Full text: "Grenzgänger"

Giraldus’s life can be summarized as follows." As the fourth and youngest son he 
was destined for a clerical career from the beginning, receiving education initially 
from his uncle, David fitz Gerald, bishop of St David’s (1148-76), before proceeding 
to St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester, and then Paris, where he remained between с. 1165 
and с. 1172.11 12 After returning from the Parisian schools he obtained a legation from 
the archbishop of Canterbury in 1174 to collect tithes in the diocese of St David’s; 
shortly afterwards (с. 1175) he was appointed archdeacon of Brecon, having secured 
the deposition of the previous archdeacon on the grounds of the latter’s marriage, 
which contravened canon law. After a further period in Paris studying theology 
(1176-9) Giraldus administered the diocese of St David’s for about three years on 
behalf of Bishop Peter de Leia (c. 1179-82).13 The next major step in the arch¬ 
deacon’s career was his employment as a royal clerk in the service of Henry II in 
1184, a position he retained into the reign of Henry’s successor, Richard 1(1189-99). 
His service as a clerk took Giraldus to Ireland in 1185-6 and on a journey with 
Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury to preach the Third Crusade in Wales in 1188, as 
well as on missions in England and France. It was at this stage in his career that he 
wrote the first of his important prose works, two on Ireland (the Topographia Hiber- 
nica and the Expugnatio Hibernica) and two on Wales (the Itinerarium Kambriae 
and the Descriptio Kambriae), thereby launching a hugely prolific literary career. 
After leaving the court c. 1194 Giraldus spent further time in study, first at Hereford 
and then, from с. 1196, at Lincoln, before his election as bishop of St David’s in 
1199. The election was disputed, and the matter complicated by Giraldus’s reviving 
the claim, first advanced by the Norman bishop of St David’s, Bernard (1115-48), 
that that church should be recognized as a metropolitan see with authority over a 
Welsh ecclesiastical province independent of Canterbury. Despite three journeys to 
Rome to prosecute his case, by 1203 Giraldus had failed to secure either confirma¬ 
tion of his election or the elevation of St David’s to the status of an archbishopric. He 
resigned his archdeaconry in favour of his nephew and spent most of the remaining 
years of his life at Lincoln, reliving his struggle for St David’s in a series of autobio¬ 
graphical works and writing or completing a number of other books, including a 
Furstenspiegel, De Principis Instructione, whose second and third books contained 
a damning account of his former employer, King Henry II.14 
Giraldus was not unique, of course, as an example of a cleric from Wales who 
received an education in England (and in his case crucially also France) before 
returning to hold ecclesiastical office in Wales. Welsh churches were poor and could 
not provide a thorough grounding in the arts, let alone theology or law, available at 
11 The fullest reconstruction of his life remains J. Conway Davies, Giraldus Cambrensis, 
1146-1946, in: Archaeologia Cambrensis 99 (1946-7) pp. 85-108, 256-80. 
12 Bartlett, Gerald (as n. 6) p. 29; Richter, Giraldus (as n. 6) p. 4 assigns Gerald’s first period 
in Paris to c. 1162-74. 
13 Ibid. pp. 6, 90. 
14 On this last-named work, see Karl Schnith, Betrachtungen zum Spätwerk des Giraldus 
Cambrensis ‘De Principis Instructione’, in: Festiva Lanx, Munich 1967, pp. 53-66; Bartlett, 
Gerald (as n. 6) pp. 69-99. 
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