Beda Venerabilis

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Beda, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in a late 8th century manuscript. London, British Library , Cotton Tiberius C II, fol. 87v

Venerable Bede (German The Venerable Bede , English the Venerable Bede ; * 672 / 673 at Wearmouth in Northumbria Today / Northumberland accordingly; † 26 May 735 at the Monastery Jarrow in today's county Tyne and Wear ) was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine , theologian and historian . He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, and some Protestant denominations . His feast day is May 25th .

life and work

De natura rerum , 1529

Beda was born in 672 or 673 near Wearmouth in Northumbria in what is now Sunderland , County Durham . At the age of seven he came to the monastery of St. Peter in Wearmouth, in the care of the teachers and educators Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid . When Biscop founded the monastery of St. Paul in Jarrow near Newcastle upon Tyne in 682 , the young Bede moved there together with Abbot Ceolfrid. At 19 he became a deacon and at 30 a priest . He worked as a teacher and spent the rest of his life in Jarrow Monastery.

Beda Venerabilis is considered one of the most important scholars of the early Middle Ages . His writings are assigned to the Northumbrian Renaissance . With his writings he covered almost all areas of knowledge of the time and in many cases wrote works that were canonical for a long time. The area of ​​grammar includes writings on orthography and metrics as well as the encyclopedia De natura rerum , which also conveys a lot of scientific knowledge, in which rhetoric includes a work on rhetorical figures ( De schematibus et tropis ), in which the astronomy and arithmetic several works on the calculation of time, the so-called computistics , including De temporum ratione , which in the second part also contains a world chronicle, the Easter tables ( Circulus paschalis ), the calendar, a work on the division of time ( De temporibus ) and other smaller works, some of which are controversial in their authenticity.

The main interest at that time was the calculation of the movable Easter festival , which should be binding for all countries and dated at the same time. This was of some explosive nature for Bede insofar as the Alexandrian-Roman Easter cycle and the practice in Ireland and England of calculating the date of Easter clashed and led to conflicts over the calculation of the date of Easter ; In addition, it was necessary to distinguish oneself from the Easter cycle of Victorius of Aquitaine, which is common in the Merovingian Franconian Empire . A de facto agreement had been reached at the Synod of Whitby in 664, but there was still no clear and long-term implementation. Bede created a coherent system of time recording and calculation, implemented the time calculation that is still relevant today in years after the birth of Christ and continued the Easter tablets of Dionysius Exiguus until 1063; In fact, Beda's Easter table owes its refined metonic structure to the mental efforts of its computist predecessors Anatolius (around AD 260), Theophilus (around AD 390), Annianus (around AD 412), Cyril (around AD 425), and Dionysius Exiguus (around AD 525). In addition, he proved a calendar error that was only corrected in the 16th century by the Gregorian calendar reform , and calculated (not only from biblical specifications) March 18, 3952 BC. BC as the beginning of the world.

In his historical accounts he shows himself to be influenced by Dionysius Exiguus in terms of dating practice . His Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Church History of the English People") from 731 is one of the most important historiographical works of the West and impresses with its neutral evaluation of sources. The work deals with the history of England from the conquest by Caesar to the year 731. Among other things, it deals with the Anglo-Saxon mainland mission to Frisians and Old Saxons . Beda also mentions the Franconian branch of the Boruktuarier between the Ruhr and Lippe , he mentions the missionaries Willibrord and Suitbert and commemorates the founding of Suitbert's monastery in Kaiserswerth . Alfred the Great later translated this church history into Old English .

Beda's tomb in Durham Cathedral

Other historiographical works are now more likely to be assigned to hagiography , although there was no such distinction in the early Middle Ages. Because history was salvation history, as it was expressed in verse and in a prose version in the Vita (et miracula) Cuthberti , in the Martyrologium Bedae and a collective biography of the abbots of Wearmouth . The broadest space is taken up by numerous commentaries on various biblical books that fall into the field of theology, closer to exegesis . An aid to exegesis is the writing on biblical and ecclesiastical geography ( De locis sanctis ). Sermons ( Homiliae ) complement the theological work. Beda's poems have survived only in fragments, including hymns, epigrams, a poem about the Last Judgment ( De die iudicii ) and psalms. The scholar is said to have also written Old English works such as the “Song of the Dead”. A small number of letters have also survived.

