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Bede ( ; ang, Bǣda , ; 672/326 May 735), also known as Saint Bede, The Venerable Bede, and Bede the Venerable ( la, Beda Venerabilis), was an English
Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticism, monastic Religious order (Catholic), religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Be ...
monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via ''monachus'') is a person who practices religious by living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life ...

monk
at the
monastery A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in Cenobitic monasticism, communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes a place res ...

monastery
of St. Peter and its companion monastery of St. Paul in the
Kingdom of Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern England and Lothian, south-east Scotland. The name derives from the Old English meaning "the people o ...

Kingdom of Northumbria
of the
Angles The Angles ( ang, Ængle, ; la, Angli; german: Angeln) were one of the main Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally ...

Angles
(contemporarily
Monkwearmouth–Jarrow Abbey The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Monkwearmouth–Jarrow, known simply as Monkwearmouth–Jarrow Abbey ( la, Monasterii Wirimutham-Gyruum), was a Order of Saint Benedict, Benedictine double monastery in the Kingdom of Northumbria, ...
in
Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear () is a metropolitan county The metropolitan counties are a type of county-level administrative division Administrative division, administrative unit,Article 3(1). country subdivision, administrative region, subnational ...

Tyne and Wear
, England). Born on lands belonging to the twin monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow in present-day Tyne and Wear, Bede was sent to Monkwearmouth at the age of seven and later joined Abbot Ceolfrith at Jarrow, both of whom survived a plague that struck in 686, an outbreak that killed a majority of the population there. While he spent most of his life in the monastery, Bede travelled to several abbeys and monasteries across the British Isles, even visiting the archbishop of York and King
Ceolwulf of Northumbria Saint Ceolwulf was King of Northumbria from 729 until 737, except for a short period in 731 or 732 when he was deposed and quickly restored to power. Ceolwulf abdicated and entered the monastery at Lindisfarne The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, ...
. He is well known as an author, teacher (
Alcuin Alcuin of York (; la, Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; 735 – 19 May 804) – also called Ealhwine, Alhwin, or Alchoin – was an English scholar, clergyman, poet, and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the ...
was a student of one of his pupils), and scholar, and his most famous work, ''
Ecclesiastical History of the English People The ''Ecclesiastical History of the English People'' ( la, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum), written by the Venerable Bede Bede ( ; ang, Bǣda , ; 672/326 May 735), also known as Saint Bede, The Venerable Bede, and Bede the Venerabl ...
'', gained him the title "The Father of
English History England became inhabited more than 800,000 years ago, as the discovery of stone tools and footprints at Happisburgh in Norfolk has indicated.; "Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk" (2014). BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2 ...
". His ecumenical writings were extensive and included a number of Biblical commentaries and other theological works of
exegetical Exegesis (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek from , "to lead out") is a critical explanation or interpretation (logic), interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible. In mode ...
erudition. Another important area of study for Bede was the academic discipline of ''
computus As a moveable feast, the date of Easter is determined in each year through a calculation known as ''computus'' (Latin for 'computation'). Easter is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, being the first full moo ...
'', otherwise known to his contemporaries as the science of calculating calendar dates. One of the more important dates Bede tried to compute was Easter, an effort that was mired in controversy. He also helped popularize the practice of dating forward from the birth of Christ (''
Anno Domini The terms (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by as a modification of the , r ...
'' – in the year of our Lord), a practice which eventually became commonplace in medieval Europe. Bede was one of the greatest teachers and writers of the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages ...
and is considered by many historians to be the most important scholar of antiquity for the period between the death of
Pope Gregory I Pope Gregory I ( la, Gregorius I; – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally ent ...

Pope Gregory I
in 604 and the coronation of
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
in 800. In 1899,
Pope Leo XIII Pope Leo XIII ( it, Leone XIII; born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci; 2 March 1810 – 20 July 1903) was the head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death in 1903. He was the oldest pope (living till the age of 93), w ...

Pope Leo XIII
declared him a
Doctor of the Church Doctor of the Church (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repub ...
. He is the only native of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
to achieve this designation;
Anselm of Canterbury Anselm of Canterbury (; 1033/4–1109), also called ( it, Anselmo d'Aosta, link=no) after his birthplace and (french: Anselme du Bec, link=no) after his monastery A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic ...

Anselm of Canterbury
, also a Doctor of the Church, was originally from Italy. Bede was moreover a skilled linguist and translator, and his work made the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
and
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
writings of the early
Church Fathers The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians Christian theology is the theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, di ...
much more accessible to his fellow
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
, which contributed significantly to English
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...

Christianity
. Bede's monastery had access to an impressive library which included works by
Eusebius Eusebius of Caesarea (; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τῆς Καισαρείας, ''Eusébios tés Kaisareías''; AD 260/265 – 339/340), also known as Eusebius Pamphili (from the grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τοῦ Παμϕίλου), ...

Eusebius
,
Orosius Paulus Orosius (; born 375/385 – 420 AD), less often Paul Orosius in English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England ...
, and many others.


Life

Almost everything that is known of Bede's life is contained in the last chapter of his ''Ecclesiastical History of the English People'', a history of the church in England. It was completed in about 731, and Bede implies that he was then in his fifty-ninth year, which would give a birth date in 672 or 673. A minor source of information is the letter by his disciple Cuthbert (not to be confused with the saint,
Cuthbert Cuthbert (c. 634 – 20 March 687), possibly Cutimbetas/ Stombast, was an Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United King ...
, who is mentioned in Bede's work) which relates Bede's death. Bede, in the ''Historia'', gives his birthplace as "on the lands of this monastery".Bede, ''Ecclesiastical History'', V.24, p. 329. He is referring to the twinned monasteries of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, in modern-day
Wearside Wearside () is a conurbation of North East England centred on the continuous urban area of Sunderland by the River Wear. It includes nearby separate significant settlements such as Washington, Tyne and Wear, Washington, Houghton-le-Spring and Che ...
and
Tyneside Tyneside is a conurbation A conurbation is a region comprising a number of metropolis in the background A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, ...

