Monday, 3 September 2018

Shrewsbury to Hereford (Gerald’s Journey Through Wales 1188)

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.

The party hadn't set foot in Wales since they arrived at Chester, though their last crusade sermon was preached at Oswestry where a number of Welsh crossed the border to be present. But the journey had begun from Hereford and that was where it would end.

Ludlow Castle

It would not be all plain sailing however. Leaving Shrewsbury the party had to negotiate the narrow, rugged road called ‘Evil Street’. Their journey took them via Bromfield Priory and Ludlow Castle, which Gerald referred to as ‘the noble castle of Ludlow.’ The castle ruins still survive today, perched on the rock high above the Teme, especially the unusual round-naved Norman chapel. The splendid priory church of Leominster still largely survives too, which they would have passed soon after entering Herefordshire.

On the last day of the journey Gerald made sure to ride beside Archbishop Baldwin, which was the place of honour. It also placed him very conveniently when the clerks began discussing the crusade to come and wondering who would be the best person to record its story. To Gerald’s immense satisfaction, the Archbishop offered the job to him. The Archbishop declared that the distinguished author of the Topography of Ireland was clearly the ideal man to chronicle the inevitable fall of Saladin and the Christian victory.

Medieval writing desk

Many of those who had travelled with them had gone their separate ways over recent weeks, including Archdeacon Alexander the interpreter, Bishop Peter, Bishop Saltmarsh, Prince Rhys and the Cistercian abbots, but Gerald’s nephew William de Barry was still there, as was Maelgwyn ap Rhys was still couldn’t make up his mind whether to join the crusade. The unsung heroes of the party were also still there: the servants and packhorse men who had seen to their needs by day and night.

They all came finally into Hereford, and Gerald records, ‘And thus, having come full circle, we returned again to the place where we began this difficult journey through Wales.’

[adapted from A Mirror of Medieval Wales by Charles Kightly]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

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