Beda was especially worshiped in the early Middle Ages. He enjoyed almost the same rank as the Church Fathers , as he relied on the Orthodox authorities. Above all, this concerned his effect as a “researcher of the Holy Scriptures”, as a computist and as a teacher, which is also reflected in numerous false attributions. His writings were also distributed on the continent.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII spoke . Bede holy and appointed him Doctor ecclesiae . Beda's remains rest in the Galilean Chapel of Durham Cathedral in Durham . A memorial plaque for him was placed in the Walhalla near Regensburg .

Legend for the nickname "Venerabilis"

Bede is usually called "venerable" (venerabilis) and not "holy". The Legenda aurea provides two explanations for this. The first reads: The blind old monk was one day traveling with his guide through a lonely stony valley. Now, for fun, the guide claimed that the valley was full of silent people who wanted to hear the monk. Bede began to preach, and when he said at the end: "For ever and ever", the stones answered: "Amen, venerable father", or, in a slightly different version, the angels from heaven: "You have spoken well, venerable father" . According to the other explanation, a cleric wanted to write Beda's funerary inscription, but could not complete the Latin hexameter . One word did not fit the meter:

"Hac sunt in fossa Bedae sancti ossa."

"In this tomb are the bones of St. Bede."

After thinking about it fruitlessly for a whole night, the cleric found the inscription in the morning, apparently chiseled by the hand of an angel:

"Hac sunt in fossa Bedae venerabilis ossa."

"In this grave are the bones of the venerable Bede."

- Jacobus de Voragine : Legenda aurea


The saint is represented reading in a book. His attributes are a quill pen and ruler as well as a globe and compass.


Opera Bedae Venerabilis, 1563

Textbooks for school use

Theological work

Hagiography and historiography

  • Vita et passio Anastasii (lost)
  • Vita sancti Felicis
  • Vita sancti Cudbercti metrica
  • Beda Venerabilis with compass and globe - detail from the dome fresco by Matthäus Günther (1761 - 63) in the former Benedictine abbey church in Rott am Inn
    Vita sancti Cuthbercti (in prose)
  • Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
  • Historia Abbatum
  • Martyrology

Treatises on chronology and computistics

Editions and translations

Most of the works are edited in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, Vol. 118–123, Migne Patrologia Latina , Vol. 90–95, offers older editions .

The edition by Bertram Colgrave and Roger AB Mynors ( Bede's Ecclesiastical History. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1969) is authoritative for Beda's famous church history ( Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ). The edition by Charles Plummer ( Venerabilis Baedae Opera Historica. Vol. 1–2. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1896), which also includes the Historia abbatum and its anonymous , is useful through an introduction and commentary, although text-critically overtaken due to the failure to take the Leningrad Bede into account Includes template. A bilingual edition (Latin-German) comes from Günther Spitzbart ( Beda the Venerable. Church History of the English People. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1982). A more recent English translation is by Judith McClure and Roger Collins ( The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford et al. 1994 [several reprints]).

An annotated translation of the Historia abbatum comes from Stephanus Hilpisch ( Beda Venerabilis. Life of the Abbots of the Abbey of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Reinhold-Verlag, Vienna 1930). Several of Beda's writings have also appeared in a new, comprehensively commented English translation as part of the Translated Texts for Historians series .

  • Bertram Colgrave (Ed.): Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1940.
  • Werner Jaager (ed.): Bedas metrische Vita sancti Cuthberti (Palaestra 198). Mayer and Müller, Leipzig 1935
  • Bedae opera de temporibus , edited by CW Jones, Cambridge (Mass.) 1943.
  • Matthias Karsten (Ed.): In epistulam Iacobi expositio. Commentary on the Letter of James. Latin-German (Fontes Christiani, vol. 40). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2000.
  • Bedae chronica maiora ad a. 725 and Bedae chronica minora ad a. 703 . In: Theodor Mommsen (Ed.): Auctores antiquissimi 13: Chronica minora saec. IV. V. VI. VII. (III). Berlin 1898, pp. 223–354 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  • Calvin B. Kendall (Ed.): Bede's Art of Poetry and Rhetoric - Libri II: De Arte Metrica et De Schematibus et Tropis, Bilingual Edition of the MS St. Gall 876. Saarbrücken 1991, ISBN 978-3-922441-60- 1 .
  • Bede: The Reckoning of Time . Translated, with introduction, notes and commentary by Faith Wallis, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-85323-693-3 .


