Gerald of Wales, a learned scholar and a churchman of note, was born Gerald de Barri in Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire in 1146.The son of the Norman Knight William de Barri and Angharad, daughter of Nest and granddaughter of Rhys ap Twdwr, Prince of South Wales. Nest’s husband was the Norman Knight , Gerald de Windsor, Castelian of Pembroke. One of his mother’s brothers was David Fitzgerald, Bishop of St. David’s. This family tree did no favours for Gerald, the Normans always considered him too Welsh and the Welsh thought him too Norman.
His childhood was supposedly happy and it is said that his father and his uncle encouraged him to study and to see himself as a future churchman. It is said that whilst playing on the local beaches he built sand churches and not sand castles like his friends.
He was educated at the Benedictine Abbey, Gloucester, where he excelled, became fluent in Latin and French. Being an articulate student we can only assume that he was competent in Welsh , there is no evidence of his fluency in his native tongue.He continued his education in Paris , first as a student and later as a lecturer.
Gerald’s dream was the Bishopric of St. David’s along with the ambition to its metropolitan status and to free the Church in Wales from its subservience to Canterbury.
He became Archdeacon of Brecon, a title he held for many years. Turning down offers of Bishoprics of Bangor and Llandaff. Every occasion St. David’s became available, Gerald was the choice of its Canons and Chapter but either the King, fearing his family connections with the Welsh Princes or Canterbury fearing his reforming reputation would veto his appointment. The last time this happened, Gerald to everyone’s astonishment accepted their decision without demur and at the same time resigned his Archdeaconry of Brecon.
Gerald lived for another twenty years, devoting himself to literary composition producing book after book written in his loved Latin. The best being ‘ The Journey Through Wales’ and’ The Description of Wales’.
Gerald of Wales was the forerunner of present day P.R. And was known,respected and had access to Popes and Princes throughout Europe.
He described himself as strikingly handsome, strongly convinced of his own ability and importance. His tongue could be very sharp and it’s said that the ink he dipped his quill pen was often mixed with gall.
Until old age weakened him he was resolute, elf regarding and self admiring. He was always and remained a reforming churchman . The final accolade on Geraldus Cambrensis when a fellow academic described him as ‘one of the most learned men of a learned age’

2 comments on “GERALD CAMBRENSIS

  1. Susan Davies says:

    Very interesting. Good PR man for Wales like Emrys Cambrensis! Xxx

  2. Stephen Delwyn says:

    Very informative piece.

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