Walter Map
AKA. Gautier Map
b. 1137, Hereford
d. 1209

Archdeacon of Oxford; writer.

Born in Hereford, he was likely of Welsh extraction, evidenced not only by his name (Map simply meaning "son"--in this context, likely "son of"; his full patronym is unknown) but by the subjects of his writings.

He studied at the University of Paris from 1154 until 1160; by 1162 he was at the court of Henry II of England. Henry had made him a clerk of the house, and it is assumed that Map had been ordained around this time. He was made the English representative to the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and archdeacon of Oxford in 1197.

He apparently made himself an enemy of the Benedictines and Cistercians, as well as the Jews; of these, his friend Girladus Cambrensis quotes him as saying the king's justice does not apply to them, as they "were just to none."

The only verifiable work attributed to Map is De Nugis curialium "The Courtier's Trifles", a collection of anecdotes, court gossip, stories about vampires, and attacks on Cistercians, Jews, and the Knights Templar. The second volume is an odd collection of Welsh folktales about the Wild Hunt, the Otherworld, and extreme aesceticism.

There are a number of works attributed to him which are not, in fact, his. The most famous of these is the Lancelot-Grail Cycle (aka the Vulgate Cycle). The work claims to be by Walter Map, but given that the date of text is later than his death, this is highly unlikely. Other works attributed to him are the "Goliardic" satires on the clergy, which is now attributed to the anonymous Archpoet (who is himself viciously satirized in Umberto Eco's Baudolino). These, of course, are now better known as the Carmina Burana. At any rate, there is no evidence that they come from Map's pen.

Back to "M" | Back to JCE

Mary Jones 2006