Dr Chris Monk translations and commentaries

Christopher Monk is a historical research consultant and educator working in the creative and heritage sectors. He specialises in the Middle Ages, particularly the culture of early medieval England (c.500-c.1100). He has worked with Rochester Cathedral since 2013, collaborating on its ‘Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions’ project, financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and several other organisations. He helped to produce the multi-media outputs for the project’s exhibition on Textus Roffensis, the Cathedral’s most important medieval book, a manuscript that has been recognised as ‘Britain’s greatest hidden treasure’.

In these web pages, Chris will be gradually releasing his translations of Old English and Latin documents from Textus Roffensis. The focus is on texts that have yet to be translated, or fully translated, elsewhere – or, if they do exist, are not readily accessible.

Medieval languages present many challenges to the translator. Dr Monk explains: ‘It is difficult to decide how much one should preserve medieval idiom. Certain words or turns of phrase may be obscure to the modern reader, because they’re very much part of the medieval world they were used in, and so I need to translate in a way that clarifies the meaning or sense. Sometimes, however, I really want the audience to “hear” the medieval voice, and so I decide to use a modern cognate that best preserves the flavour of the original language. Translation is always a compromise.’

Following each translation there is a modern edition of the original language as it appears in the actual manuscript. The emphasis is on accessibility rather than academic convention. Dr Monk has, for example, indicated where he has expanded the scribe’s abbreviations rather than just do so silently, and he has represented the different colours of ink in the manuscript, such as using a red font for rubrics. ‘I want non-experts to be able to read the text directly from the manuscript’, Chris explains, ‘and so by comparing the manuscript text with the edition they should be able to do so more easily.’

Links in Bold:

ff. 32r-32v. The anonymous law known as Ordal [‘Ordeal’]

‘And with this ordeal, we are commanding the command of God and the archbishop and all bishops: No one may come into the church – except the mass-priest and the one who shall undertake the ordeal– after the one who carries in the fire, who heats up the ordeal. Literally, ‘the one who shall go thereto’; a similar phrase is used in the next paragraph…’

f. 32v. The anonymous fragment of law known as Walreaf (‘Corpse Robbery’)

‘Corpse robbery is an outlaw’s deed. If someone should wish to be acquitted thereof, do so with forty-eight full-born [or ‘noble-born’] thegns…’

f. 38r. The anonymous fragment of law known as Pax (‘Peace’)

‘Thus far shall be the king’s peace from his city gate where he is seated, on its four sides. That is 3 miles, and 3 furlongs, and 3 acres, and 9 feet, and 9 spans, and 9 barley-corns…’

ff. 38v–39v. Hu se man sceal swerie (‘How the person must swear an oath’)

‘In the Lord,  whose holiness is foremost: to [name of lord]  I wish to be loyal and true, and to love all that he loves, and to shun all that he shuns according to God’s law and secular customs, and neither willingly nor intentionally to carry out either a word or deed which to him is hateful; I wish to live up to the regard with which he may hold me; and everything agreed between us I will carry out when I submit to him;  and his will I have chosen…’

f. 39v. The anonymous tract known as Be Mirciscan Aðe (‘Concerning the Mercian Oath’)

‘An oath of a mass-priest and of a worldly thegn is in English law reckoned as equally dear; and because the mass-priest received what he had through God’s gift of the seven orders of the church, he will have the rights of a thegn…’

f. 39v. The anonymous tract known as Be Mircna Laga (‘Concerning Laws of the Mercians’)

‘In the laws of the Mercians, a ceorl’s wergild is 200 shillings.  A thegn’s wergild is six times as much, that is 12 hundred shillings. Then, according to Mercian laws, the single wergild of a king is the same as the wergild of six thegns, that is 30 thousand pennies, which is 120 pounds in total…’

ff. 44r-45r. Edmund’s First Code

‘King Edmund assembled a great council at London on the holy Eastertide, both divine and worldly ranks. Oda and Archbishop Wulfstan were there, and many other bishops inquiring about the counsel of their souls and of those who were subject to them…’

ff. 46r-47r. Æthelred’s Woodstock Code, also known as I Æthelred

‘This is the decree which King Æthelred and his council decreed at Woodstock for all the people as a remedy of peace in Mercia according to English law…’

ff. 80r-81v. Articles of William I

‘Here is shown what William, king of the English, with his principal men, decreed after the conquest of England…’

ff. 93v–94r. Norðleoda Laga (‘Laws of the Northumbrians’)