Tyneside
respectively; there is also a tradition that he was born at Monkton, two miles from the site where the monastery at Jarrow was later built. Bede says nothing of his origins, but his connections with men of noble ancestry suggest that his own family was well-to-do. Bede's first abbot was
Benedict Biscop Benedict Biscop (pronounced "bishop";  – 690), also known as Biscop Baducing, was an Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is beh ...
, and the names "Biscop" and "Beda" both appear in a list of the kings of
LindseyLindsey may refer to : Places Canada * Lindsey Lake, Nova Scotia England * Parts of Lindsey The Parts of Lindsey are a traditional division of Lincolnshire, England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part o ...
from around 800, further suggesting that Bede came from a noble family. Bede's name reflects West Saxon ''Bīeda'' (Northumbrian ''Bǣda'', Anglian ''Bēda''). It is an Anglo-Saxon short name formed on the root of ''bēodan'' "to bid, command". The name also occurs in the ''
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection of annals in Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoke ...
'', s.a. 501, as ''Bieda'', one of the sons of the Saxon founder of
Portsmouth Portsmouth ( ) is a and island with status in the of , southern . It is the most densely populated city in the , with a population last recorded at 238,800. The city forms part of the , which also incorporates , , , , , and . Located mainly ...
. The ''Liber Vitae'' of
Durham Cathedral The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, commonly known as Durham Cathedral and home of the Shrine of St Cuthbert, is a cathedral A cathedral is a church that contains the '' cathedra'' () of ...

Durham Cathedral
names two priests with this name, one of whom is presumably Bede himself. Some manuscripts of the ''Life of Cuthbert'', one of Bede's works, mention that Cuthbert's own priest was named Bede; it is possible that this priest is the other name listed in the ''Liber Vitae''. At the age of seven, Bede was sent as a '' puer oblatus'' to the monastery of Monkwearmouth by his family to be educated by Benedict Biscop and later by Ceolfrith. Bede does not say whether it was already intended at that point that he would be a monk. It was fairly common in Ireland at this time for young boys, particularly those of noble birth, to be fostered out as an oblate; the practice was also likely to have been common among the Germanic peoples in England. Monkwearmouth's sister monastery at Jarrow was founded by Ceolfrith in 682, and Bede probably transferred to Jarrow with Ceolfrith that year. The dedication stone for the church has survived to the present day; it is dated 23 April 685, and as Bede would have been required to assist with menial tasks in his day-to-day life it is possible that he helped in building the original church. In 686, plague broke out at Jarrow. The ''Life of Ceolfrith'', written in about 710, records that only two surviving monks were capable of singing the full offices; one was Ceolfrith and the other a young boy, who according to the anonymous writer had been taught by Ceolfrith. The two managed to do the entire service of the liturgy until others could be trained. The young boy was almost certainly Bede, who would have been about 14.Plummer, ''Bedae Opera Historica'', vol. I, p. xii. When Bede was about 17 years old,
Adomnán Adomnán or Adamnán of Iona (, la, Adamnanus, Adomnanus; 624 – 704), also known as Eunan ( ; ), was an abbot of Iona Abbey ( 679–704), hagiographer, statesman, canon jurist, and saint In religious belief, a saint is a person ...
, the abbot of
Iona Abbey Iona Abbey is an abbey located on the island of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest Early Christianity, Christian religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the sprea ...

Iona Abbey
, visited Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. Bede would probably have met the abbot during this visit, and it may be that Adomnán sparked Bede's interest in the Easter dating controversy. In about 692, in Bede's nineteenth year, Bede was ordained a
deacon A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christianity, Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the C ...

deacon
by his diocesan bishop,
John John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works ...

John
, who was
bishop of Hexham The Bishop of Hexham was an Episcopal polity, episcopal title which took its name after the market town of Hexham in Northumberland, England. The title was first used by the Anglo-Saxons in the 7th and 9th centuries, and then by the Roman Cath ...
. The canonical age for the ordination of a deacon was 25; Bede's early ordination may mean that his abilities were considered exceptional, but it is also possible that the minimum age requirement was often disregarded. There might have been minor orders ranking below a deacon; but there is no record of whether Bede held any of these offices. In Bede's thirtieth year (about 702), he became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John. In about 701 Bede wrote his first works, the ''De Arte Metrica'' and ''De Schematibus et Tropis''; both were intended for use in the classroom. He continued to write for the rest of his life, eventually completing over 60 books, most of which have survived. Not all his output can be easily dated, and Bede may have worked on some texts over a period of many years. His last-surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734. A 6th-century Greek and Latin manuscript of ''
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New T ...
'' that is believed to have been used by Bede survives and is now in the
Bodleian Library The Bodleian Library () is the main research library A research library is a library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housi ...

Bodleian Library
at
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
; it is known as the
Codex Laudianus Codex Laudianus, designated by Ea or 08 (in the Gregory-Aland A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. Biblical manuscripts vary in size from tiny scrolls containing individual verses of the Judaism, J ...
. Bede may also have worked on some of the Latin Bibles that were copied at Jarrow, one of which, the
Codex Amiatinus The Codex Amiatinus is the earliest surviving complete manuscript of the Latin Vulgate versionBruce M. Metzger Bruce Manning Metzger (February 9, 1914 – February 13, 2007) was an American biblical scholar Biblical studies is the academi ...
, is now held by the
Laurentian Library The Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana or BML) is a historic library in Florence, Italy, containing more than 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 early printed books. Built in a cloister of the Medicean Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze ...
in
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

Florence
.A few pages from another copy are held by the
British Museum The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is a district of Central London Central London is the innermost part of Lond ...

British Museum
.
Bede was a teacher as well as a writer; he enjoyed music and was said to be accomplished as a singer and as a reciter of poetry in the vernacular. It is possible that he suffered a speech impediment, but this depends on a phrase in the introduction to his verse life of Saint Cuthbert. Translations of this phrase differ, and it is uncertain whether Bede intended to say that he was cured of a speech problem, or merely that he was inspired by the saint's works.Whiting, "The Life of the Venerable Bede", in Thompson, "Bede: His Life, Times and Writing", pp. 5–6.Dorothy Whitelock, "Bede and his Teachers and Friends", in Bonner, ''Famulus Christi'', p. 21. In 708, some monks at
Hexham Hexham ( ) is a market town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in Northumberland, England, on the south bank of the River Tyne, formed by the confluence of the North Tyne and the South Tyne at Warden, Northumberland, Warden nearby, and ...

Hexham
accused Bede of having committed heresy in his work ''De Temporibus''. The standard theological view of world history at the time was known as the
Six Ages of the World From the Genesis Genesis may refer to: Literature and comics * Genesis (DC Comics), a 1997 DC Comics crossover * Genesis (Marvel Comics), a Marvel Comics villain * Genesis, a fictional character from the ''Preacher (comics), Preacher'' comic-book ...
; in his book, Bede calculated the age of the world for himself, rather than accepting the authority of
Isidore of Seville Isidore of Seville (; la, Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560 – 4 April 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop In many Christian denomination, Christian Denominations, an archbishop (, via Latin ...
, and came to the conclusion that Christ had been born 3,952 years after the creation of the world, rather than the figure of over 5,000 years that was commonly accepted by theologians.Hurst, ''Bede the Venerable'', p. 38. The accusation occurred in front of the bishop of Hexham,
Wilfrid Wilfrid ( – 709 or 710) was an English bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Ca ...

