Bede (Beda Venerabilis) was Anglo-Saxon England’s most prolific Latin writer, and indeed one of the most distinguished authors of the early Middle Ages. At the end of his most celebrated work, ...
Bede (Beda Venerabilis) was Anglo-Saxon England’s most prolific Latin writer, and indeed one of the most distinguished authors of the early Middle Ages. At the end of his most celebrated work, Historia ecclesiastical gentis Anglorum (HE), he provides a cursory autobiographical note which remains the starting point for what we know about his life and many writings.1 Born in the kingdom of Northumbria, at the age of seven he was given by his parents to the monastery at Wearmouth, founded in 674, to be reared and educated. When a sister monastery was founded in 681 some seven miles away at Jarrow, Bede was probably among the monks transferred to that new site, and there he remained until his death in 735, at the age of fifty-nine. Ordained deacon at the age of nineteen and priest at the age of thirty, he devoted the whole of his life to monastic observance and scriptural study, memorably stating that “amid the observance of the discipline of the Rule and the daily task of singing in the church, it has always been my delight to learn or to teach or to write.”2 The fruits of this labour are readily evidenced by the long list of his writings that concludes Bede’s note, with its some forty works in various genres—impressive in any era, to be sure, but not least in one popularly understood as “dark” in comparison to the luminous achievements of the classical past.Less