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Gervase of Canterbury


English chronicler; d. c. 1210. The first certain date in his life, Feb. 16, 1163, marks his profession as a monk of Christ Church, canterbury, in the presence of Abp. Thomas becket, whose burial he was to attend seven years later. Gervase seems to have spent most of his life at Canterbury, composing the historical works that are his claim to fame. A typical monastic historian of that age, he filtered all events through the screen of his own monastery's interests. His earliest work was an analysis of the controversy between his archbishop, richard of canterbury, and the monks of the neighboring abbey of st. augustine (117983). This was followed by an account of a struggle between Christ Church and Archbishop baldwin of canterbury (118591) in which Gervase was an active participant, probably drawing up some of the letters justifying the stand of Christ Church. It was at this time that Gervase began his major work, the Chronica, which covered the period from 1100 to 1199; the narration was carried to 1209 by his lesser work, Gesta regum, which is especially valuable for the history of King john. Gervase wrote also Actus pontificum Cantuariensis ecclesiae, a history of the archbishops of Canterbury from augustine of canterbury to hubert walter; a topographical work, Mappa Mundi, on ecclesiastical foundations in the British Isles; and a graphic account of the burning of Canterbury cathedral, Sept. 5, 1174.

Bibliography: Historical Works, ed. w. stubbs, 2 v. Rerum Brittanicarum medii aevi scriptores (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 187980). d. m. knowles, "The Mappa Mundi of Gervase of Canterbury," Downside Review 48 (Yeovil, England 1930) 237247.

[d. nicholl]

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