Wilfrid
, who was present at a feast when some drunken monks made the accusation. Wilfrid did not respond to the accusation, but a monk present relayed the episode to Bede, who replied within a few days to the monk, writing a letter setting forth his defence and asking that the letter also be read to Wilfrid. Bede had another brush with Wilfrid, for the historian says that he met Wilfrid sometime between 706 and 709 and discussed
Æthelthryth Æthelthryth (or Æðelþryð or Æþelðryþe; 636 – 23 June 679 AD) was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon k ...
, the abbess of Ely. Wilfrid had been present at the exhumation of her body in 695, and Bede questioned the bishop about the exact circumstances of the body and asked for more details of her life, as Wilfrid had been her advisor.Goffart, ''Narrators'' p. 322 In 733, Bede travelled to York to visit Ecgbert, who was then
bishop of York The Archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the Province of York, which covers the ...
. The See of York was elevated to an archbishopric in 735, and it is likely that Bede and Ecgbert discussed the proposal for the elevation during his visit. Bede hoped to visit Ecgbert again in 734 but was too ill to make the journey. Bede also travelled to the monastery of
Lindisfarne The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, commonly known as either Holy Island or Lindisfarne, is a tidal island 250px, St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, at high tide, ">Cornwall.html" ;"title="St Michael's Mount, Cornwall">St Michael's Mount, Cornwal ...
and at some point visited the otherwise unknown monastery of a monk named , a visit that is mentioned in a letter to that monk. Because of his widespread correspondence with others throughout the British Isles, and because many of the letters imply that Bede had met his correspondents, it is likely that Bede travelled to some other places, although nothing further about timing or locations can be guessed. It seems certain that he did not visit Rome, however, as he did not mention it in the autobiographical chapter of his ''Historia Ecclesiastica''. Nothhelm, a correspondent of Bede's who assisted him by finding documents for him in Rome, is known to have visited Bede, though the date cannot be determined beyond the fact that it was after Nothhelm's visit to Rome.Plummer, ''Bedae Opera Historica'', vol. II, p. 3. Except for a few visits to other monasteries, his life was spent in a round of prayer, observance of the monastic discipline and study of the Sacred Scriptures. He was considered the most learned man of his time and wrote excellent biblical and historical books. Bede died on the
Feast of the Ascension The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, also called Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday, or sometimes Holy Thursday, commemorates the Christian belief of the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is one of the ecumenical (i.e., universally cel ...
, Thursday, 26 May 735, on the floor of his cell, singing "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit" and was buried at Jarrow. Cuthbert, a disciple of Bede's, wrote a letter to a Cuthwin (of whom nothing else is known), describing Bede's last days and his death. According to Cuthbert, Bede fell ill, "with frequent attacks of breathlessness but almost without pain", before Easter. On the Tuesday, two days before Bede died, his breathing became worse and his feet swelled. He continued to dictate to a scribe, however, and despite spending the night awake in prayer he dictated again the following day. At three o'clock, according to Cuthbert, he asked for a box of his to be brought and distributed among the priests of the monastery "a few treasures" of his: "some pepper, and napkins, and some incense". That night he dictated a final sentence to the scribe, a boy named Wilberht, and died soon afterwards. The account of Cuthbert does not make entirely clear whether Bede died before midnight or after. However, by the reckoning of Bede's time, passage from the old day to the new occurred at sunset, not midnight, and Cuthbert is clear that he died after sunset. Thus, while his box was brought at three o'clock Wednesday afternoon of 25 May, by the time of the final dictation it might be considered already 26 May in that ecclesiastical sense, although 25 May in the ordinary sense. Cuthbert's letter also relates a five-line poem in the vernacular that Bede composed on his deathbed, known as " Bede's Death Song". It is the most-widely copied Old English poem and appears in 45 manuscripts, but its attribution to Bede is not certain—not all manuscripts name Bede as the author, and the ones that do are of later origin than those that do not.Donald Scragg, "Bede's Death Song", in Lapidge, ''Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England'', p. 59. Bede's remains may have been transferred to Durham Cathedral in the 11th century; his tomb there was looted in 1541, but the contents were probably re-interred in the Galilee chapel at the cathedral. One further oddity in his writings is that in one of his works, the ''Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles'', he writes in a manner that gives the impression he was married. The section in question is the only one in that work that is written in first-person view. Bede says: "Prayers are hindered by the conjugal duty because as often as I perform what is due to my wife I am not able to pray."Quoted in Another passage, in the ''Commentary on Luke'', also mentions a wife in the first person: "Formerly I possessed a wife in the lustful passion of desire and now I possess her in honourable sanctification and true love of Christ." The historian Benedicta Ward argues that these passages are Bede employing a rhetorical device.


Works

Bede wrote scientific, historical and theological works, reflecting the range of his writings from music and
metrics METRIC (Mapping EvapoTranspiration at high Resolution with Internalized Calibration) is a computer model developed by the University of Idaho, that uses Landsat satellite data to compute and map evapotranspiration (ET). METRIC calculates ET as a re ...
to exegetical
Scripture Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of ...
commentaries. He knew
patristic Patristics or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers. The names derive from the Classical compound, combined forms of Latin ''pater'' and Greek ''patḗr'' (father). The period is generally consider ...
literature, as well as
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
,
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three ...

Virgil
,
Lucretius Titus Lucretius Carus ( , ; 99 – c. 55 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman Roman literature, poet and Ancient Roman philosophy, philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem ''De rerum natura'', a didactic work about the tenets and ...
,
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom ...

Ovid
,
Horace Quintus Horatius Flaccus (; 8 December 65 – 27 November 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace (), was the leading Roman Empire, Roman Lyric poetry, lyric poet during the time of Augustus (also known as Octavian). The rhetoricia ...

Horace
and other
classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
writers. He knew some Greek. Bede's scriptural commentaries employed the
allegorical As a literary device, an allegory is a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, travelogue, etc.) ...

allegorical
method of interpretation, and his history includes accounts of miracles, which to modern historians has seemed at odds with his critical approach to the materials in his history. Modern studies have shown the important role such concepts played in the world-view of Early Medieval scholars. Although Bede is mainly studied as an historian now, in his time his works on grammar, chronology, and biblical studies were as important as his historical and hagiographical works. The non-historical works contributed greatly to the
Carolingian renaissance The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Franks, Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe dur ...
. He has been credited with writing a
penitential A penitential is a book or set of church rules concerning the Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. ...
, though his authorship of this work is disputed.


