Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Venerable Bede

NAME Bede, also known as The Venerable Bede or Saint Bede. His name most likely 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.

WHAT FAMOUS FOR English theologian and historian

BIRTH b673 Monk Wearmouth, Durham

FAMILY BACKGROUND From well-to do Geordie stock. His parents confided him to the care of the Abbot Benedict Biscop at the age of 7.

CHILDHOOD Young Bede was sent by his parents to the nearby newly founded monastery at Wearmouth at the age of 7. He was placed under the care of the abbot Benedict Biscop, Abbot of the monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, to be raised as a monk.

EDUCATION Bede was taught by St John of Beverley who was renowned for his healing powers. Besides studying Latin, Greek and classical writings and doctrines he also learnt Hebrew, Medicine and Astronomy. The library in Jarrow was the largest library in England at the time. He became one of the most learned men in Western Europe. He later wrote: "My whole happiness was in studying, teaching and writing."

CAREER RECORD Bede devoted his life to the study of scripture and recording of history. His entire working life was spent as a Benedictine monk at the monastery of Saint Peter at Wearmouth, and its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in Jarrow.
680 Entered Wearmouth monastery at the age of 7 where he started training to be a monk. Spent long hours working by candlelight in his monk's cell.
682 Transferred to Jarrow monastery
692 Bede was ordained a deacon by his diocesan bishop, John, who was bishop of Hexham702 Bede became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John.

CHARACTER Bede had an attractive character being gentle, pious, solitary, humble, cheerful, with a straight forward loveable nature. St Boniface thought him to be a good egg describing the saint as, "A light of the church lit by the Holy Spirit".
He was known as Venerable Bede from the 9th century due to the holiness of his life. From Latin "venerablius" meaning "worthy of honour".

SENSE OF HUMOUR Bede displayed his sceptical wit in his book Ecclesiastical History of the English People by poking fun at the legend that St Patrick had rid Ireland of snakes.

RELATIONSHIPS Bede's work on historical chronology influenced a lot of people with his dating techniques.
But seriously, an oddity in Bede's 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, 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."

MONEY AND FAME When Bede died his estate was made up of some peppercorns, incense and handkerchiefs.

INTERESTS FOOD AND DRINK Bede loved cooking and he was especially proud of his store of peppercorns and spices that he added to improve the bland monastery food.

MUSIC AND ARTS Bede habitually sung psalms in praise to God. He wrote hymns including "Sing we Triumphant Hymns of Praise."

LITERATURE Bede had a masterful grip of narrative and was a consummate storyteller when recounting history. All his works were written out by hand with ink made from ground up oak gall on vellum (animal skins).
He wrote 68 books in total, mainly religious biographies, scientific and theological works with a quill dipped in "encaustum", the monk’s word for ink. It is thought that the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow contained between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest in England. Bede utilised the extensive library available to him with laborious research.
His works include:
725 On the Reckoning of Time, Bede's treatise on dating.
731 Ecclesiastical History of the English People Bede's classic historical tome written in Latin of the purest style, which tells of early Anglo Saxon kingdoms and their conversion to Christianity. Scrupulously researched, he even had a monk colleague gathering material for him in the Pope's archives in Rome. A monumental account of the times years before Rupert Murdoch came on the scene.
Bede cited his references and was very concerned about sources of all his sources, which created an important historical chain. He is credited with inventing footnoting.
At the end of his life, Bede translated John's Gospel into English.

NATURE Bede would have had cats to catch mice and rats who tended to be attracted to monasteries.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Bede tells us of in writings of his interest in carpentry and music and how he enjoyed long walks along the Northumbrian coast that allowed him to study the movement of the tides. However, he found his chief pleasure in learning, teaching and writing.

SCIENCE AND MATHS In know I keep on about Bede's dating techniques but he popularised the division of history into BC and AD and did other work on historical chronology. In his
book On the Reckoning of Time, Bede discussed various astronomical matters such as how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight.

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY Almost wholly holy, Bede was regarded as a saint.
At the age of seven he was confided to the care of the Abbot Benedict by his family at the newly founded monastery in Wearmouth. The monastery was founded by Benedict Biscop, formerly the Abbot of St Peter’s in Canterbury. He bought builders and glass-workers from continental Europe to help erect the building, thus introducing stone edifices and glass windows to England.
Bede later transferred to Jarrow monastery, where he became a priest in about 703. He devoted his life there to study, writing and prayer. He cheerfully often spent a whole night in prayer and thanksgiving to God. He once wrote “I have devoted my energies to the study of the scriptures, observing monastic discipline and singing the daily services in church; study, teaching and writing have always been my delight.”
Rather than copying from any one source, Bede researched from several sources to create single volume bibles, a practice which was highly unusual for the time: previously, the Bible had circulated as separate books. He also worked on translations of parts of the Bible into old English, unfortunately these have not survived.

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS Two years after his transfer to Jarrow, all the monks responsible for leading the worship were killed by the plague leaving only the abbot and the 11 year old Bede to maintain the services.
Late in life Bede became almost blind because of the strain on his eyes of working long hours by candlelight. He would dictate his works to other monks, who would write them out for him.
In Bede's final days he suffered from a shortness of breath and weakness though little pain.

HOMES Jarrow monastery was bulging at the seams with around 600 monks including the 9-year-old Bede, when its founder Abbot Ceolfrith died in 682.
St Paul's Church, Jarrow, where Bede worshipped is still situated on the grounds of the monastery. A nearby metro station, Bede station is named after him.

TRAVEL Bede left North England in his life. His only trips away from Jarrow were occasional trips to York and Lindisfarne.
Interestingly in those days when people did not believe the Earth was round, Bede wrote that the Earth was round "like a playground ball", contrasting that with being "round like a shield".

DEATH Bede died in AD735 aged 62. He spent the last day of his life at Jarrow Monastery teaching, then he distributed the few goods he owned to fellow priests, knelt on the floor, prayed and died surrounded by his brethren. His last words, having dictated the last sentence of his translation of John's Gospel and being told by the scribe that the sentence was now finished said "It is well: you have said the truth. It is indeed." He then said "Take my head between your hands and raise me that I may call on my Father. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost." and he breathed his last. Bede's remains were moved to Durham Cathedral’s Galilee Chapel in 1370 and lie within a tomb chest sealed by a black marble slab.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA Bede is the only Englishman to be named by Dante as being in paradise in his Divine Comedy.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Bede was not only the Father of English History, but a historian of European reputation, the only reliable writer of his time, the Dark Ages. The others tended to mix facts with legends.
2. A powerful influence on revival of learning under Charlemagne.
3. Mainly wrote in Latin but also first known English prose writer.
4. In 1899 Pope Leo 13th gave him formal recognition as a doctor of the Church. Bede was canonised in 1899; his feast day is May 27, the day of his death.
5. His dating techniques

The video is part of the "Northern Tales" DVD. This is a story told by Tony Wilson about St.Bede.

1 comment:

  1. It was common knowledge that the Earth is a sphere in Bede's time. Church teachings were based on the classics and the ancient Greeks not only knew that the Earth is a sphere but had measured it's size to within 2% using nothing but sticks, twine and shadows.

    ReplyDelete