Religion Wiki

Bede (pronounced biːd); also Saint Bede, the Venerable Bede, in Old English Baeda or Bēda, in Latin Beda; 672/673–May 26, 735), was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow, both in the Kingdom of Northumbria.

He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The Father of English History". In 1899, Bede was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, a position of theological significance; he is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation (Anselm of Canterbury, also a Doctor of the Church, was originally from Italy).


Almost everything that is known of Bede's life is contained in the last chapter of his Historia Ecclesiastica, a history of the church in England. It was completed in about 731,[1] and Bede implies that he was then in his fifty-ninth year, which would give a likely birth date of about 672–673.[2][3][4] A minor source of information is the letter by his disciple Cuthbert which relates Bede's death. Cuthbert is probably the same person as the later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow, but this is not entirely sure.[5] Bede, in the Historia, gives his birthplace as "on the lands of this monastery".[6] He is referring to the twinned monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow,[7] near modern-day Sunderland and Newcastle, respectively; both have been claimed as his birthplace, and there is also a tradition that he was born at Monkton, parish Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, two miles from the monastery at Jarrow.[2][8] Bede says nothing of his origins, but his connections with men of noble ancestry suggest that his own family was well-to-do.[9] Bede's first abbot was Benedict Biscop, and the names "Biscop" and "Beda" both appear in a king list of the kings of Lindsey from around 800, further suggesting that Bede came from a noble family.[4] His name is uncommon, only occurring twice in the Liber Vitae of Durham Cathedral, one of which is assumed to be the writer. There is also a Bieda who is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 501, but these are the only mentions in manuscripts of the name.[10][11] The name probably derives from the Old English bēd, or prayer, and if it was the name given Bede at birth, probably meant that his family had planned on his entering the clergy from birth.[10]

At the age of seven, he was sent to the monastery of Wearmouth by his family to be educated by Benedict Biscop and later by Ceolfrith.[12] Bede does not say whether it was already intended at that point that he would be a monk.[13] It was fairly common in Ireland at that time for young boys, particularly those of noble birth, to be fostered out; the practice was also likely to have been common among the Germanic peoples in England.[14] Wearmouth's sister monastery at Jarrow was founded by Ceolfrith in 682, and Bede probably transferred to Jarrow with Ceolfrith that year. Four years later, 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 "with antiphons";[15] one was Ceolfrith, and the other a young boy of 14, thought by most historians to have been Bede.[12]

When Bede was about 17 years old, Adomnan, the abbot of Iona Abbey, visited Wearmouth and Jarrow. Bede would probably have met the abbot during this visit, and it may be that Adomnan sparked Bede's interest in the Easter dating controversy.[16] In about 692, in Bede's nineteenth year, Bede was ordained a deacon by his diocesan bishop, John, who was bishop of Hexham. The canonical age for the ordination of a deacon was 25; Bede's early ordination may mean that his abilities were considered exceptional,[14] but it is also possible that the minimum age requirement was often disregarded.[17] There might have been minor orders ranking below a deacon; but there is no record of whether Bede held any of these offices.[18][notes 1] In Bede's thirtieth year (about 702) Bede became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John.[4]

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.[17] He continued to write for the rest of his life, eventually completing over 60 books, most of which have survived. Not all of his output can be easily dated, and Bede may have worked on some texts over a period of many years.[4][17] His last surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734.[17] A 6th-century manuscript of Acts that is believed to have been used by Bede is still extant.[19] Bede may also have worked on one of the Latin bibles that were copied at Jarrow, one of which is now held by the Laurentian Library.[15] Bede was a teacher as well as a writer;[20] he enjoyed music, and was said to be accomplished as a singer and as a reciter of poetry in the vernacular.[17]

In 708, a number of monks at Hexham accused Bede of heresy, because his work De Temporibus offered a different chronology of the Six Ages of the world theory from the one commonly accepted by theologians. The accusation occurred in front of the bishop of Hexham of the time, 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 be read to Wilfrid also.[21][notes 2] Bede had another brush with Wilfrid, for the historian himself says that he met Wilfrid, sometime between 706 and 709, and discussed Æthelthryth, 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.[22]