''Ecclesiastical History of the English People''

Bede's best-known work is the ''Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum'', or ''An Ecclesiastical History of the English People'', completed in about 731. Bede was aided in writing this book by Albinus, abbot of
St Augustine's Abbey St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictines, Benedictine monastery in Canterbury, Kent, England. The abbey was founded in 598 and functioned as a monastery until its dissolution in 1538 during the English Reformation. After the abbey's dissolution, ...
,
Canterbury Canterbury (, ) is a City status in the United Kingdom, cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district of Kent, England. It lies on the River Stour, Kent, River Stour ...

Canterbury
. The first of the five books begins with some geographical background and then sketches the history of England, beginning with
Caesar's Caesar's is a restaurant on Avenida Revolución in Tijuana, Mexico, famous as the home of the Caesar salad. Restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italians, Italian immigrant, opened the restaurant in 1923, and it is now under chef Javier Plascencia, l ...

Caesar's
invasion in 55 BC. A brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain, including the martyrdom of
St Alban Saint Alban (; la, Albanus) is venerated as the first-recorded British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and ...
, is followed by the story of 's mission to England in 597, which brought Christianity to the
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
. The second book begins with the death of
Gregory the Great Pope Gregory I ( la, Gregorius I; – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregoria ...
in 604 and follows the further progress of Christianity in Kent and the first attempts to evangelise Northumbria. These ended in disaster when
Penda Penda (died 15 November 655)Manuscript A of the ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' gives the year as 655. Bede also gives the year as 655 and specifies a date, 15 November. R. L. Poole (''Studies in Chronology and History'', 1934) put forward the theory ...

Penda
, the pagan king of Mercia, killed the newly Christian
Edwin of Northumbria Edwin ( ang, Ēadwine; c. 586 – 12 October 632/633), also known as Eadwine or Æduinus, was the List of monarchs of Northumbria, King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became known as Northumbria – from about 616 until hi ...
at the
Battle of Hatfield Chase :''AC = "according to the Annales Cambriae 250px , ''Annales Cambriae'': page view from MS. A ''Annales Cambriae'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. ...
in about 632. The setback was temporary, and the third book recounts the growth of Christianity in Northumbria under kings
Oswald of Northumbria Oswald (; c 604 – 5 August 641/642Bede gives the year of Oswald's death as 642, however there is some question as to whether what Bede considered 642 is the same as what would now be considered 642. R. L. Poole (''Studies in Chronology and ...

Oswald of Northumbria
and
Oswy Oswiu, also known as Oswy or Oswig ( ang, Ōswīg) (c. 612 – 15 February 670), was King of Bernicia from 642 and of Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon king ...
. The climax of the third book is the account of the
Council of Whitby In the Synod of Whitby in 664, King Oswiu of Northumbria Oswiu, also known as Oswy or Oswig ( ang, Ōswīg) (c. 612 – 15 February 670), was King of Bernicia from 642 and of Kingdom of Northumbria, Northumbria from 654 until his death. He is no ...
, traditionally seen as a major turning point in English history. The fourth book begins with the consecration of
TheodoreTheodore may refer to: Places * Theodore, Alabama, United States * Theodore, Australian Capital Territory * Theodore, Queensland, a town in the Shire of Banana, Australia * Theodore, Saskatchewan, Canada People * Theodore (name), includes th ...
as
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Cat ...
and recounts Wilfrid's efforts to bring Christianity to the
Kingdom of Sussex The Kingdom of the South Saxons, today referred to as the Kingdom of Sussex (; ang, Sūþseaxna rīce), was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the Heptarchy 250px, The penultimate set of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms was fivefold. The map ann ...
. The fifth book brings the story up to Bede's day and includes an account of missionary work in Frisia and of the conflict with the British church over the correct dating of Easter. Bede wrote a preface for the work, in which he dedicates it to Ceolwulf, king of Northumbria. The preface mentions that Ceolwulf received an earlier draft of the book; presumably Ceolwulf knew enough Latin to understand it, and he may even have been able to read it. The preface makes it clear that Ceolwulf had requested the earlier copy, and Bede had asked for Ceolwulf's approval; this correspondence with the king indicates that Bede's monastery had connections among the Northumbrian nobility.


Sources

The monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow had an excellent library. Both Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith had acquired books from the Continent, and in Bede's day the monastery was a renowned centre of learning.Cramp, "Monkwearmouth (or Wearmouth) and Jarrow", pp. 325–326. It has been estimated that there were about 200 books in the monastic library.Michael Lapidge, "Libraries", in Lapidge, ''Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England'', pp. 286–287. For the period prior to Augustine's arrival in 597, Bede drew on earlier writers, including
Solinus Gaius Julius Solinus was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...
. He had access to two works of Eusebius: the '' Historia Ecclesiastica'', and also the ''
ChroniconIn historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers ho ...
'', though he had neither in the original Greek; instead he had a Latin translation of the ''Historia'', by Rufinus, and Saint Jerome's translation of the ''Chronicon''.Campbell, "Bede", in Dorey, ''Latin Historians'', p. 162. He also knew Orosius's ''Adversus Paganus'', and
Gregory of Tours Gregory of Tours (30 November 538 – 17 November 594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman The term "Gallo-Roman" describes the Romanization (cultural), Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. This was characterized by the Gaulish ...
' ''Historia Francorum'', both Christian histories, as well as the work of Eutropius, a pagan historian.Campbell, "Bede", in Dorey, ''Latin Historians'', p. 163. He used Constantius's ''Life of Germanus'' as a source for Germanus's visits to Britain. Bede's account of the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons is drawn largely from
Gildas Gildas (Breton Breton most often refers to: *anything associated with Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula and cultural region in the west of France, cover ...
's ''
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae ''De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae'' (Latin for "On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain", sometimes just "On the Ruin of Britain") is a work written in Latin by the 6th-century AD Britons (historical), British Celtic Christianity, cleric Gildas, St ...
''.Lapidge, "Gildas", p. 204. Bede would also have been familiar with more recent accounts such as Stephen of Ripon's '' Life of Wilfrid'', and anonymous ''Life'' ''of Gregory the Great'' and ''Life of Cuthbert''. He also drew on
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century and military leader, best known for ', who was born in —then part of —to a father of descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought a ...

Josephus
's ''Antiquities'', and the works of
Cassiodorus Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator (c. 485 – c. 585), commonly known as Cassiodorus (), was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people ...
, and there was a copy of the '' Liber Pontificalis'' in Bede's monastery. Bede quotes from several classical authors, including
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
,
Plautus Titus Maccius Plautus (; c. 254 – 184 BC), commonly known as Plautus, was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome ...

Plautus
, and
Terence Publius Terentius Afer (; – ), better known in English as Terence (), was a Roman African playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * P ...
, but he may have had access to their work via a Latin grammar rather than directly. However, it is clear he was familiar with the works of
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three ...

