The History of ORDERICUS VITALIS

ORDERICUS VITALIS, in his personal and literary history, forms a connecting link between the English and Norman writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Ordericus was born in England on the fifteenth of February, 1075, at Atcham, on the banks of the Severn, the residence of his father Odelirius, a native of Orleans in France, who, at the time of the Norman conquest, was a follower of Roger de Montgomery, afterwards created Earl of Shrewsbury. Ordericus received the name of his godfather, a Saxon priest and curate of the parish, who both baptized him and became his sponsor. At the age of five, Ordericus was sent to school at Shrewsbury, where he learnt reading, grammar, and the chants used in the church, under a master named Siward.

His own father, Odelirius, was a man of some learning, a clerk, and a priest, for at that time, particularly in England, priests were not forbidden to marry. However, when Odelirius became a widower, he thought it his duty not only to renounce himself all worldly attachments, but to withdraw from them his eldest son Ordericus, then ten years old. He therefore devoted him as well as himself to the religious life, and retired to Shrewsbury monastery where he also entered his youngest son, Benedict, to be brought up as a monk. He further endowed the abbey with one half of all the estates which the earl had conferred upon him, reserving the other half to his remaining son Everard, Odericus' second brother.

However, Odelirius thought that neither his own nor his son's life would be secure if they remained in the same monastery, and he sent Odericus to Normandy under the care of a monk named Ragnold, where Ordericus, entered the abbey of Ouche, belonging to the rule of St. Benedict, and founded by St. Evroult, an Orleanais saint, for whom Odelirius, as his countryman, felt especial veneration.

There, his name was changed to Vitalis, because his former name appeared barbarous to the Normans. He always calls himself simply Vitalis, but both names are used in the oldest MSS. of his works.

But Ordericus did not forget his native country; he so gloried in the name of "Englishman" that it is added to his Norman designation of "monk of St. Evroult" in his autograph manuscript.

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