In 733, Bede travelled to York, to visit Ecgbert, who was then bishop of York. 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.[23] Bede also travelled to the monastery of Lindisfarne, and at some point visited the otherwise unknown monastery of a monk named Wicthed, a visit that is mentioned in a letter to that monk. Because of his widespread correspondence with others throughout the British Isles, and due to the fact that 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.[24] Bede hoped to visit Ecgbert again in 734, but was too ill to make the journey.[23] He died on 26 May 735 and was buried at Jarrow.[4] Cuthbert's letter is mainly concerned with relating the last days of Bede, and mainly has interest for two things, one that Bede was still struggling to complete works right before his death, and two, the relating of a poem that Bede composed on his deathbed.[25] 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 reinterred in the Galilee chapel at the cathedral.[4]

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.[10] The section in question is the only one in that work that is written in first-person view, where 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."[26] Another passage, in the Commentary on Luke, also mentions a wife in the first person, where Bede writes "Formerly I possessed a wife in the lustful passion of desire and now I possess her in honourable sanctification and true love of Christ."[26] The historian Benedicta Ward argues that these passages are Bede employing a rhetorical device,[27] but another historian, N. J. Higham, offers no explanation for the passages.[10]


His works show that he commanded all the learning of his time. It is believed that his library at Wearmouth-Jarrow had between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest in England. It is clear that Biscop made strenuous efforts to collect books during his extensive travels.

Bede wrote scientific, historical and theological works, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He knew patristic literature, as well as Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers. He knew some Greek and Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear, but his Biblical commentaries are more technical.

Bede's scriptural commentaries employed the allegorical method of interpretation[28] 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.[29]

He dedicated his work on the Apocalypse and the De Temporum Ratione to the successor of Ceolfrid as abbot, Hwaetbert.[30]

Modern historians have completed many studies of Bede's works. His life and work have been celebrated by a series of annual scholarly lectures at St. Paul's Church, Jarrow from 1958 to the present.[31] The historian Walter Goffart says of Bede that he "holds a privileged and unrivaled place among first historians of Christian Europe".[32]

Although Bede is mainly studied as a 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.[33]

Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

Bede's best-known work is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, or An Ecclesiastical History of the English People.[34] Completed in about 731,[notes 3] the first of the five books begins with some geographical background, and then sketches the history of England, beginning with Caesar's invasion in 55 BCE.[36] A brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain, including the martyrdom of St Alban, is followed by the story of Augustine's mission to England in 597, which brought Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons.[4] The second book begins with the death of Gregory the Great in 604, and follows the further progress of Christianity in Kent and the first attempts to evangelize Northumbria.[37] These ended in disaster when Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, killed the newly Christian Edwin of Northumbria at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in about 632.[37] The setback was temporary, and the third book recounts the growth of Christianity in Northumbria under kings Oswald of Northumbria and Oswy.[38] The climax of the third book is the account of the Council of Whitby, traditionally seen as a major turning point in English history.[39] The fourth book begins with the consecration of Theodore as Archbishop of Canterbury, and recounts Wilfrid's efforts to bring Christianity to the kingdom of Sussex.[40] 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.[40] Bede wrote a preface for the work, in which he dedicates it to Ceolwulf, king of Northumbria.[41] 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.[4][36] 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 excellent connections among the Northumbrian nobility.[4]


The monastery at 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.[42]

For the period prior to Augustine's arrival in 597, Bede drew on earlier writers, including Orosius, Eutropius, Pliny, and Solinus.[4][43] He used Constantius's Life of Germanus as a source for Germanus's visits to Britain.[4][43] Bede's account of the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons is drawn largely from Gildas's De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae.[44] Bede would also have been familiar with more recent accounts such as Eddius Stephanus's Life of Wilfrid, and anonymous Lives of Gregory the Great and Cuthbert.[43] He also drew on Josephus's Antiquities, and the works of Cassiodorus,[45] and there was a copy of the Liber Pontificalis in Bede's monastery.[46]

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 Nothhelm, at that time a priest in London, obtained copies of Gregory the Great's correspondence from Rome relating to Augustine's mission.[4][43][47] Almost all of Bede's information regarding Augustine is taken from these letters.[4] Bede acknowledged his correspondents in the preface to the Historia Ecclesiastica;[48] he was in contact with Daniel, the Bishop 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.[48] Bede also mentions an Abbot Esi as a source for the affairs of the East Anglian church, and Bishop Cynibert for information about Lindsey.[48]

