Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

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Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in the manuscript written in 746 St. Petersburg, Russian National Library , Latin QvI18, fol. 3v
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in a late 8th century manuscript. London, British Library , Cotton Tiberius C II, fol. 87v

The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ( Church history of the English people ) is an early medieval historical work written in Latin by Beda Venerabilis (672 / 673-735).

It was created in the first third of the 8th century at the suggestion of Abbot Albinus of Canterbury († 732) and was dedicated to King Ceolwulf of Northumbria . Bede first briefly described the history of pre-Christian Britain and then deals in detail with the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The representation comprises five books and goes up to 731. Bede seems to have completed the work in the same year.

Beda's work is one of the most important sources on Anglo-Saxon history and is quite rich in material; it is also of great value in relation to the relations between Anglo-Saxon England and the continent, and in general to the history of the conversion of Anglo-Saxons. Beda dealt not only with aspects of church history , but also devoted a great deal of space to the development of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and their rulers. The work is written in good Latin and is partly based on classical authors. In terms of style, Bede repeatedly illustrated the victory of Christianity over the old gods using exemplary episodes and endeavored to present a lively representation.

Beda drew on numerous written sources when drafting the work, whereby he could rely on the good libraries of the double monastery Wearmouth and Jarrow. These include several ancient (including Pliny the Elder , Eutropius and Orosius ) and early medieval authors (such as Gildas ) as well as Christian vites. There were also reports from the recent past and oral descriptions. One focus of the action is Northumbria, without losing sight of important events in the south.

The title Historia ecclesiastica ("Church history") is an obvious reference to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea , which Bede had read in Latin translation. As one of the first historical works, the church history of Beda used the year counting after the birth of Christ .

The work was evidently widespread, a good 160 manuscripts are known. Church history was translated into Old English in the late 9th century . In 1480 they appeared incomplete, and in 1550 for the first time in full.


  • Bede the venerable. Church history of the English people , ed. by Günther Spitzbart, 2 vols. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1 1982 ( ISBN 3-534-04554-8 ), 2 1997 ( ISBN 3-534-13422-2 ) (Latin text and German translation)
  • Storia degli inglesi - Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum , ed. by Michael Lapidge, Rome 2008.


  • Caitlin Callaghan: "Order our days in thy peace". Treatments of conflict in Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum". 2009.
  • Adam J. Jones: Bede, women, and the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. Queens and Royal Abbesses in the "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum" 2014.
  • Andreas Lemke: The old English translation of Bedes Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in its historical and cultural context. (Göttingen Writings on English Philology. Series of publications by the Seminar for English Philology, Vol. 8), Göttingen 2015.
  • Anton Scharer: The meaning of language in Beda's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. In: Walter Pohl / Bernhard Zeller (eds.): Language and Identity in the Early Middle Ages, (Research on the History of the Middle Ages, Vol. 20), Vienna 2012, pp. 131–136.
  • Benjamin Thomas: Priests and bishops in Bede's ecclesiology. The use of sacerdos in the "Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum". In: Ecclesiology 6 (2010), pp. 68-93.
  • Hildegard LC Tristram: Bedas Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum in Old English and Old Irish. A comparison. In: Erich Poppe / Hildegard LC Tristram (eds.): Translation, Adaptation and Acculturation in the Insular Middle Ages, (Studies and Texts on Celtology, Vol. 3), Münster 1999, pp. 51–72.
  • Joshua A. Westgard: Dissemination and reception of Bede's "Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum" in Germany c. 731-1500. The manuscript evidence. Chapel Hill 2006.
  • Joshua A. Westgard: Manuscripts of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich. In: Hans Sauer (Hrsg.): Anglo-Saxon heritage in Munich. Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, scribes and authors from the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Frankfurt am Main 2005, pp. 89–100.

Web links

Wikisource: Beda Venerabilis  - Sources and full texts (Latin)


  1. ^ Günther Spitzbart (ed.): Beda the venerable. Church history of the English people. Vol. 1. Darmstadt 1982, p. 7f.
  2. ^ Günther Spitzbart (ed.): Beda the venerable. Church history of the English people. Vol. 1. Darmstadt 1982, p. 6.
  3. ^ Günther Spitzbart (ed.): Beda the venerable. Church history of the English people. Vol. 1. Darmstadt 1982, p. 5.