Friday, May 25, 2012

Baeda of Northumbria

Today is the feast-day of the St. Baeda of Northumbria, Doctor of the Church, more commonly known as the Venerable Bede. He was born 672-ish and died in 735. We actually know very little of his life. Most of it can be summed up in his own comment on how he went about writing his masterpiece, The Ecclesiastical History of England, at the very end of that book:

Thus much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more especially of the English nation, as far as I could learn either from the writings of the ancients, or the tradition of our forefathers, or of my own knowledge, with the help of the Lord, I, Bede, the servant of Christ, and priest of the monastery of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow, have set forth. Having been born in the territory of that same monastery, I was given, by the care of kinsmen, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend Abbot Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid, and spending all the remaining time of my life a dweller in that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture; and amidst the observance of monastic rule, and the daily charge of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, or teaching, or writing. In the nineteenth year of my age, I received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and at the bidding of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time when I received priest’s orders, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for my own needs and those of my brethren, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, the following brief notes on the Holy Scriptures, and also to make some additions after the manner of the meaning and interpretation given by them....

After which follows a long list of historical works, scriptural commentaries, and other works. The Abbot Benedict mentioned is St. Benedict Biscop, and the Bishop mentioned is St. John Beverley. Bede is, of course, the patron saint of historians. Most people of his day simply collected stories; the Venerable Bede, however, always tried to find some confirmation and evidence. His standard of what counted as evidence wouldn't always be generally accepted among historians today, but the combination of his consistent efforts to collect evidence, his talent for organization and narrative (neither of which should be underestimated, for Bede is a master of both), and his sobriety of style put him in the ranks of the great historians through the ages.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.