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 Gildas's De excidio. The second section, detailing the Gregorian mission of Augustine of Canterbury was framed on the anonymous Life of Gregory the Great written at Whitby. The last section, detailing events after the Gregorian mission, Goffart feels were modelled on Stephen of Ripon's Life of Wilfrid.[49] 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.[50][51]


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,[4] and his title is an echo of Eusebius's Historia Ecclesiastica.[2] Bede also followed Eusebius in taking the Acts of the Apostles 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.[52] Bede quoted his sources at length in his narrative, as Eusebius had done.[4] 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.[4] At the end of the work, Bede added a brief autobiographical note; this was an idea taken from Gregory of Tours' earlier History of the Franks.[53]

Bede's work as a 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.[34]


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 on the British Isles.[54] Most of the 8th- and 9th-century texts of Bede's Historia come from the northern parts of the Carolingian Empire.[55] 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.[54] Modern historians have studied the Historia extensively, and a number of editions have been produced.[32] 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, a belief common among historians in the past, is no longer accepted by most scholars.[56]

The Historia Ecclesiastica has given Bede a high reputation, but his concerns were different from those of a modern writer of history.[4] His focus on the history of the organization 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.[4] 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.[57] Early modern writers, such as Polydore Virgil and Matthew Parker, the Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, also utilized the Historia, and his works were used by both Protestant and Catholic sides in the Wars of Religion.[58]

Some historians have questioned the reliability of some of Bede's accounts. One historian, Charlotte Behr, feels 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.[59]

Other historical works


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.[60]


His other historical works included lives of the abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, as well as verse and prose lives of 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. He also created a listing of saints, the Martyrology.[61]

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.[62] It was for his theological writings that he earned the title of Doctor Anglorum, and why he was made a saint.[63]

Bede was not an innovative religious thinker. He made no original writings or thoughts on the beliefs of the church, instead working to synthesize and transmit the learning from his predecessors. 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 a number of books by theologians, including works by Basil, Cassian, John Chrysostom, Isidore of Seville, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome, Pope Gregory I and Ambrose of Milan. He used these, in conjunction with the Biblical texts themselves, to write his commentaries and other theological works.[63] He also used lesser known writers, such as Fulgentius, Julian of Eclanum, Tyconius and Prosperius. Bede was the first to refer to Jerome, Augustine, Pope Gregory I and Ambrose as the four Latin Fathers of the Church.[64] It is clear from Bede's own comments that he felt his job was to explain to his students and readers the theology and thoughts of the Church Fathers.[65]

Bede also wrote homilies, works written to explain theology used in worship services. Bede wrote homilies not only on the major Christian festivals such as Advent, Lent or Easter, but on other subjects such as anniversaries of significant events.[63]

Both types of Bede's theological works circulated widely in the Middle Ages. A number 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 Monastic Office. Saint Boniface used Bede's homilies in his missionary efforts on the continent.[63]

Works on the Old Testament

The works dealing with the Old Testament included Commentary on Samuel,[66] Commentary on Genesis,[67] Commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah, On the Temple, On the Tabernacle,[68] Commentaries on Tobit, Commentaries on Proverbs, Commentaries on the Song of Songs, Commentaries on the Canticle of Habakkuk,[69] The works on Ezra, the Tabernacle and the Temple were especially influenced by Gregory the Great's writings.[70]

Works on the New Testament

Bede's works included Commentary on Revelation,[71] Commentary on the Catholic Epistles,[72] Commentary on Acts, Reconsideration on the Books of Acts,[73] On the Gospel of Mark, On the Gospel of Luke, and Homilies on the Gospels.[74]

Works on historical and astronomical chronology

De temporibus, or On Time, written in about 703, provides an introduction to the principles of Easter computus.[75] This was based on parts of Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, and Bede also include a chronology of the world which was derived from Eusebius, with some revisions based on Jerome's translation of the Bible.[4] In about 723,[4] Bede wrote a longer work on the same subject, On the Reckoning of Time, which was influential throughout the Middle Ages.[76] He also wrote several shorter letters and essays discussing specific aspects of computus.

On 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 at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the tides at a given place and the daily motion of the moon.[77] Since the focus of his book was calculation, Bede gave instructions for computing the date of Easter and the related time of the Easter 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 in chapter XV.[78] Any codex of Bede's Easter cycle is normally found together with a codex of his "De Temporum Ratione".