Virgil
and with
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
's ''
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...
'', and his monastery also owned copies of the works of
Dionysius Exiguus Dionysius Exiguus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

Dionysius Exiguus
. He probably drew his account of St. Alban from a life of that saint which has not survived. He acknowledges two other lives of saints directly; one is a life of
Fursa Saint Fursey (also known as Fursa, Fursy, Forseus, and Furseus: died 650) was an Celtic Christianity, Irish monk who did much to establish Christianity throughout the British Isles and particularly in Kingdom of East Anglia, East Anglia. He report ...
, and the other of St. Æthelburh; the latter no longer survives.Plummer, ''Bedae Opera Historic'', vol. I, p. xxiv. He also had access to a life of Ceolfrith.Campbell, "Bede", in Dorey, ''Latin Historians'', p. 164. Some of Bede's material came from oral traditions, including a description of the physical appearance of Paulinus of York, who had died nearly 90 years before Bede's ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' was written. Bede also had correspondents who supplied him with material. Albinus, the abbot of the monastery in Canterbury, provided much information about the church in Kent, and with the assistance of Nothelm, Nothhelm, at that time a priest in London, obtained copies of
Gregory the Great Pope Gregory I ( la, Gregorius I; – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregoria ...
's correspondence from Rome relating to Augustine's mission.Keynes, "Nothhelm", pp. 335 336. Almost all of Bede's information regarding Augustine is taken from these letters. Bede acknowledged his correspondents in the preface to the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'';Bede, ''Historia Ecclesiastica'', Preface, p. 42. he was in contact with Bishop Daniel of Winchester, for information about the history of the church in Wessex and also wrote to the monastery at Lastingham for information about Cedd and Chad of Mercia, Chad. Bede also mentions an Abbot Esi as a source for the affairs of the East Anglian church, and Bishop Kinebertus, Cynibert for information about Lindsey. The historian Walter Goffart argues that Bede based the structure of the ''Historia'' on three works, using them as the framework around which the three main sections of the work were structured. For the early part of the work, up until the Gregorian mission, Goffart feels that Bede used ''De excidio''. The second section, detailing the Gregorian mission of Augustine of Canterbury was framed on ''Life of Gregory the Great'' written at Whitby. The last section, detailing events after the Gregorian mission, Goffart feels were modelled on ''Life of Wilfrid''. Most of Bede's informants for information after Augustine's mission came from the eastern part of Britain, leaving significant gaps in the knowledge of the western areas, which were those areas likely to have a native Briton presence.


Models and style

Bede's stylistic models included some of the same authors from whom he drew the material for the earlier parts of his history. His introduction imitates the work of Orosius, and his title is an echo of Eusebius's ''Historia Ecclesiastica''. Bede also followed Eusebius in taking the ''
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New T ...
'' as the model for the overall work: where Eusebius used the ''Acts'' as the theme for his description of the development of the church, Bede made it the model for his history of the Anglo-Saxon church. Bede quoted his sources at length in his narrative, as Eusebius had done. Bede also appears to have taken quotes directly from his correspondents at times. For example, he almost always uses the terms "Australes" and "Occidentales" for the South and West Saxons respectively, but in a passage in the first book he uses "Meridiani" and "Occidui" instead, as perhaps his informant had done. At the end of the work, Bede adds a brief autobiographical note; this was an idea taken from Gregory of Tours' earlier ''History of the Franks''. Bede's work as a hagiography, hagiographer and his detailed attention to dating were both useful preparations for the task of writing the ''Historia Ecclesiastica''. His interest in computus, the science of calculating the date of Easter, was also useful in the account he gives of the controversy between the British and Anglo-Saxon church over the correct method of obtaining the Easter date. Bede is described by Michael Lapidge as "without question the most accomplished Latinist produced in these islands in the Anglo-Saxon period". His Latin has been praised for its clarity, but his style in the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' is not simple. He knew rhetoric and often used figures of speech and rhetorical forms which cannot easily be reproduced in translation, depending as they often do on the connotations of the Latin words. However, unlike contemporaries such as Aldhelm, whose Latin is full of difficulties, Bede's own text is easy to read. In the words of Charles Plummer, one of the best-known editors of the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'', Bede's Latin is "clear and limpid ... it is very seldom that we have to pause to think of the meaning of a sentence ... Alcuin rightly praises Bede for his unpretending style."Plummer, ''Bedae Opera Historica'', vol. I, pp. liii–liv.


Intent

Bede's primary intention in writing the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' was to show the growth of the united church throughout England. The native Britons, whose Christian church survived the departure of the Romans, earn Bede's ire for refusing to help convert the Saxons; by the end of the ''Historia'' the English, and their church, are dominant over the Britons. This goal, of showing the movement towards unity, explains Bede's animosity towards the British method of calculating Easter: much of the ''Historia'' is devoted to a history of the dispute, including the final resolution at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Bede is also concerned to show the unity of the English, despite the disparate kingdoms that still existed when he was writing. He also wants to instruct the reader by spiritual example and to entertain, and to the latter end he adds stories about many of the places and people about which he wrote. N.J. Higham argues that Bede designed his work to promote his reform agenda to Ceolwulf, the Northumbrian king. Bede painted a highly optimistic picture of the current situation in the Church, as opposed to the more pessimistic picture found in his private letters. Bede's extensive use of miracles can prove difficult for readers who consider him a more or less reliable historian but do not accept the possibility of miracles. Yet both reflect an inseparable integrity and regard for accuracy and truth, expressed in terms both of historical events and of a tradition of Christian faith that continues to the present day. Bede, like Gregory the Great whom Bede quotes on the subject in the ''Historia'', felt that faith brought about by miracles was a stepping stone to a higher, truer faith, and that as a result miracles had their place in a work designed to instruct.


Omissions and biases

Bede is somewhat reticent about the career of Wilfrid, a contemporary and one of the most prominent clerics of his day. This may be because Wilfrid's opulent lifestyle was uncongenial to Bede's monastic mind; it may also be that the events of Wilfrid's life, divisive and controversial as they were, simply did not fit with Bede's theme of the progression to a unified and harmonious church. Bede's account of the early migrations of the Angles and Saxons to England omits any mention of a movement of those peoples across the English Channel from Britain to Brittany described by Procopius, who was writing in the sixth century. Frank Stenton describes this omission as "a scholar's dislike of the indefinite"; traditional material that could not be dated or used for Bede's didactic purposes had no interest for him. Bede was a Northumbrian, and this tinged his work with a local bias. The sources to which he had access gave him less information about the west of England than for other areas. He says relatively little about the achievements of Mercia and Wessex, omitting, for example, any mention of Boniface, a West Saxon missionary to the continent of some renown and of whom Bede had almost certainly heard, though Bede does discuss Northumbrian missionaries to the continent. He also is parsimonious in his praise for Aldhelm, a West Saxon who had done much to convert the native Britons to the Roman form of Christianity. He lists seven kings of the Anglo-Saxons whom he regards as having held ''imperium'', or overlordship; only one king of Wessex, Ceawlin, is listed, and none from Mercia, though elsewhere he acknowledges the secular power several of the Mercians held. Historian Robin Fleming states that he was so hostile to Mercia because Northumbria had been diminished by Mercian power that he consulted no Mercian informants and included no stories about its saints. Bede relates the story of Augustine's mission from Rome, and tells how the British clergy refused to assist Augustine in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. This, combined with Gildas's negative assessment of the British church at the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions, led Bede to a very critical view of the native church. However, Bede ignores the fact that at the time of Augustine's mission, the history between the two was one of warfare and conquest, which, in the words of Barbara Yorke, would have naturally "curbed any missionary impulses towards the Anglo-Saxons from the British clergy."


