FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY
ROGER OF WENDOVER (he probably hailed from Wendover, Buckinghamshire) was a monk at St Albans Abbey, where he compiled a chronicle, the ‘Flores Historiarum’ (Flowers of History), extending from the Creation to 1235. Roger concludes his preface to the work:
“Finally, that which follows has been taken from the books of catholic writers worthy of credit, just as flowers of various colours are gathered from various fields, to the end that the very variety, noted in the diversity of the colours, may be grateful to the various minds of the readers, and by presenting some which each may relish, may suffice for the profit and entertainment of all.”
Roger's chronicle is divided into two books. The first is devoted to the period from the Creation to the Incarnation, and is of no interest.
“The second book of this work treats of the New Testament, commencing with the incarnation of Christ and his nativity, and notices every year, without omitting one, down to our times ... for the sake of fastidious readers, who are easily wearied, we think it good to aim at brevity in this our history ...”
Roger of Wendover ‘Flores Historiarum’ Preface
The work's real importance lies in its coverage of events from about 1200 – the events of Roger's own times – however, during the Anglo-Saxon period Roger seems to have preserved nuggets from now lost sources.
Roger's death is dated to 6th May 1236 by, his rather more illustrious successor as St Albans' historiographer, Matthew Paris. Matthew revised Roger's chronicle, and extended it to 1259 (in which year he apparently died) – producing a large work, appropriately called the ‘Chronica Majora’ (Great Chronicle). Whether Roger had, similarly, assimilated the work of a previous St Albans historiographer whose name was not recorded, or whether he was the originator of the ‘Flores Historiarum’, is a question that has divided scholars' opinions over the years.* At any rate, the original manuscript of Matthew's ‘Chronica Majora’ still exists, and this is, in fact, the earliest surviving incarnation of Roger's work. Roger of Wendover's ‘Flores Historiarum’ itself exists in two later manuscripts, one of which (British Library MS Cotton Otho B v, c.1350) is fire-damaged. It is a translation of the other manuscript (Bodleian Library MS Douce 207, c.1300) that is used in this website.
Translation by J.A. Giles
It was normal practice to use an existing chronicle as the basis for a new work. By the early-14th century a chronicle had been developed from the work of Roger of Wendover/Matthew Paris, first at St Albans Abbey and then Westminster Abbey, which circumstances apparently resulted in a scribe conferring the title ‘Flores Historiarum’ on it, and identifying its author as one Matthew of Westminster (an imaginary figure).