Bede, Saint

Bede, Saint bēˈdə [key] (St. Bede the Venerable), 673?–735, English historian and Benedictine monk, Doctor of the Church, also called the Venerable Bede. He spent his whole life at the monasteries of Wearmouth (at Sunderland) and Jarrow and became probably the most learned man in Western Europe in his day. His writings, virtually a summary of the learning of his time, consist of theological, historical, and scientific treatises. Like a modern scholar, he consulted many documents, discussed their relative reliability, and duly cited them as sources—practices then most unusual. His theological works are commentaries on the Scriptures in the light of the interpretations of the Church Fathers. He wrote biographical works such as the life of St. Cuthbert (in prose and verse) and the History of the Abbots (of Wearmouth and Jarrow). His Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, written in Latin prose, remains an indispensable primary source for English history from 597 to 731. It gives the most thorough and reliable contemporary account of the triumph of Christianity and of the growth of Anglo-Saxon culture in England. He also relates the political events that had bearing on these developments. The Ecclesiastical History has been many times translated; the best edition of the text is in Bedae opera historica (ed. by Charles Plummer, 1896). The best known of Bede's scientific treatises are those on chronology, held as standard for many years. Long venerated in the church, Bede was officially recognized as a saint in 1899 and was named Doctor of the Church, the only Englishman so honored. Feast: May 27.

See the collection of essays, Bede: His Life, Times, and Writings (ed. by A. H. Thompson, 1935, repr. 1966); D. Hurst, The Venerable Bede: Commentary on the Catholic Epistles (1985); G. H. Brown, Bede the Venerable (1987).

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