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Ghostly apparitions at Roche

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© Bibliotheque Municipal de Dijon
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Matthew Paris, a monk of the Benedictine abbey of St Albans, Hertfordshire, wrote an extensive chronicle in which he mentions ghostly apparitions that occurred near Roche in 1236. Matthew did not himself witness these events, and shows little knowledge of Roche or the north of England, but reports what he has heard from reliable witnesses. These include Richard, earl of Gloucester, a leading magnate of the day.


In May 1236 the locals of Roche were startled when troops of knights, riding on horses and fully armed with shields, standards, helmets and coats of mail suddenly appeared out of thin air. They had never before seen such a sight, and were terrified, yet drawn to the scene, and watched from a distance. They remained transfixed, observing these splendidly armed knights who rode in organised lines, and then engaged in fighting, with a tremendous clash of swords. After several days the vision vanished just as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared.


The inhabitants of Roche were not the only ones to witness such a scene, and similar occurrences were noted at Southerfell, Cumberland and Suffolk. In some parts of Ireland the people saw knights, who were bloody, wounded, and dragging their horses behind them, as if returning from battle. Their footsteps could be seen on the ground, and the grass was trampled underfoot where they had walked, causing many to think that that this was not simply a vision. Fearful that these were real knights returning from a real battle, they fled, seeking refuge in churches and castles. (1)

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