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The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales

af Gerald of Wales

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Scholar, churchman, diplomat and theologian, Gerald of Wales was one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages and The Journey Through Wales describes his eventful tour of the country as a missionary in 1188. In a style reminiscent of a diary, Gerald records the day-to-day events of the mission, alongside lively accounts of local miracles, folklore and religious relics such as Saint Patrick's Horn, and eloquent descriptions of natural scenery that includes the rugged promontory of St David's and the vast snow-covered panoramas of Snowdonia. The landscape is evoked in further detail in The Description, which chronicles the everyday lives of the Welsh people with skill and affection. Witty and gently humorous throughout, these works provide a unique view into the medieval world.… (mere)
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The Journey through Wales / The Description of Wales by Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales wrote such a detailed account of his travels through Wales in 1188 that scholars are still using his material as primary documentation. Added to The Journey is The Description of Wales highlighting the daily living, social and economic conditions of people in Wales at this time.

Gerald’s ambition was to become Archbishop of Wales; this never came to fruition. He knew everybody that there was to know in Wales and England of the day. Although he was born in Wales, there does not seem to be any record of Gerald being able to speak Welsh. When he preached in Wales, he used Latin and French not Welsh. What about when he had dealings with the Welsh princes? Wales was not a backwards as many historians like to imagine and many of the more important Welsh rulers could communicate effectively in either Latin or French as well as in English and Welsh. Therefore, I am sure that any dealings between the two parties would have been conducted easily.

I found The Journey to be an interesting travel diary kept by Gerald on his missionary travels. I found The Description equally interesting, as this is a firsthand account of what life was like in Wales in the late 1180s during the reign of Richard the Lionhearted. I usually find primary documents boring and mind numbing to read yet these two books found a special place in my heart. Maybe that is the Welsh pride coming out.

The Journey and The Description both almost read like a Who’s Who of medieval England and Wales. Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury, Saint Thomas Becket, Cadwaladr ap Gruffyd ap Cynan, Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd, Bishop David FitzGerald of St. David’s, Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Tewdwr, William Longchamp, Empress Matilda, Earl Hugh Montgomery of Shrewsbury, and so many others.

Overall, if you have any interest in Wales in particular or medieval English history in general, then I would suggest you give this a good read.

Happy Reading, ( )
  jcprowe | Sep 20, 2014 |
Finally hit the original of this text. I'm in love with the subject matter so I love it. If you are interested in Welsh history or medieval history I recommend it. ( )
  librarianbryan | Apr 20, 2012 |
The Journey Through Wales provides a scattered treatment of travel by the author and his companions. The Description of Wales provides interesting insights into life in Wales at the time. I found the heavy-handed religious and antiquated natural history 'facts' proffered by the author tiresome, but read the books and got some insight into Wales at the time of his writing. ( )
  slbenjamin | Apr 22, 2011 |
Originally written as two separate works in the 12th century, Penguin's classic edition of The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily life and culture of medieval Wales. A dynamic and well-known clergyman and writer in his day, Gerald also wrote The History and Topography of Ireland. ( )
  cuffindell | Aug 13, 2010 |
Easy read and entertaining. It is a great view into the life of a monastic in the medieval period. His descriptions of the people and places bring them to life and help a modern reader get a glimpse into the past . ( )
  goth_marionette | Jan 13, 2009 |
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Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Gerald of Walesprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Hoare, R.C.Oversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Radice, BettyRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Thorpe, LewisOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Williams, W. LlewelynIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Gerald the Welshman - Giraldus Cambrensis - was born, probably in 1147, at Manorbier Castle in the county of Pembroke.

Introduction to the Everyman's Library ed., 1908.
As the times are affected by the changes of circumstances, so are the minds of men influenced by different manners and customs.

Itinerary. First preface to Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury (1908 translation).
Since these 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.

Itinerary. Second preface to the same prelate (1908 translation).
In the year 1188 from the incarnation of our Lord, Urban the Third 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, archishop 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 Herefordshire.

The itinerary through Wales (1908 translation).
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Scholar, churchman, diplomat and theologian, Gerald of Wales was one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages and The Journey Through Wales describes his eventful tour of the country as a missionary in 1188. In a style reminiscent of a diary, Gerald records the day-to-day events of the mission, alongside lively accounts of local miracles, folklore and religious relics such as Saint Patrick's Horn, and eloquent descriptions of natural scenery that includes the rugged promontory of St David's and the vast snow-covered panoramas of Snowdonia. The landscape is evoked in further detail in The Description, which chronicles the everyday lives of the Welsh people with skill and affection. Witty and gently humorous throughout, these works provide a unique view into the medieval world.

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