Medieval Christianity and the concept of Purgatory

Visio Monachi de Eynsham: The Revelation of a Monk of Eynsham, in Oxfordshire

Late-12th century, Latin, Bodleian Library, Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin | 15th century Middle English versions at the Bodleian Library and the British Library, London.

Each soul was drowned in the lake, then cast into a fire, then carried high onto a hillside of horrible cold and snow and down again into the grievous stench of the lake and yet again into the towering flames on the opposite side...

Therefore, after that we were paste the firste place of purgatorye, we came to the seconde place of purgatorye and tormentys, in the whyche was an hye hylle... We came to a second place of torment and found ourselves alone beside a high hill. Its peak was almost touching the clouds and it was quite distinct and separate from the first place. Quickly, we found ourselves on the slopes of this hill and on the far side we looked down into a deep valley. It was dark and filled with bracken and bushes for as far as the eye could see and in the bottom of this valley was a horrible lake of stagnant water. Out of this deadly water rose a foul mist that carried with it a nauseating stench, and on the side of the hill that hung over the lake were flames that reached almost to the sky. But on the opposite hillside was such a great and insufferable cold, that is to say, of snow and hail and many other dreadful storms, that I thought I had never seen anything quite so bizarre and painful and cruel before.

For the entire length of this valley, that is, over the hillside whose ground expelled such horrible flames and over the opposite hillside that was so icy cold, the air was as full of souls as a hive is of bees; and it seemed to be a common and general torment that each soul was drowned in the lake and then taken up and cast into the fire and at last carried high into the air by the huge flames, as sparkles fly up from a blazing bonfire, and deposited beyond the further shore of the lake onto the hillside of horrible cold and snow, hail and sudden storms. And having suffered there on the ice, the soul was cast down – or slid headlong again – into the grievous stench of the lake and was then taken up and cast once more into the towering flames.

Some of them spent more time in the fire than others, and some spent more time in the cold. And some spent most of their time in the stench of the lake. Some were tied up and squashed like grapes in the flames of the fire. Truly, the situation in the lake was this: that everyone was compelled to traverse its entire length, from beginning to end, to complete their purgation.'

Easting, Robert, 2002. The Revelation of the Monk of Eynsham, from the Medieval printed edition of William de Machlinia, 1483. London, British Library, shelfmark IA.55449, and Oxford, Bodleian Library, shelfmark Auct.1Q.5.28. Published for the Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press. Ca xvij – Of the secunde place of purgatory, lines 739–800.

See for yourself

Purgatory – Wikipedia

Eynsham Abbey – Wikipedia

Complete text of The Revelation of the Monk of Eynsham, in Middle English, edited by Robert Easting from manuscripts in the British Library and the Bodleian Library Oxford, available through the Early English Text Society (EETS)

…or direct from Oxford University Press

Dead and yet alive

District Line

entrance to a passage grave
grassy knoll with stone slabs hinting at a hollow interior

Navigate the tunnel