The Venerable Bede (Baeda in Old English) is believed to have been born in 672 or 673 AD. Actual Bede was not an actual name but the word for "priest" in the Old Saxon lanuage. He was raised in Northumbria. After the departure of the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons invaded and divided England into several different kingdoms. Nothumbria was an Anglian kingdom north of the river Humber. Bede was almost certainly not of noble birth. We have little information about his life, especially his child hood. We do know that when he was 7 years old that his family left him at the Wearmouth monastery which is located at the mouth of the river Wear. At the time a poor family unable to care for its children might turn some over to the Church. The Church was also one of the few ways in which a boy of humble birth might rise in the society.
We have no infornation on the Venerable Bede's parents, even his real name is lost. Actual Bede was not an actual name but the word for "priest" in the Old Saxon lanuage. He was almost certainly not of noble birth or he would not have been left at a monastery.
T he Venerable Bede (Baeda in Old English) is believed to have been born in 672 or 673 AD. He was raised in Northumbria. After the departure of the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons invaded and divided England into several different kingdoms. Nothumbria was an Anglian kingdom north of the river Humber. We have little information about his life, especially his childhood. Most of what we know about him comes from his own writings. Another monk, Cuthbert, adds some information, but about his later life. We do know that when he was 7 years old that his family left him at the Wearmouth monestary which is located at the mouth of the river Wear. At the time a poor family inable to care for its children might turn some over to the Church. TheChurch was also one of the few ways in which a boy of humble birth might rise in the society. Thus we are unsure if Bede came from an especially poor family or if his family saw something special in the boy and realised that only the church represented an avenue for advancement.
Wearmouth was a Saxon monestary. It was founded by the Benedictine monk Biscop (about 674). As might be expected, it was located at the mouth of the River Wear. Biscop founded another monestary nearby at Jarrow located at the mouth of the River Tyne about 681. After the death of Bede, the Viking attacks began. The first target was the revered monastary on Lindifarne (793). Jarrow was to become one of the first known targets (794) of the Vikings on mainland Britain.
As a boy from probably a poor peasant family, Bede would have received no formal schooling. This changed once he was left at Wearmouth and accepted by the monestary about 680. This was only a few years after the foundation of the monestary. Boys there received extensive schooling, in fact more than most boys of nobel birth. This was primarily because most would have been raised to enter the priesthood. Bede spent his boy hood years at Wearmouth and the newer monestary at Jarrow. Bede while still a boy with about 20 monks went to live at Jarrow. Abbot Ceolfrith oversaw the Jarrow Monestary and would have supervised Bede and his education. Unlike Bede, Biscop, the founder of the monastery traveled a great deal and spent much time in Rome and other centers of civilization. He asembled an extensive library for the monasteries. It was of course a wonderful resource for the young Bede.
Bede when he was 19 years old was ordained a deacon. This suggests that he even as a tennager had impressed Abbot Ceolfrith and presumably fellow monks. These office of deacon usually was not achieved until well into ones 20s. At the age of 30, Bede was ordained into the priesthood. As far as we know, Bede spent his entire life in the two monestaries at Wearmouth at Jarrow. At the time it ws not unusual for common people to live their entire lives in or near the village herethey were born. He appears to have left the monestaries only twice. He is asid to have visited Lindisfarne (a famed island monestary) and York. There is no real evidence, even for these two trips. While not well travled, he was well educated, especially by the standards of the day. As a boy he studied calligraphy in the scriptorium, grammar, computus, music, and even natural sciences. He must have been a clever studnt. Understandably Scripture was the principal subject. Bede's principal teacher was Tunberht.
Bede was known for his piety. An account of Abbot Ceolfrith reports that in 686, when Bede was till a boy of about age 12, the monestary at Jarrow was struck by a disatrous plague. Only a boy and Abbot Ceolfrith survived. Presumably the boy was Bede. These two reportedly after losing their colleagues trained the lay faithful to sing the chants that were sung as devotions to God. This early action is in conformity of the rest of Bede's life and the piety for which he was known.
Bede was a prolific author, writing about 60 books. Bede was a Biblical scholar, poet and historian. Bee wrote extensively on the Scripture. During his life time his works were primarily read locally. He received greater recognition after his death. Pope Leo XIII recognized him as a doctor of the Church, both for his scholkarship and his piety. He also wrote poems in both Old English as well as Latin--at the time the language considered appropriate for any serious work. Bede is perhaps best known for two major histories that he wrote. They provide some of the few contemprary histories of the early Medieval era. As a result, Bede is often referred to as "the father of English history." His work The History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow is a fascinating account of early church history. The best know work is The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. In it he refers for the first time to the English people, despite the fact that England at the time was divided into several different kingdoms. Unlike many early historians, Bede often indiucated his sources to substantiate his work. He also was the first hisorian to use the anno domini (after death AD) dating system. These historical writings were not considere his most i,mportant works at the time whee is writings on scriptures wereseen as his major works.
Bede not only authored books, but also translated many works. Bede began an Old
English translation of portions of the Gospel according to St. John. His translation does not survive. The translation is believed to be the first known attempt to translate the Bible into English from Latin.
The Venerable Bede as a monk was noted for his interest in teaching. As a result, several schools have been mnamed for him. There has been a state school at Jarrow. There has also been a preparaory school.
Bede died in 735. A Deacon Cuthbert, later to become abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow, described Bede's piety to the very end. He even continued to teach while seriously ill.
Cuthbert tells us that Bede cheerfully advised his his students to pay attention and learn their lessons quickly because he might soon leave them.
Alcock, L. "Bede, Eddius and the Forts of the North Britons", Jarrow Lectures (Jarrow, 1988).
Blair, P. H. The World of Bede (London, 1970, reprinted 1990).
Brown, George Hardin. Bede the Venerable (Boston: Twayne, 1987)
Ward, Benedicta. The Venerable Bede (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1990).
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