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…’

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…’

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. 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. 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. 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…’

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. 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…’