Use of ''Anno Domini''

At the time Bede wrote the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'', there were two common ways of referring to dates. One was to use indictions, which were 15-year cycles, counting from 312 AD. There were three different varieties of indiction, each starting on a different day of the year. The other approach was to use regnal years—the reigning Roman emperor, for example, or the ruler of whichever kingdom was under discussion. This meant that in discussing conflicts between kingdoms, the date would have to be given in the regnal years of all the kings involved. Bede used both these approaches on occasion but adopted a third method as his main approach to dating: the ''
Anno Domini The terms (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by as a modification of the , r ...
'' method invented by
Dionysius Exiguus Dionysius Exiguus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

Dionysius Exiguus
. Although Bede did not invent this method, his adoption of it and his promulgation of it in ''De Temporum Ratione'', his work on chronology, is the main reason it is now so widely used. Beda Venerabilis' Easter table, contained in ''De Temporum Ratione'', was developed from Dionysius Exiguus' famous Paschal table.


Assessment

The ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' was copied often in the Middle Ages, and about 160 manuscripts containing it survive. About half of those are located on the European continent, rather than in the British Isles. Most of the 8th- and 9th-century texts of Bede's ''Historia'' come from the northern parts of the Carolingian Empire. This total does not include manuscripts with only a part of the work, of which another 100 or so survive. It was printed for the first time between 1474 and 1482, probably at Strasbourg, France. Modern historians have studied the ''Historia'' extensively, and several editions have been produced. For many years, early Anglo-Saxon history was essentially a retelling of the ''Historia'', but recent scholarship has focused as much on what Bede did not write as what he did. The belief that the ''Historia'' was the culmination of Bede's works, the aim of all his scholarship, was a belief common among historians in the past but is no longer accepted by most scholars. Modern historians and editors of Bede have been lavish in their praise of his achievement in the ''Historia Ecclesiastica''. Stenton regards it as one of the "small class of books which transcend all but the most fundamental conditions of time and place", and regards its quality as dependent on Bede's "astonishing power of co-ordinating the fragments of information which came to him through tradition, the relation of friends, or documentary evidence ... In an age where little was attempted beyond the registration of fact, he had reached the conception of history." Patrick Wormald describes him as "the first and greatest of England's historians". The ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' has given Bede a high reputation, but his concerns were different from those of a modern writer of history. His focus on the history of the organisation of the English church, and on heresies and the efforts made to root them out, led him to exclude the secular history of kings and kingdoms except where a moral lesson could be drawn or where they illuminated events in the church. Besides the ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'', the medieval writers William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and Geoffrey of Monmouth used his works as sources and inspirations. Early modern writers, such as Polydore Vergil and Matthew Parker, the Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, also utilised the ''Historia'', and his works were used by both Protestant and Catholic sides in the European wars of religion, wars of religion. Some historians have questioned the reliability of some of Bede's accounts. One historian, Charlotte Behr, thinks that the ''Historia's'' account of the arrival of the Germanic invaders in Kent should not be considered to relate what actually happened, but rather relates myths that were current in Kent during Bede's time. It is likely that Bede's work, because it was so widely copied, discouraged others from writing histories and may even have led to the disappearance of manuscripts containing older historical works.Plummer, ''Bedae Opera Historica'', vol. I, p. xlvii and note.


Other historical works


Chronicles

As Chapter 66 of his ''On the Reckoning of Time'', in 725 Bede wrote the ''Greater Chronicle'' (''chronica maiora''), which sometimes circulated as a separate work. For recent events the ''Chronicle'', like his ''Ecclesiastical History'', relied upon Gildas, upon a version of the '' Liber Pontificalis'' current at least to the papacy of Pope Sergius I (687–701), and other sources. For earlier events he drew on Eusebius's ''Chronikoi Kanones.'' The dating of events in the ''Chronicle'' is inconsistent with his other works, using the era of creation, the ''Anno Mundi''.


Hagiography

His other historical works included lives of the abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, as well as verse and prose lives of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, an adaptation of Paulinus of Nola's ''Life of St Felix'', and a translation of the Greek ''Passion of Saint Anastasius, St Anastasius''. He also created a listing of saints, the ''Martyrology''.


Theological works

In his own time, Bede was as well known for his biblical commentaries and exegetical, as well as other theological, works. The majority of his writings were of this type and covered the Old Testament and the New Testament. Most survived the Middle Ages, but a few were lost. It was for his theological writings that he earned the title of ''Doctor Anglorum'' and why he was declared a saint. Bede synthesised and transmitted the learning from his predecessors, as well as made careful, judicious innovation in knowledge (such as recalculating the age of the earth—for which he was censured before surviving the heresy accusations and eventually having his views championed by Archbishop Ussher in the sixteenth century—see below) that had theological implications. In order to do this, he learned Greek and attempted to learn Hebrew. He spent time reading and rereading both the Old and the New Testaments. He mentions that he studied from a text of Jerome's Vulgate, which itself was from the Hebrew text. He also studied both the Latin and the Greek Fathers of the Church. In the monastic library at Jarrow were numerous books by theologians, including works by Basil of Caesarea, Basil, John Cassian, Cassian, John Chrysostom,
Isidore of Seville Isidore of Seville (; la, Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560 – 4 April 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop In many Christian denomination, Christian Denominations, an archbishop (, via Latin ...
, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome,
Pope Gregory I Pope Gregory I ( la, Gregorius I; – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally ent ...

