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Walter Daniel

Now I proceed to dig into noble ground and reveal the root of such great goodness, that they who are willing to see may see the outshining sanctity of him who begot me to the life of St Benedict through the Gospel of God and showed himself a father to the brethren, and that his great glory may not be hid in the earth and be concealed from those who, thirsting in spirit, are wont to embrace examples of the good.

[From Walter Daniel’s prologue to his Life of Aelred]

Walter, who may originally have come from Cleveland, became a Cistercian monk, c. 1150, joining the community at Rievaulx where his father was already a member. Walter was at that time about twenty-five years of age. References to Walter as ‘Magister’ (master) suggest that he had received an education in the schools, perhaps at Oxford or Paris; it seems that he officiated as infirmarer at Rievaulx and indeed he refers to himself as ‘medicus’ (meaning doctor).(1) Whilst Walter was a prolific writer, and a number of his works survive, he is now best remembered for his biography of Aelred, the third abbot of Rievaulx. This gives an intimate account of Aelred but also provides an insight to monastic life at the abbey in the mid-twelfth century.