St Bede – also known as the Venerable Bede – is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars. He wrote around 40 books mainly dealing with theology and history.
Bede was born in the North East of England. At the age of seven he was entrusted to the care of Benedict Biscop, who is 674 AD had founded the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. In 682 AD, Bede moved the monastery at Jarrow, where he spent the rest of his life. By the age of 19 he had become a deacon and was promoted to priest at 30.
Bede worked as a scholar and teacher and wrote extensively about the Bible to clarify its meaning for his own study and that of the other monks. His commentaries on the books of the Bible were subsequently sought and circulated widely. Bishop Boniface wrote of Bede that he “shone forth as a lantern in the church by his scriptural commentary.”
His scholarship covered a huge range of subjects, including commentaries on the bible, observations of nature, music and poetry. His most famous work, which is a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ or ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used.
Bede’s scholarship covered many areas beyond Christianity. He wrote of nature; how the earth was a sphere; how the moon influences the cycle of the tides – a remarkable observation in this era of time. He wrote on calculating time and by using Bede’s exposition of the Great Cycle of 532 years (the interval between two ‘identical’ years), the Church was able to calculate the date of Easter.
Bede died in his cell at the monastery in May 735 AD.