Pope Gregory I
, Ambrose of Milan,
Cassiodorus Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator (c. 485 – c. 585), commonly known as Cassiodorus (), was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people ...
, and Cyprian. He used these, in conjunction with the Biblical texts themselves, to write his commentaries and other theological works. He had a Latin translation by Evagrius of Antioch, Evagrius of Athanasius's ''Life of Antony'' and a copy of Sulpicius Severus' ''Life of St. Martin''. He also used lesser known writers, such as Fulgentius of Ruspe, Fulgentius, Julian of Eclanum, Tyconius, and Prosper of Aquitaine. Bede was the first to refer to Jerome, Augustine, Pope Gregory and Ambrose as the four Latin Fathers of the Church. It is clear from Bede's own comments that he felt his calling was to explain to his students and readers the theology and thoughts of the Church Fathers. Bede also wrote homilies, works written to explain theology used in worship services. He wrote homilies on the major Christian seasons such as Advent, Lent, or Easter, as well as on other subjects such as anniversaries of significant events. Both types of Bede's theological works circulated widely in the Middle Ages. Several of his biblical commentaries were incorporated into the ''Glossa Ordinaria'', an 11th-century collection of biblical commentaries. Some of Bede's homilies were collected by Paul the Deacon, and they were used in that form in the Liturgy of the Hours, Monastic Office. Saint Boniface used Bede's homilies in his missionary efforts on the continent. Bede sometimes included in his theological books an acknowledgement of the predecessors on whose works he drew. In two cases he left instructions that his marginal notes, which gave the details of his sources, should be preserved by the copyist, and he may have originally added marginal comments about his sources to others of his works. Where he does not specify, it is still possible to identify books to which he must have had access by quotations that he uses. A full catalogue of the library available to Bede in the monastery cannot be reconstructed, but it is possible to tell, for example, that Bede was very familiar with the works of Virgil. There is little evidence that he had access to any other of the pagan Latin writers—he quotes many of these writers, but the quotes are almost found in the Latin grammars that were common in his day, one or more of which would certainly have been at the monastery. Another difficulty is that manuscripts of early writers were often incomplete: it is apparent that Bede had access to Pliny's ''Natural History (Pliny), Encyclopedia'', for example, but it seems that the version he had was missing book xviii, since he did not quote from it in his ''De temporum ratione''.M.L.W. Laistner, "The Library of the Venerable Bede", in A.H. Thompson, "Bede: His Life, Times and Writings", pp. 237–262. Bede's works included ''Commentary on Revelation'', ''Commentary on the Catholic Epistles'', ''Commentary on Acts'', ''Reconsideration on the Books of Acts'', ''On the Gospel of Mark'', ''On the Gospel of Luke'', and ''Homilies on the Gospels''. At the time of his death he was working on a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English. He did this for the last 40 days of his life. When the last passage had been translated he said: "All is finished." The works dealing with the Old Testament included ''Commentary on Samuel'', ''Commentary on Genesis'', ''Commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah'', ''On the Temple'', ''On the Tabernacle'', ''Commentaries on Tobit'', ''Commentaries on Proverbs'', ''Commentaries on the Song of Songs'', ''Commentaries on the Canticle of Habakkuk'', The works on Ezra, the tabernacle and the temple were especially influenced by Gregory the Great's writings.


Historical and astronomical chronology

''De temporibus'', or ''On Time'', written in about 703, provides an introduction to the principles of Easter computus. This was based on parts of
Isidore of Seville Isidore of Seville (; la, Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560 – 4 April 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop In many Christian denomination, Christian Denominations, an archbishop (, via Latin ...
's ''Etymologiae, Etymologies'', and Bede also included a chronology of the world which was derived from Eusebius, with some revisions based on Jerome's translation of the Bible. In about 723, Bede wrote a longer work on the same subject, ''On the Reckoning of Time'', which was influential throughout the Middle Ages. He also wrote several shorter letters and essays discussing specific aspects of computus. ''On the Reckoning of Time'' (''The Reckoning of Time, De temporum ratione'') included an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon, new moon at evening twilight. Bede also records the effect of the moon on tides. He shows that the twice-daily timing of tides is related to the Moon and that the lunar monthly cycle of spring and neap tides is also related to the Moon's position. He goes on to note that the times of tides vary along the same coast and that the water movements cause low tide at one place when there is high tide elsewhere. Since the focus of his book was the computus, Bede gave instructions for Easter controversy#Third phase, computing the date of Easter from the date of the Paschal full moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar. He gives some information about the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar.; see als

/ref> Any codex of Beda Venerabilis' Easter table is normally found together with a codex of his ''De temporum ratione''. Bede's Easter table, being an exact extension of
Dionysius Exiguus Dionysius Exiguus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

Dionysius Exiguus
' Paschal table and covering the time interval AD 532–1063, contains a 532-year Paschal cycle based on the so-called classical Alexandrian 19-year lunar cycle, being the close variant of bishop Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, Theophilus' 19-year lunar cycle proposed by Annianus of Alexandria, Annianus and adopted by bishop Cyril of Alexandria around AD 425. The ultimate similar (but rather different) predecessor of this Metonic 19-year lunar cycle is the one invented by Anatolius of Laodicea, Anatolius around AD 260. For calendric purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the Dating creation, age of the world since the Genesis creation narrative, creation, which he dated as 3952 BC. Because of his innovations in computing the age of the world, he was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfrid, his chronology being contrary to accepted calculations. Once informed of the accusations of these "lewd rustics," Bede refuted them in his Letter to Plegwin. In addition to these works on astronomical timekeeping, he also wrote ''De natura rerum (Bede), De natura rerum'', or ''On the Nature of Things'', modelled in part after the work of the same title by Isidore of Seville. His works were so influential that late in the ninth century Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Abbey of St. Gall, Monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland, wrote that "God, the orderer of natures, who raised the Sun from the East on the fourth day of Creation, in the sixth day of the world has made Bede rise from the West as a new Sun to illuminate the whole Earth".


Educational works

Bede wrote some works designed to help teach grammar in the abbey school. One of these was ''De arte metrica'', a discussion of the composition of Latin verse, drawing on previous grammarians' work. It was based on Donatus' ''De pedibus'' and Maurus Servius Honoratus, Servius' ''De finalibus'' and used examples from Christian poets as well as Virgil. It became a standard text for the teaching of Latin verse during the next few centuries. Bede dedicated this work to Cuthbert, apparently a student, for he is named "beloved son" in the dedication, and Bede says "I have laboured to educate you in divine letters and ecclesiastical statutes" ''De orthographia'' is a work on orthography, designed to help a medieval reader of Latin with unfamiliar abbreviations and words from classical Latin works. Although it could serve as a textbook, it appears to have been mainly intended as a reference work. The date of composition for both of these works is unknown. ''De schematibus et tropis sacrae scripturae'' discusses the Bible's use of rhetoric. Bede was familiar with pagan authors such as Virgil, but it was not considered appropriate to teach biblical grammar from such texts, and Bede argues for the superiority of Christian texts in understanding Christian literature.Colgrave gives the example of Desiderius of Vienne, who was reprimanded by Gregory the Great for using "heathen" authors in his teaching. Similarly, his text on poetic metre uses only Christian poetry for examples.