For calendric purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the age of the world since the creation, which he dated as 3952 BC. Due to 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.[79]

In addition to these works on astronomical timekeeping, he also wrote De natura rerum, or On the Nature of Things, modeled in part after the work of the same title by Isidore of Seville.[80] His works were so influential that late in the 9th century Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the 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".[81]

Educational works

Bede wrote some works designed to help teach grammar in the abbey school. One of these was his De arte metrica, a discussion of the composition of Latin verse, drawing on previous grammarians work. It was based on Donatus' De pedibus and 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 labored to educate you in divine letters and ecclesiastical statutes"[82] Another textbook of Bede's is the De orthographia, 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 exact date of composition for both of these works is unknown.[83]

Another educational work is De schematibus et tropis sacrae scripturae, which discusses the Bible's use of rhetoric.[4] Bede was familiar with pagan authors such as Virgil, but it was not considered appropriate to teach grammar from such texts, and in De schematibus ... Bede argues for the superiority of Christian texts.[4][84] Similarly, his text on poetic metre uses only Christian poetry for examples.[4]

Vernacular poetry

According to his disciple Cuthbert, Bede was also 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 also composed a five line vernacular poem known to modern scholars as Bede’s Death Song

And he used to repeat that sentence from St. Paul “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and many other verses of Scripture, urging us thereby to awake from the slumber of the soul by thinking in good time of our last hour. And in our own language,—for he was familiar with English poetry,—speaking of the soul’s dread departure from the body:
Facing that enforced journey, no man can be
More prudent than he has good call to be,

If he consider, before his going hence,
What for his spirit of good hap or of evil
After his day of death shall be determined.

Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðe
ðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæ

to ymbhycgenne ær his hinionge
hwæt his gastæ godes oððe yfles
æfter deað dæge doemed wiorðe.:[85]

As Opland notes, however, it is not entirely clear that Cuthbert is attributing this text to Bede: most manuscripts of the letter 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, indeed, might be taken as evidence simply that Bede also cited analogous vernacular texts.[86] 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[87] or because it is a direct quotation of Bede's last original composition.[88]


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 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 and Alcuin, 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 Egbert, praised Bede as an example for monks to follow and was instrumental in disseminating Bede's works to all of Alcuin's friends.[89] 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 (c. 1008-1095) 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.[90]

His body was stolen from Jarrow and transferred to Durham Cathedral around 1020, where it was placed in the same tomb with Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Later they were moved to a shrine in Galilee Chapel at 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.[54] Other relics were claimed by York, Glastonbury and Fulda.[91]

His scholarship and importance to Catholicism were recognised in 1899 when he was declared a Doctor of the Church, and was declared a sanctus in 1935.[4] He is the only Englishman named a Doctor of the Church.[54] He is also the only Englishman in Dante's Divine Comedy (Paradiso X.130), mentioned among theologians and doctors of the church in the same canto as Isidore of Seville and the Scot Richard of St. Victor.

His feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar in 1899, for celebration on May 27 rather than on his date of death, May 26, which was then the feast day of Pope Saint Gregory VII; however, the 1969 calendar reforms allowed Bede's feast day to move to its proper day. He is venerated in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church, with a feast day of 25 May.[54]

Bede became known as Venerable Bede (Latin.: Beda Venerabilis) by the 9th century,[92] but this was not linked to consideration for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. According to a legend the epithet was miraculously supplied by angels, thus completing his unfinished epitaph.[93] It is first utilized in connection with Bede in the 9th century, where Bede was grouped with others who were called "venerable" at two ecclesiastical councils held at Aix in 816 and 836. Paul the Deacon then referred to him as venerable consistently. By the 11th and 12th century, it had become commonplace. However, there are no descriptions of Bede by that term right after his death.[5]


  1. Isidore of Seville lists six orders below a deacon, but these orders need not have existed at Wearmouth.[18]
  2. The letter itself is in Bedae Opera de Temporibus edited by C. W. Jones, pp. 307-315
  3. The traditional date is 731, which Bede gives himself. However, an Muslim defeat in Gaul that took place in 732 appears to be recorded, which gives some fuzziness to the ending date.[35]


