Post-classical history

Ralph of Coggeshall

Abbot of Coggeshall and author of parts of the abbey’s Chronicon Anglicanum dealing with the years 1187 to 1227.

Ralph was abbot of the Cistercian house of Coggeshall in Essex in southeast England, from 1206 until poor health forced his retirement in 1218. His portion of the Chronicon Anglicanum begins with the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin and devotes considerable attention to the Third Crusade (1189-1192). Not surprisingly, the English chronicler focused in particular on the exploits of King Richard I of England in the Holy Land, including his role in the capture of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) on 12 June 1191, and his subsequent negotiations with Saladin.

Despite the lack of English participation in the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), Ralph’s membership in the Cistercian Order encouraged his considerable interest in events surrounding the capture of Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) on 13 April 1204. The abbot reports in detail on the preparatory stages of the crusade, including the dramatic appearances by the crusade preacher Fulk of Neuilly at the Cistercian general chapters of 1198 and 1201. Together with his admiration for Fulk, Ralph’s uncritical account of Constantinople’s fall contributes to a relatively enthusiastic portrayal of the controversial Fourth Crusade. He also gives some information on the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229). Ralph presumably died in 1227 or shortly thereafter.

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