‘Among the English, the king’s wergild is, according to folk-right, 30 thousand thrymsa:  15 thousand thrymsa the man’s, 15 thousand the kingdom’s. The wer[gild] belongs to the family, and the ‘king-bot’ to the people.…’

ff. 95r–95v. Hit becwæð (‘It he bequeathed’), a formula for asserting the right to hold bequeathed land

‘It he bequeathed, and he died: he who owned it with full folk-right, just as his ancestors obtained it with cattle and with life-right, and allotted and left it to his keeping, which they granted well. And so I have it just as he who owned the right to give gave it, both honestly and lawfully.…’

ff.119r-119v. King Æthelberht grants land in Rochester to the church of St Andrew

‘Here begin the priveledges granted to the church of St Andrew at Rochester, from the time of King Æthelberht who, having received the Christian faith from the blessed Augustine, caused the same church to be built…’

ff. 152r–155r. Æthelred II restores to the see of Rochester at the request of Bishop Godwine six sulungs at Wouldham and one mansa at Littlebrook. A.D. 995

‘…With this present charter, I have agreed to restore liberty of the same aforesaid portion of land, in perpetual and immutable inheritance, to the pontifical seat of the church of Rochester, dedicated to the saviour of all, our lord Jesus Christ, and his holy and most blessed apostle Andrew…’

ff. 155r–156v. The dispute between Bishop Godwine and Leofwine over the estate of Snodland

‘It is made known here in this document how Godwine, Bishop of Rochester, and Leofwine, son of Ælfheah, became reconciled at Canterbury in regard to the land at Snodland…’

ff. 156v–159v. Æthelred II restores to the see of Rochester six sulungs at Bromley and the use of forest in the Weald. A.D. 998

‘… I Æthelred, glad, benevolent and faithful, and, by the granting of divine mercy, king of the English people, restore to the omnipotent Christ and to his holy apostle Andrew (full brother of the blessed chief of the apostles, Simon Peter), a certain area of land at Bromley…’

ff. 159v–162r. Æthelred II grants to Bishop Godwine of Rochester fifteen hides at Fen Stanton and Hilton, Hunts. A.D. 1012

‘…I Æthelred, king of the nations of all people of Britain, for the attainment of the rewards of the heavenly life, do give by my honourable right hand to a certain Godwine, devoted servant of God, bishop of the diocese of Rochester, and to me as a friend altogether beloved, 15 hides of land in the estate at Fenstanton and at Hilton…’

ff. 162v–163v. History of the estates of Bromley and Fawkham, Kent, in the time of King Eadgar and immediately afterwards

‘Thus were given the lands at Bromley and at Fawkham  to King Eadgar at London by means of the charters of Snodland. Then the priests stole them from the bishop of Rochester and sold them to Ælfric, son of Æscwyn, for secret money. Beforehand Æscwyn, mother of Ælfric, had given them up to [Rochester].  And then the bishop realised that the charters were stolen…’

ff. 173r-174v. William II grants the manor of Haddenham to Bishop Gundulf for which, in return, Gundulf builds Rochester Castle

‘How King William, son of William the king, at the request of Archbishop Lanfranc,  granted and confirmed as the living of the monks of the Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle the manor named Haddenham, for which, by his own means, Bishop Gundulf built, completely of stone, Rochester Castle for the king…’

ff. 175r-176v. The dispute between bishop Gundulf and Pichot, sheriff of Cambridge

‘In the time of William, the great king of the English, father of King William of the same people, there was a certain dispute between Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, and Pichot, the sheriff of Cambridge, about certain land which belonged to Freckenham and which was situated in Gisleham…’

f. 185v. Agreement between Bishop Gundulf and Haimo son of Vitalis concerning privileges relating to the church at Stourmouth

‘…this very Haimo gave the church of Stourmouth and all its Sunday tithing, with all customary payments which pertain to the same church, and 4 acres of land which are in the church, and in the same manor pasture for one hundred sheep…’

f. 191v. Hugh, in agreement with his wife Emma and his sons, grants land at Southgate to St Andrew’s, Rochester

‘I Hugh, son of Fulk, in agreement with my wife Emma and my sons, Fulk and the others, do give to God and Saint Andrew and his monks my land at Southgate, which is adjacent to their storehouse, whole and quiet, as well as the 12 pennies due me or my agent for this land, rendered annually on the festival of Saint Michael…’

ff. 191v–192r. Goldwin ‘the Greek’ grants land to St Andrew’s, Rochester, for the expansion of the cemetery

