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Source Exercise 3: The Medieval Universe 3

This account of the story of the ‘wild man of Orford’ is taken from the chronicle of Ralph of Coggeshall. Ralph was abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Coggeshall in Essex. He shared in common with many monks an interest in history and the chronicle he composed in the early thirteenth century dwells principally on politics and the affairs of the church. Many such chronicles were composed by monks and their main readership was among the monastic and university communities (universities were part of the monastic world). In common with other chroniclers, Ralph was interested in the activities of invisible beings which were thought to populate the medieval cosmos, such as ghosts, angels and demons, and he was also concerned with monstrous and other beings on the boundaries of the human world. There is no indication that Ralph was in any way connected with the events he describes; in the absence of further evidence we must assume that he is recounting in good faith a tale that he had heard.

B) Now consider the content of the extract in a bit more detail. What significance do you think should be attached to these details?

  • The role of the castellan;
  • The use of torture;
  • The comments on the 'wild man's' behaviour in church;
  • The references to his swimming.

Keep these thoughts in mind, but look now at a different source, a picture:

The Medieval Universe: Source 2

C) What is this object? What is it for?

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