Walter Map (1130s-1209?) was a Medieval Welsh writer and clergyman who wrote in Latin. The only work we can most definitely attest to him is the De Nugis Curialium (Courtiers' Trifles) which is present in Latin and English in this volume. Walter Map was for some time in the 1160s a member of Henry II of England's court. The contents of De Nugis Curialium is vast and seemingly disconnected. It is composed of stories (including some of the earliest werewolf stories, tales of demonic infanticide, great hunts), historical tidbits (the section on the Byzantine empire is entirely incomprehensible), and diatribes against religious orders and women. The Dissuasio Valerii, one of the most important anti-women tracts in Medieval Europe, was the only section of this work published and disseminated while the rest of the broad ranging satire was not.
De Nugis shifts from straightforward satire and invective against the court and the Mirror of Princes genre to satire on the religious orders, especially the Cistercians. He certainly not the only contemporary writer of this period to lambaste monastic orders for their perceived hypocrisy, material goals, and abandoning earlier idealistic aims. Gerald of Wales, John of Salisbury, Nigel of Canterbury, Peter Blois, and others (most members of Henry II's court) wrote similar works if not less brutal. However, Map aims his attack primarily and most fiercely against the Cistercians while saying relatively nice things about the Grandimontines, Gilbertines, and Cathusians. He takes joy in pointing out how St. Bernard (one of the great voices of the Cistercian order) could not perform miracles he set out to do, how the Cistercians cannot "serve God without Mammom," and how they are told to live in deserts and deserted places so they create their uninhabited regions by burning down villages and other churches. The introduction cautions the reader by saying that "One does not go to map for a fair and balanced portrait of the Cistercian order" (xliv) however common criticisms can be found in the vast number of anti-Cistercian tracts written at the time.
Because of the vast area of topics that Map writes about (heretics, foundations of various monastic orders, apparitions, Gillescop the Scot, the Hospitality of the Welsh, the Haunted Shoemaker of Constantinople) it is impossible for me go into more depth besides in the topic that I am most interested in - the anti-Cistercian writings of the Late 12th Century. One gets the feeling that this compilation of stories and digressions was something read for others to discuss and laugh about, although, Map might have had a more serious purpose that is difficult (and argued about in academic circles) to uncover. The Introduction, by M. R. James, is scholarly, concise, and like my review focuses on the central points of the work (religious invective). This work is a challenge to understand. Firstly, the reader is tempted to take Map too seriously, and secondly, since this was not published Map's motives and reasons become more hidden. James' introduction provides similar cautions - with these statements in mind, Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium is a romp of a read chalk full with some absolutely delightful Medieval satire and invective! This is a must buy/read for the Medieval Historian.