Ordericus Vitalis

Ordericus Vitalis was born at Atcham, near Shrewsbury, in 1075. His father, Odelerius, was a Norman and his mother was English. At the age of ten he was sent to an abbey at St. Evroul in Normandy. He later wrote that his father was "weeping when he gave me, a weeping child, into the care of the monk Reginald, and sent me away into exile for love of God, and never saw me again."

Ordericus Vitalis eventually came to England and built his own monastery at Shrewsbury. Later he returned to Normandy where he spent the rest of his life. Between 1123 and 1141 he wroteThe Ecclesiastical Historywhich mainly dealt with the rule of William the Conqueror.

Inspired by the work of Bede, Ordericus Vitalis used original documents, interviews and literary sources to write his history books. In his work he criticized the violence and greed of the Norman conquerors. He also attacked the English for being degenerate who benefited from Norman rule. Ordericus Vitalis died in about 1143.

Primary Sources

(1) Ordericus Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History (c. 1142)

William the Conqueror... realised that death was imminent... The wise king ordered all his treasures to be distributed among the churches and the poor.

(2) Confession made by William the Conqueror on his deathbed in 1087. Quoted by Ordericus Vitalis in The Ecclesiastical History (c. 1142)

I tremble my friends/ when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience, and now, about to be summoned before the awful tribunal of God, I know not what I ought to do. I was bred to arms from my childhood, and am stained from the rivers of blood I have shed... It is out of my power to count all the injuries which I have caused during the sixty-four years of my troubled life.