Deriv; William, Dance of Death, alabaster tomb, Italia in Miniatura

William of Newburgh: Medieval Vampire Hunter?

“It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this as a warning to posterity, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony.”

 -William of Newburgh, writing in the 12th century.

Derived from the Latin reveniens meaning ‘returning’ or ‘to come back,’ the word revenant is used in a supernatural context to refer to people who return from the dead. To encounter the first popular usage of the word, we have to travel back nearly 900 years, to England in the 12th century, where we meet an unlikely chronicler of vampire and zombie encounters called William of Newburgh.

The setting is the county of Yorkshire where, in the year AD 1145, the wealthy monastic order of the Austin Canons, based at Bridlington Priory, decided to establish another, smaller priory at Newburgh, near Coxwold.


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Ancient Origins Quotations