  1. Brooks "From British to English Christianity" Conversion and Colonization p. 5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ray 2001, pp. 57–59
  3. Colgrave & Mynors, Bede's Ecclesiastical History, p. xix.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 Campbell "Bede" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  5. 5.0 5.1 Higham 2006, pp. 9-10
  6. Bede, Ecclesiastical History, V.24, p. 329.
  7. Farmer 1978, pp. 19–20
  8. Colgrave & Mynors, Bede's Ecclesiastical History, pp. xix–xx.
  9. Blair 1990, p. 4
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Higham 2006, pp. 8-9
  11. Swanton Anglo-Saxon Chronicle pp. 14-15
  12. 12.0 12.1 Blair 1990, p. 178
  13. Blair 1990, p. 241
  14. 14.0 14.1 Colgrave & Mynors, Bede's Ecclesiastical History, p. xx.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Farmer 1978, p. 20 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Farmer_20" defined multiple times with different content
  16. Blair 1990, p. 181
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Blair 1990, p. 5
  18. 18.0 18.1 Blair 1990, p. 253
  19. Blair 1990, p. 234
  20. Ray 2001, p. 57
  21. Blair 1990, p. 267
  22. Goffart Narrators p. 322
  23. 23.0 23.1 Blair 1990, p. 305
  24. Higham 2006, p. 15
  25. Higham 2006, p. 17
  26. 26.0 26.1 Quoted in Ward Venerable Bede p. 57
  27. Ward Venerable Bede p. 57
  28. Holder (trans.), Bede: On the Tabernacle, (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Pr., 1994), pp. xvii-xx.
  29. McClure and Collins, The Ecclesiastical History, pp. xviii-xix.
  30. Blair 1990, p. 187
  31. The Jarrow Lecture
  32. 32.0 32.1 Goffart Narrators p. 236
  33. Goffart Narrators pp. 242-243
  34. 34.0 34.1 Farmer 1978, p. 21
  35. Goffart Narrators p. 242 and footnote 36
  36. 36.0 36.1 Farmer 1978, p. 22
  37. 37.0 37.1 Farmer 1978, p. 31
  38. Farmer 1978, pp. 31–32
  39. Abels 1983, pp. 1-2
  40. 40.0 40.1 Farmer 1978, p. 32
  41. Bede, "Preface", Historia Ecclesiastica, p. 41.
  42. Cramp, "Monkwearmouth (or Wearmouth) and Jarrow", pp. 325–326.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 Farmer 1978, p. 25
  44. Lapidge, "Gildas", p. 204.
  45. Meyvaert "Bede" Speculum p. 831
  46. Meyvaert "Bede" Speculum p. 843
  47. Keynes, "Nothhelm", pp. 335 336.
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, Preface, p. 42.
  49. Goffart Narrators pp. 296-307
  50. Brooks "From British to English Christianity" Conversion and Colonization pp. 7-10
  51. Brooks "From British to English Christianity" Conversion and Colonization pp. 12-14
  52. Farmer 1978, p. 26
  53. Farmer 1978, p. 27
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 54.3 54.4 Wright Companion to Bede pp. 4-5 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Companion4" defined multiple times with different content
  55. Higham 2006, p. 21
  56. Goffart Narrators pp. 238-9
  57. Higham 2006, p. 27
  58. Higham 2006, p. 33
  59. Behr "Origins of Kingship" Early Medieval Europe pp. 25-52
  60. Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, pp. lxvii-lxxi, 157-237, 353-66
  61. Goffart Narrators pp. 245-246
  62. Brown 1987, p. 42
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 63.3 Ward "Bede the Theologian" The Medieval Theologians pp. 57-64
  64. Ward Venerable Bede p. 44
  65. Meyvaert "Bede" Speculum p. 827
  66. Ward Venerable Bede p. 67
  67. Ward Venerable Bede p. 68
  68. Ward Venerable Bede p. 72
  69. Ward Venerable Bede p. 74
  70. Thacker 1998, p. 80
  71. Ward Venerable Bede p. 51
  72. Ward Venerable Bede p. 56
  73. Ward Venerable Bede pp. 58-59
  74. Ward Venerable Bede p. 60
  75. Brown 1987, p. 37
  76. Brown 1987, pp. 38-41
  77. Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, pp. 82-85, 307-312
  78. Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time 15, pp. 53-4, 285-7; see also [1]
  79. Wallis (trans.),, The Reckoning of Time, pp. xxx, 405-415
  80. Brown 1987, p. 36
  81. Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, p. lxxxv
  82. Brown 1987, pp. 31-32
  83. Brown 1987, pp. 35-36
  84. Colgrave gives the example of Desiderius of Vienne, who was reprimanded by Gregory the Great for using "heathen" authors in his teaching.
  85. Colgrave and Mynors, Bede's Ecclesiastical History, pp. 580-3
  86. Opland, Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry, pp. 140-141
  87. McCready, Miracles and the Venerable Bede, pp. 14-19
  88. See Jeff Opland, Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry, pp. 140-141 for a discussion
  89. Ward Venerable Bede pp. 136-138
  90. Ward Venerable Bede p. 139
  91. Higham 2006, p. 24
  92. Wright Companion to Bede p. 3
  93. Catholic Encyclopedia