  • Heinrich Bacht , Wolfgang Becker, Menso Folkerts , Hans Schmid, Donald K. Fry: Beda Venerabilis . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , Sp. 1774–1779.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzBeda Venerabilis. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 453-454.
  • Peter Hunter Blair: The World of Bede . CUP, Cambridge 1990.
  • Arno Borst: Computus. Time and number in the history of Europe. Third edition, Wagenbach, Berlin 2004
  • Franz Brunhölzl : History of the Latin Literature of the Middle Ages . Vol. 1. Fink, Munich 1975, pp. 207-227; Pp. 539-543.
  • Brigitte English: The Artes Liberales in the Early Middle Ages (5th-9th centuries). The quadrivium and the computus as indicators of continuity and renewal of the exact sciences between antiquity and the Middle Ages . Sudhoffs Archiv, Beihefte 33, Stuttgart 1994, esp. Pp. 71–80 (biography), pp. 242–246 (De natura rerum) and pp. 280–370 (computist writings).
  • Brigitte English: Reality-oriented science or traditional knowledge that is not practical? Contents and problems of mediaeval ideas of science using the example of 'De temporum ratione' by Beda Venerabilis . In: Dilettanten und Wissenschaft: On the history and topicality of a changeable relationship . Edited by Jürgen Maas and Elisabeth Strauss, Amsterdam 1996, pp. 11–34.
  • Luuk AJR Houwen: Beda Venerabilis. Historian, Monk and Northumbrian (Mediaevalia Groningana 19). Forsten, Groningen 1996
  • Charles W. Jones: Bedae Pseudepigrapha. Scientific Writings Falsely attributed to Bede . Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1939.
  • MLW Laistner, HH King: A Handlist of Bede Manuscripts . Cornell University Press, Ithaca New York 1943.
  • Heinz Meyer: The problem and performance of Beda Venerabili's allegory definitions . In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 35, 2003, pp. 183-200
  • Theodor Mommsen : The Pope's letters to Beda . In: New archive of the Society for Older German History 17, 1892, pp. 387–396.
  • Henry Royston Loyn, Knut Schäferdiek: Art. Beda Venerabilis . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 5 (1980), pp. 397-402.
  • Alexander H. Thompson (Ed.): Bede. His Life, Times, and Writings. Essays in Commemoration of the 12 th Centenary of his Death . OUP, Oxford 1935.
  • Faith Wallis (1999) Bede (The Reckoning of Time): Liverpool ( ISBN 9780853236931 )
  • Karl Werner : Bede the Venerable and His Time . 2nd Edition. Vienna 1881
  • Christoph Wurm : The languages ​​of Beda Venerabilis . In: Forum Classicum 4/2012, pp. 290–296 and
  • Jan Zuidhoek (2019) Reconstructing Metonic 19-year Lunar Cycles (on the basis of NASA's Six Millenium Catalog of Phases of the Moon): Zwolle ( ISBN 9789090324678 )


  1. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz:  Beda Venerabilis. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 453-454.
  2. ^ Arno Borst: Computus. Time and number in the history of Europe. Third edition, Wagenbach, Berlin 2004 (in the chapter “Age of the world and days of life in the 7th and 8th centuries” in detail on Beda).
  3. ^ Beda Venerabilis: De temporum ratione (CChr. SL 123b) ed.Charles W. Jones, Turnhout 1977
  4. ^ Wallis (1999) 392-404
  5. Zuidhoek (2019) 103-120
  6. Zuidhoek (2019) 67-74
  7. ^ Arno Borst: Computus. Time and number in the history of Europe. Third edition, Wagenbach, Berlin 2004, p. 45
  8. ^ Arnold Dresen: Beda Venerabilis and the oldest name of Kaiserswerth . In: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch 28, 1916, pp. 211-218.
  9. Erna and Hans Melchers: The great book of saints. History and legend throughout the year . Munich: Südwest Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1978, p. 315 ff. And Hermann Bauer, Frank Büttner, Bernhard Rupprecht, Corpus of the baroque ceiling painting, Volume 12 / II, Munich 2006
  10. ^ Hannes Obermair : "Novit iustus animas". A Bolzano sheet from Beda's Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon. . In: Concilium medii aevi 13, 2010, pp. 45-57.
  11. ^ Henricus Petrus, 1529 ( digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf ; digitized version at the University Library of Munich ).

Web links

Wikisource: Beda Venerabilis  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Commons : Bede  - collection of images, videos and audio files