‘Goldwin, of the surname Greek, gave to the church of Saint Andrew and the monks, in order for his son to become a monk at that very place, two hagas of land in Rochester pertaining to Frindsbury, and part of the king’s land which is next to these hagas. Moreover…’

f. 193v. Note on the bishop’s provisions from the church at Northfleet

‘…whatsoever the bishop secures as far as wardrobe allowance and shoe allowance by the hand of the chamberlain, and whatsoever he secures in candles and gifts and dues by the hand of the sacristan, he receives from the income of the church at Northfleet.’

f. 194v. Note concerning Geoffrey of Delce’s grant of land near Prestefield in order for his son to become a monk at St Andrew’s Priory

‘Geoffrey of Delce gave to us 30 acres of land near Prestefield for his son whom we made a monk. With respect to which he relinquished his son Herbert…’

ff. 196r–196v. Bishop Gundulf’s arrangements for the clothing of the monks

‘From Rochester, 10 pounds. From the mill-house of the same estate, 30 shillings. From the cellarer, 24 shillings. From Frindsbury, 5 pounds and 10 shillings. From Stoke, 30 shillings. From Fleet, 4 pounds and 10 shillings…’

ff. 196v–197r. Bishop Ernulf grants privileges and lands to the church of St Andrew at Rochester

‘Ernulf, bishop of Rochester. To everyone of Buckingham, to the French and the English, greetings. Know that I have granted to the church of Saint Andrew of Rochester, for the luminaries of the same church, the church of Haddenham…’

f. 197r. Bishop Ernulf grants funds for the building and maintenance of St Andrew’s Priory

‘…I Ernulf, bishop of the same church granted in perpetuity for the building and maintenance of the monks’ home the money which the priests of the parish are accustomed to render either when they receive chrism or assemble at the synod…’

ff. 197r-197v. Bishop Ernulf sets up alms-giving in honour of Gundulf

‘This is the alms-giving which the lord bishop Ernulf, having granted it at the request of the monks, set up to be made every year for the soul of our father, bishop Gundulf, on his anniversary…’

ff. 198r-198v. Election of Avice as the first abbess of Malling

‘On the day when Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, gave the abbey of Malling to the nun Avice, the very same nun swore fidelity and subjection to the very same bishop, his successors, and the holy church of Rochester, because she would not be persuaded, either by him or by another person, to dissolve the aforesaid subjection…’

ff. 200v-201r. An Agreement made by the monks of Rochester with the wife of Robert Latimer

‘This woman held certain land from Frindsbury which was called Thornden, and for that paid twenty shillings each year to the aforementioned Frindsbury, and must hold that land until her death. After her death, however, it must be [the property] of Saint Andrew and the monks…’

ff.203v-204r. Judgment of Imar of Tusculum in favour of the monks of St Andrew’s Priory, Rochester

‘Hence, we wish to be known to you all through this present communication, because a dispute of this sort has arisen between Ascelin, bishop of Rochester,  and the monks of that same place, namely the church of St Andrew, over the right of the manors of Lambeth and Haddenham…’

ff.206r-208r. The Bull of Pope Eugene

‘Dated across the Tiber by the hand of Robert, cardinal priest and Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church,  on the fifth day before the kalends of March [25th February], in the ninth year of the indiction [1146],  [following] the year 1145 of the Lord’s incarnation, in the second year of the papacy of the lord Pope Eugene III…’

ff. 210r–210v. William I gives one hundred pounds, shortly before his death, to the church of St Andrew, Rochester

‘William, great king of the English, father of William, king of the same people, esteemed so much the Rochester church of Saint Andrew that he gave to it, at the moment of his imminent death, one hundred pounds, besides bequeathing a royal tunic, a special ivory horn, and also one dossal with a silver-gilded frame…’

ff. 211v–212r. Bishop Gundulf affirms his release to William II of land at Borstal in exchange for three acres of land which were originally granted by bishop Odo to St Andrew’s Priory as garden for the monks

‘Gundulf, bishop of Rochester by the grace of God, to sheriff Haimo and all the king’s barons of Kent, the French and the English, greetings along with his and God’s greatest possible blessing. I wish you all to know that I am now at ease with King Rufus concerning the exchange of land…’

ff. 213r-213v. Bishop Gundulf confirms a grant by Gilbert the priest of three hides at Haddenham in exchange for Gilbert entering the monastic life

‘Let it be known that Gilbert our priest of Haddenham has granted to the church of Saint Andrew in Rochester three hides of land which he held as demesne in Haddenham, with the agreement that when he himself wishes he will become a monk there…’

ff. 213v-214v. The account of Gilbert entering the monastic life

‘Afterwards, indeed, it soon happened that Gilbert himself exchanged the secular condition and mode of life for the monastic condition and mode of life at Rochester. During this time the manor of Aston, which is situated in the county of Gloucester…’