Durham, Historical Figure Profiles, Northumberland

Happy St Bede’s Day

the Venerable Bede, Nuremburg Chronicle
the Venerable Bede, Nuremberg Chronicle

That’s right everyone, 1,278 years ago today the man known as ‘The father of English history’ died in the monastery of Jarrow, Durham (although at the time it was in Northumberland as the shire of Durham did not yet exist).

The Venerable Bede is most famous today as being the author of the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’. However, during his lifetime he was also the author of over 60 books and pamphlets on subjects such as history, nature, astrology, orthography, rhetoric, poetry and of course Christianity including a chronicle on the lives of the saints. He was a gifted linguist and translator also, who translated many of the Church’s scriptures into old English for the benefit of his students and men of influence.

Born near Jarrow in 673, he was first taught at the age of 7 at St Peter’s Abbey of Wearmouth, by the abbey’s equally famous founder, Abbot Benedict Biscop. Four years later he went to the Abbey’s newly constructed brother monastery 5 miles away at Jarrow. At St Paul’s Monastery he was taught by Abbot Ceolfrid and remained here for the rest of his life.

At the early age of 19 he was made a deacon, six years before the usual age allowed for such a position. Then at the age of 30 he was made a priest.

He was revered both during and after his death as a most learned and spiritual man. He was so popular that he was revered as a saint even in Europe throughout the middle ages.

Buried first at Jarrow, his bones eventually made the journey to Durham Cathedral where they were buried at one point with his student, St Cuthbert.

Today he is still there in his own shrine in the Galilee chapel.


By A H Gray

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