Bede : biography

– 26 May 0735


His other historical works included lives of the abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, as well as verse and prose lives of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, an adaptation of Paulinus of Nola’s Life of St Felix, and a translation of the Greek Passion of St Anastasius. He also created a listing of saints, the Martyrology.Goffart Narrators pp. 245–246

Works on historical and astronomical chronology

De temporibus, or On Time, written in about 703, provides an introduction to the principles of Easter computus. This was based on parts of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies, and Bede also include a chronology of the world which was derived from Eusebius, with some revisions based on Jerome’s translation of the bible. In about 723, Bede wrote a longer work on the same subject, On the Reckoning of Time, which was influential throughout the Middle Ages. He also wrote several shorter letters and essays discussing specific aspects of computus.

On the Reckoning of Time (De temporum ratione) included an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the Tides at a given place and the daily motion of the moon.Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, pp. 82–85, 307–312 Since the focus of his book was calculation, Bede gave instructions for computing the date of Easter and the related time of the Easter Full Moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar. He gives some information about the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar in chapter XV.Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time 15, pp. 53–4, 285–7; see also Any codex of Bede’s Easter cycle is normally found together with a codex of his "De Temporum Ratione".

For calendric purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the age of the world since the creation, which he dated as 3952 BC. Due to his innovations in computing the age of the world, he was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfrid, his chronology being contrary to accepted calculations. Once informed of the accusations of these "lewd rustics," Bede refuted them in his Letter to Plegwin.Wallis (trans.),, The Reckoning of Time, pp. xxx, 405–415

In addition to these works on astronomical timekeeping, he also wrote De natura rerum, or On the Nature of Things, modelled in part after the work of the same title by Isidore of Seville. His works were so influential that late in the 9th century Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland, wrote that "God, the orderer of natures, who raised the Sun from the East on the fourth day of Creation, in the sixth day of the world has made Bede rise from the West as a new Sun to illuminate the whole Earth".Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, p. lxxxv


There is no evidence for cult being paid to Bede in England in the 8th century. One reason for this may be that he died on the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury. Later, when he was venerated in England, he was either commemorated after Augustine on 26 May, or his feast was moved to 27 May. However, he was venerated outside England, mainly through the efforts of Saint Boniface and Alcuin, both of whom promoted the cult on the Continent. Boniface wrote repeatedly back to England during his missionary efforts, requesting copies of Bede’s theological works. Alcuin, who was taught at the school set up in York by Bede’s pupil Egbert, praised Bede as an example for monks to follow and was instrumental in disseminating Bede’s works to all of Alcuin’s friends.Ward Venerable Bede pp. 136–138 Bede’s cult became prominent in England during the 10th-century revival of monasticism, and by the 14th century had spread to many of the cathedrals of England. Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester (c. 1008–1095) was a particular devotee of Bede’s, dedicating a church to him in 1062, which was Wulfstan’s first undertaking after his consecration as bishop.Ward Venerable Bede p. 139