The Anglo-Saxon Monk offers his contemporaneous take on the infamous trial by ordeal in Anglo-Saxon England
As you may be aware, that other Monk has been busy translating Textus Roffensis, the remarkable 12th-century collection of early medieval laws. Well, good for him. Unfortunatley, whilst I was helping him out with his domestic chores, allowing him to pursue his more scholarly endeavours (we Anglo-Saxon Benedictines like to show a little humility now and then), he decided to abuse me with a snide comment about the backward ways of the Anglo-Saxons.
Invevitably, I was provoked (Father, forgive me) and so I asked him to amplify his meaning. He told me he was profoundly disturbed by one of the anonymous laws he was reading in Textus Roffensis, to be specific, the one known as Ordal ('Ordeal') which was probably produced during King Athelstan's time (r. 924-927). How could the Anglo-Saxons, he asked accusingly, have been so backwards and cruel with their justice system?
Well, we've always had a testy relationship at best, but that was just adding fuel to the flames! Rather appropriate, now I come to think about it...