth centuries the duchy of Normandy collided, often violently, with the county of Maine, ...

read more

Classical Geography and the Gens Normannorum

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 19-41

Orderic Vitalis was well versed in the writings of the historians who came before him. The library at Ouche possessed the works of “Isidore, Eusebius, and Orosius,” Orderic said, whose compositions “beneficially encouraged the young men pursuing similar studies.”1 ...

read more

At Sea

pdf iconDownload PDF (63.7 KB)
pp. 42-50

The Norman world at its height offered a geographic doubling: Normandy at the northwestern edge of the European mainland, linked to the island of England across the Channel; and Apulia and Calabria near the southwestern corner of the continent, joined with the island of Sicily across the Strait of Messina. ...

read more

Albion: Conquest, Hegemony, and the English Past

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.1 KB)
pp. 51-69

The Norman conquest of England was audacious, stunning, and amazingly quick.1 Edward the Confessor, the childless king of England, was buried in the newly consecrated abbey church at Westminster on Thursday, 6 January 1066.2 On the same day Harold Godwinson, earl of Essex ...

read more

Jerusalem and the Ends of the Earth

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.7 KB)
pp. 70-91

Alongside the year 1099 in the annals of the monastery of Ouche, Orderic Vitalis (who kept this chronological record for much of his adult life) noted three events: “Jerusalem was taken on 15 July by the holy pilgrims, the heathens who had held it for a long time having been conquered. ...

read more

Haunted Landscapes

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.7 KB)
pp. 92-109

“I reckon,” Orderic Vitalis reflected in the mid-1130s, “that I must not neglect or keep silent about something that happened to a certain presbyter from the diocese of Lisieux on 1 January” in 1091. The story that follows is one of the most famous passages in the entire Historia Ecclesiastica.1 ...

read more

Historians, Heretics, and the Body of Christ

pdf iconDownload PDF (99.7 KB)
pp. 110-128

On 29 August 1070, four years after Normandy’s William the Bastard crossed the Channel and conquered England, the scholar and administrator Lanfranc, formerly abbot of St. Stephen’s in Caen, was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury.1 The previous prelate, Stigand, had been deposed the April before, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (59.3 KB)
pp. 129-136

“The time of Antichrist draws near,” Orderic Vitalis wrote in 1127 in a mid-work dedication to his abbot and friend, Warin des Essarts, “whose form, as the Lord made known to the blessed Job, will be preceded by a lack of miracles, and a great frenzy of vices will proceed from those who take pleasure in their own carnal delights.”1 ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (365.6 KB)
pp. 137-214


pdf iconDownload PDF (206.2 KB)
pp. 215-259


pdf iconDownload PDF (70.0 KB)
pp. 260-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780268081591
E-ISBN-10: 026808159X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268030865
Print-ISBN-10: 0268030863

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights
Publication Year: 2009