Primary sources

  • Bede (1969). Colgrave, Bertram and Mynors, R. A. B.. ed. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822202-5.  (Parallel Latin text and English translation with English notes.)
  • Bede (1991). Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, revised R. E. Latham, ed. D. H. Farmer. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044565-X. 
  • Bede (1994). McClure, Judith and Collins, Roger. ed. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283866-0. 
  • Bede (1943). Jones, C. W.. ed. Bedae Opera de Temporibus. Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America. 
  • Bede (2004). Wallis, Faith (trans.). ed. Bede: The Reckoning of Time. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-693-3. 
  • Swanton, Michael James (trans.) (1998). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92129-5. 

Secondary sources

  • Behr, Charlotte (2000). "The Origins of Kingship in Early Medieval Kent". Early Medieval Europe 9 (1): 25–52. 
  • Blair, Peter Hunter (1990). The World of Bede (Reprint of 1970 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39819-3. 
  • Brooks, Nicholas (2006). "From British to English Christianity: Deconstructing Bede's Interpretation of the Conversion". in Howe, Nicholas; Karkov, Catherine. Conversion and Colonization in Anglo-Saxon England. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. pp. 1–30. ISBN 0-86698-363-5. 
  • Brown, George Hardin (1987). Bede, the Venerable. Boston: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-6940-4. 
  • Brown, George Hardin (1999). "Royal and Ecclesiastical rivalries in Bede's History". Renascence 51 (1): 19–33. 
  • Cannon, John; Ralph Griffiths (1997). The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822786-8. 
  • Chadwick, Henry (1995). "Theodore, the English Church, and the Monothelete Controversy". in Lapidge, Michael. Archbishop Theodore. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England #11. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 88–95. ISBN 0-521-48077-9. 
  • Farmer, David Hugh (1978). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19282-038-9. 
  • Goffart, Walter A. (1988). The Narrators of Barbarian History (A. D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05514-9. 
  • Higham, N. J (2006). (Re-)Reading Bede: The Historia Ecclesiastica in Context. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415353687. 
  • McCready, William D (1994). Miracles and the Venerable Bede: Studies and Texts. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies #118. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 0-88844-118-5. 
  • Mayr-Harting, Henry (1991). The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00769-9. 
  • Meyvaert, Paul (1996). "Bede, Cassiodorus, and the Codex Amiatinus". Speculum 71 (4): 827–883. 
  • Opland, Jeff (1980). Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry: A Study of the Traditions. New Haven and London: Yale U.P.. ISBN 0-300-02426-6. 
  • Ray, Roger (2001). "Bede". in Lapidge, Michael, et al.. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Malden, MA: Blackwell. pp. 57–59. ISBN 978-0-631-22492-1. 
  • Thacker, Alan (1998). "Memorializing Gregory the Great: The Origin and Transmission of a Papal Cult in the 7th and early 8th centuries". Early Medieval Europe 7 (1): 59–84. 
  • Tyler, Damian (April 2007). "Reluctant Kings and Christian Conversion in Seventh-Century England". History 92 (306): 144–161. 
  • Ward, Benedicta (2001). "Bede the Theologian". in Evans, G. R.. The Medieval Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Medieval Period. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 57–64. ISBN 978-0-631-21203-4. 
  • Ward, Benedicta (1990). The Venerable Bede. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing. ISBN 0-8192-1494-9. 
  • Wright, J. Robert (2008). A Companion to Bede: A Reader's Commentary on The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6309-6. 

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Bede. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.