Vernacular poetry

According to his disciple Cuthbert, Bede was ''doctus in nostris carminibus'' ("learned in our songs"). Cuthbert's letter on Bede's death, the ''Epistola Cuthberti de obitu Bedae'', moreover, commonly is understood to indicate that Bede composed a five-line vernacular poem known to modern scholars as ''Bede's Death Song'' As Opland notes, however, it is not entirely clear that Cuthbert is attributing this text to Bede: most manuscripts of the latter do not use a finite verb to describe Bede's presentation of the song, and the theme was relatively common in Old English and Anglo-Latin literature. The fact that Cuthbert's description places the performance of the Old English poem in the context of a series of quoted passages from Sacred Scripture might be taken as evidence simply that Bede also cited analogous vernacular texts. On the other hand, the inclusion of the Old English text of the poem in Cuthbert's Latin letter, the observation that Bede "was learned in our song," and the fact that Bede composed a Latin poem on the same subject all point to the possibility of his having written it. By citing the poem directly, Cuthbert seems to imply that its particular wording was somehow important, either since it was a vernacular poem endorsed by a scholar who evidently frowned upon secular entertainment or because it is a direct quotation of Bede's last original composition.


Veneration

There is no evidence for cult being paid to Bede in England in the 8th century. One reason for this may be that he died on the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury. Later, when he was veneration, venerated in England, he was either commemorated after Augustine on 26 May, or his feast was moved to 27 May. However, he was venerated outside England, mainly through the efforts of Saint Boniface, Boniface and
Alcuin Alcuin of York (; la, Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; 735 – 19 May 804) – also called Ealhwine, Alhwin, or Alchoin – was an English scholar, clergyman, poet, and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the ...
, both of whom promoted the cult on the continent. Boniface wrote repeatedly back to England during his missionary efforts, requesting copies of Bede's theological works. Alcuin, who was taught at the school set up in York by Bede's pupil Ecgbert, praised Bede as an example for monks to follow and was instrumental in disseminating Bede's works to all of Alcuin's friends. Bede's cult became prominent in England during the 10th-century revival of monasticism and by the 14th century had spread to many of the cathedrals of England. Wulfstan (Bishop of Worcester), Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester was a particular devotee of Bede's, dedicating a church to him in 1062, which was Wulfstan's first undertaking after his consecration as bishop. His body was 'translation (relic), translated' (the ecclesiastical term for relocation of relics) from Jarrow to Durham Cathedral around 1020, where it was placed in the same tomb with Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Later Bede's remains were moved to a shrine in the Galilee Chapel at
Durham Cathedral The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, commonly known as Durham Cathedral and home of the Shrine of St Cuthbert, is a cathedral A cathedral is a church that contains the '' cathedra'' () of ...

Durham Cathedral
in 1370. The shrine was destroyed during the English Reformation, but the bones were reburied in the chapel. In 1831 the bones were dug up and then reburied in a new tomb, which is still there. Other relics were claimed by York Minster, York, Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury and Fulda. His scholarship and importance to Catholicism were recognised in 1899 when he was declared a
Doctor of the Church Doctor of the Church (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repub ...
. He is the only Englishman named a Doctor of the Church. He is also the only Englishman in Dante Alighieri, Dante's ''Paradiso (Dante), Paradise'' (''Paradiso (Dante), Paradiso'' X.130), mentioned among theologians and doctors of the church in the same canto as
Isidore of Seville Isidore of Seville (; la, Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560 – 4 April 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop In many Christian denomination, Christian Denominations, an archbishop (, via Latin ...
and the Scot Richard of St. Victor. His feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar in 1899, for celebration on 27 May rather than on his date of death, 26 May, which was then the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury. He is venerated in the Catholic Church, with a feast day of 25 May, is Calendar of saints (Church of England), remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival (Anglicanism), Lesser Festival on 25 May, and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, with a feast day on 27 May (Βεδέα του Ομολογητού). Bede became known as ''Venerable Bede'' (Latin: ) by the 9th century because of his holiness, but this was not linked to consideration for Canonization, sainthood by the Catholic Church. According to a legend, the epithet was miraculously supplied by angels, thus completing his unfinished epitaph. It is first utilised in connection with Bede in the 9th century, where Bede was grouped with others who were called "venerable" at two ecclesiastical councils held at Aachen in 816 and 836. Paul the Deacon then referred to him as venerable consistently. By the 11th and 12th century, it had become commonplace.


Modern legacy

Bede's reputation as a historian, based mostly on the ''Historia Ecclesiastica'', remains strong; historian Walter Goffart says of Bede that he "holds a privileged and unrivalled place among first historians of Christian Europe". His life and work have been celebrated with the annual Jarrow Lecture, held at St. Paul's Church, Jarrow, since 1958. Jarrow Hall – Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum (previously known as Bede's World), is a museum that celebrates the history of Bede and other parts of English heritage, on the site where he lived. Bede Metro station, part of the Tyne and Wear Metro light rail network, is named after him.


See also

* List of manuscripts of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, List of manuscripts of Bede's ''Historia Ecclesiastica'' * List of works by Bede *


Notes


References


Sources


Primary sources

* * * (Parallel Latin text and English translation with English notes.) * * * * * (contains translations of ''On the Song of Songs, Homilies on the Gospels'' and selections from the ''Ecclesiastical history of the English people''). *


Secondary sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

*


External links


Dickinson College Commentaries: ''Historia Ecclēsiastica''
* * *
Bede's World: the museum of early medieval Northumbria at Jarrow

The Venerable Bede
from In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)
''Ecclesiastical History of the English People''
Books 1–5, L.C. Jane's 1903 Temple Classics translation. From the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.
Bede's ''Ecclesiastical History'' and the Continuation of Bede (pdf)
a
CCEL
edited & translated by A.M. Sellar.
Saint Bede
complete works, in Latin, with historical works also in English at ''The Online Library of Liberty''

{{DEFAULTSORT:Bede Bede, 673 births 735 deaths 7th-century Christian monks 7th-century Christian theologians 8th-century Christian monks 8th-century historians 8th-century Christian theologians 8th-century Latin writers Anglo-Saxon monks Anglo-Saxon poets Anglo-Saxon saints Benedictine Biblical scholars Benedictine theologians Benedictine writers Bible translators Burials at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey Christian hagiographers English Christian theologians Chronologists Church Fathers Doctors of the Church English Benedictines English chroniclers English saints Hagiographers Medieval English theologians Northumbrian saints People from Jarrow People from Sunderland British biblical scholars Trope theorists 7th-century English writers 8th-century English writers Anglican saints