Feast Day : May 27
A scholarly man and one of the most learned of his time, Bede compiled meticulous historical records recounting the development of Christianity in his native England from Roman times to his own lifetime. Though he wrote extensively on many famous church figures, he had little to say about himself. Few details of his life are known. At the end of his great work, the five-volume Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he added only a paragraph about himself. Bede was born in 672 or 673 in the area of Wearmouth-Jarrow, Northumberland, England. At the age of seven, he was taken by his relatives to the nearby monastery of SS. Peter and Paul and given over to the care of the abbot St. Benedict Biscop, and later to Abbot Ceolfrid. Bede spent the rest of his life at the monastery, occasionally traveling to visit friends. He devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures, observed monastic discipline and took part in the daily singing. Bede was ordained deacon at age 19 and priest at age 30. Both ordinations were performed by Bishop John (later St. John of Beverly). From the time of his priesthood, Bede spent most of his time in study and writing. He seems to have enjoyed a peaceful and productive life. He was well regarded and loved by his peers. He studied and wrote right up to the day of his death. During his final illness, his disciples—who included St. Cuthbert—read aloud by his bedside. On the day of Bede’s death, the vigil of the Ascension in 735, he dictated a translation of the Gospel of St. John. He died sitting on the floor of his cell singing, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.” Within two generations of his death, the honorific Venerabilis (the Venerable) was used in conjunction with his name. The title was officially bestowed in 835 by the Council of Aachen. Throughout the Middle Ages, a cult of Bede was maintained in northern England. In 1899 Bede was declared a Doctor of the Church, the only English person to hold that title. His most important work, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 729, has remaine through the centuries one of the most authoritative sources for historians of that time period. In his preface, addressed to King Ceolwulph, Bede said he was encouraged to undertake the writing by Abbot Albinus, who had been educated at the Church of Canterbury and who gave him considerable help. Ecclesiastical History was translated into Anglo-Saxon upon the orders of King Alfred, and was translated and published in Europe. Bede wrote other chronological treatises, biographies, a description of Jerusalem and other holy places, a martyrology, works on science and numerous commentaries on books of the Bible. He also wrote verse and composed chant music. He is credited with initiating the custom of marking dates from the Incarnation with the term Anno Domini, or A.D.