The Liber Eliensis is a 12th-century English chronicle and history, written in Latin. Composed in three books, it was written at Ely Abbey on the island of Ely in the fenlands of eastern Cambridgeshire. The Liber covers the period from the founding of the abbey in 673 until the middle of the 12th century.
About Liber Eliensis in brief
The Liber Eliensis is a 12th-century English chronicle and history, written in Latin. Composed in three books, it was written at Ely Abbey on the island of Ely in the fenlands of eastern Cambridgeshire. The Liber covers the period from the founding of the abbey in 673 until the middle of the 12th century. It chronicles the devastation that the Anarchy caused during the reign of King Stephen. Traditionally the work was ascribed to either Thomas or Richard, two monks of Ely mentioned in the text. Janet Fairweather, a classicist and a recent translator of the Liber, suggests that it may have been written by someone other than the traditional candidates. Whoever the author, the Liber specifically states that it waswritten at the bidding of some members of the monastic community at Ely. Two complete manuscripts survive, complemented by partial manuscripts. The Latin text was published in 1962, and an English translation followed in 2005. It is one of a number of monastic histories written during the middle and later 12th Century. Similar books were written at other English monasteries. These included the Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis of Abingdon Abbey, the Chronicon Angliae Peturgurgense of Ramsey Abbey, a Chronicon Monaster of Bath and Wells. The northern histories record the foundation of the various religious houses, along with other information relating to those houses. Those from the south, including the Liberiensis, mainly concern themselves with various controversies involving the religious houses and their respective religious houses.
To a large extent the work is composite; that is to say, it is a borrowing from at least earlier sources, such as Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the People of the English, or the early medieval writer Bede of Bede. It was written in two stages: first under Bishop Hervey le Breton, in office from 1109 to 1133; and continued under Bishop Geoffrey Ridel, who served from 1173 to 1189. The third and final book was completed between 1169 and 1174, when a new bishop was appointed. E. O. Blake, who edited the first Latin printing of the work, concludes that the Liber was probably composed in three parts, based on its contents. It could not have been started before 1154, as it records events from that year. Other themes include the miracles worked by the monastery’s patron saint, Æthelthryth, and gifts of land to Ely. The historian Antonia Gransden is inclined to believe that theWork is by Richard, who is usually identified with the Richard who was recorded as sub-prior and prior of Ely, holding the latter office from 1177 until some time between 1189 and 1194. The work typifies a type of local history produced during the latter part of the 1170s and 1200s. It also documents the career of Nigel, the Bishop of Ely from 1133 to 1169, and his disputes with King Stephen,.