Baldric of Dol

Baldric of Dol was born at Meun, near Orleans. He was] first a monk, and then became Abbot of Bourgueil in 1079, and in 1107 was appointed Archbishop of Dol in Brittany. His personal character was a complete contrast to that of his contemporary Guibert. I dwell with the greater pleasure upon it, as it forms an agreeable relief to that of Guibert, and also because Baldric represents a more common though, at that time, an oppressed type.

The ascetic zeal which pervaded the hierarchy of the eleventh century, was as hatefuLto the nature of Baldric as it was congenial to the Abbot of Nogent. Baldric saw no impediment to a Christian life in secular learning and art; the mortification of the senses was not to his mind ; sullen looks and strict fasts — in short, the whole pomp and ceremony of holy works — appeared to him not sufficient to fill up human life. He enjoyed the quiet of his cloister, the smiling garden, the clear running stream, the budding groves, while in his own room there were books, manuscripts, and all the appliances of learning. “ This is the spot,” writes he to a friend, “in which peace can be found .” There he wrote his verses ; nothing remarkable, but unpretending, and a labor of love . There also he applied himself to severer studies, and interchanged letters with friends of similar tastes. They carefully discussed their works, among others the History of the Crusades . They allowed the ecclesiastical contests to be settled elsewhere; it concerned them but little that a new hierarchy had conquered and remodelled the world ; not that they neglected their duties , but their true life lay in their books, in their gardens, and in their meadows. They were not always able to defend their peaceful existence from the incursion of a hostile element; their ideas were peculiar and too much opposed to the dominant party. Baldric writes to the Bishop of Ostia : “ My vessel sails only by stealth, for pirates of all sorts swarm around me ; they hem me in on every side, gnashing with their teeth because I do not quit my books, because I do not go about with eyes cast on the ground. Thus am I flagging in my work. May your hand protect me.

As bishop, he remained true to himself and to his nature. He was very religious, but gentle and mild. It is true this did not always succeed in his diocese, with his fierce Bretons . He was not fit to hold ecclesiastical power. He quitted Brittany, and sought a more peaceful asylum at Bee, Fecamp, and finally in England . Men like him would never have gained honours and triumphs for the hierarchy; but it is a pleasure to meet with a nature so pure, so cheerful, and so gentle, in times so full of energy, war, and austerity .

His history of the Crusades breathes the same spirit. He is exact and trustworthy in his use of the * Gesta he has not made many additions to its contents, but the views and opinions which he expresses are in keeping with his character. He does not withhold praise, even from the Turks: he omits the word “ faithless,” as applied to the Emperor Alexius, which constantly occurs in the "Gesta". He endeavours to excuse Count Stephen of Blois, who is . generally styled impudens et abominabilis , on the score of the general weakness of human nature. The additions he makes are mostly taken from oral testimony, and generally well selected. Of course it is only in few instances that he can be called an eye-witness; he undoubtedly is so where he mentions the effect caused by the beginning of the Crusades in France.

Baldric died before 1130, as his death was known to Pope Honorius II. His work on the Crusades seems to have been widely known. Ordericus Vitalis made use of it, and William of Tyre in many instances took it as the groundwork of his own history.

References:

"The Version of Baldric of Dol", in The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, 2nd ed., ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998)

John (T.) and Henningsen (G.). Inquisition in Early Modern Europe:  Studies on Sources and Methods (Papers from a conference in Denmark, 5-9 Sept. 1978).  (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1986).
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