(Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum). It is usually ; G. Musca, II Venerabile Beda, storico dell’alto Medioevo (Bari, . G. Musca, Il Venerabile Beda, pp. Text in Latin with introduction and notes in English. Uniform Title: Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. English; Imprint: Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, Physical description: p.

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Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorumwritten by the Venerable Bede in about ADis a history of the Christian Churches in Englandand of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between the pre-Schism Roman Rite and Celtic Christianity.

It was originally composed in Latinand is considered one of the most important original references on Anglo-Saxon history and has played a key role in the development of an English national identity. It is believed to have been completed in when Bede was approximately 59 years old. The first of the five books begins gentjs some geographical background and then ecclesiasgica the history of England, beginning with Caesar’s invasion in 55 BC.

Ecclesiwstica into five books about pagesthe Historia covers the history of England, ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Julius Caesar to the date of its completion in The first twenty-one chapters, covering the period before the mission of Augustineare histoeia from earlier writers such as OrosiusGildasProsper of Aquitainethe letters of Pope Gregory Iand others, with the insertion of legends and traditions. Afterdocumentary sources that Bede took pains to obtain throughout England and from Rome are used, as well as oral testimony, which he employed along with critical consideration of its authenticity.

This is impressive; nevertheless, the Historialike other historical writing from this period has a lower degree of objectivity than modern historical writings. It seems to be a mixture of fact, legend, and literature. For example, Bede quotes at length some speeches by people who were not his contemporaries and whose speeches do not appear in any other surviving source; it is doubtful whether oral traditional history supported these ostensible quotations.

The monastery at Jarrow had an excellent library. Both Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith had acquired books from the Continent, and in Bede’s day the monastery was a renowned centre of learning. For the period prior to Augustine’s arrival inBede drew on earlier writers, including OrosiusEutropiusPlinyand Solinus.

Bede also had correspondents who supplied him with material. Albinus, annglorum abbot of the monastery in Canterbury, provided much information about the church in Kent, and with the assistance of Nothhelmat that time a priest in London, obtained copies of Gregory the Great ‘s correspondence from Rome relating to Augustine’s mission. The historian Walter Goffart argues that Bede based the structure of the Historia on three works, using them as the framework around which the three main sections of the work were structured.

For the early part of the work, up until the Gregorian mission, Goffart asserts that Bede used Gildas ‘s De excidio. The second section, detailing the Gregorian mission genits Augustine of Canterbury was framed on the anonymous Life of Gregory the Great written at Whitby. The last section, detailing events after the Gregorian mission, Goffart asserts were modelled on Stephen of Ripon ‘s Life of Wilfrid.

The History of the English Church and People has a clear polemical and didactic purpose. Bede sets out not just to tell the story of the English, but to advance his views on politics and religion. In political terms he is a partisan of his native Northumbriaamplifying its role in English history over and above that of Merciaits great southern rival. He takes greater pains in describing events of the seventh century, when Northumbria was the dominant Anglo-Saxon power than the eighth, when ecclesiasstica was not.

The only criticism he ventures of his native Northumbria comes in writing about the death of King Ecgfrith in fighting the Picts at Nechtansmere in Bede attributes this defeat to God’s vengeance for the Northumbrian attack on the Irish in the previous year. For while Bede bera loyal to Northumbria he shows an even greater attachment to the Irish and their missionaries, whom he considers to be far more effective and dedicated than their rather complacent English counterparts.

His final preoccupation is over the precise date of Easterwhich he writes about at length. It is here, and only here, that he ventures some criticism of St Cuthbert and the Irish missionaries, who celebrated the event, according to Bede, at the wrong time. In the end he is pleased to note that the Irish Church was saved from error by accepting the correct date for Easter.

Bede’s stylistic gnetis included some of the same authors from whom he drew the material for the earlier parts of his history. His introduction ecclesiasstica the work of Orosius, historla and his title is an echo of Eusebius’s Historia Ecclesiastica. For example, he almost always uses the terms “Australes” and “Occidentales” for the South and West Saxons respectively, but in a passage in the first book he uses “Meridiani” and “Occidui” instead, as perhaps his informant had done.


Bede the Venerable

Bede’s work as hagiographerand his detailed attention to dating were both useful preparations for the task of writing the Historia Ecclesiastica. His interest in computusthe science of calculating the date of Easter, was also useful in the account he gives of the controversy between the British and Anglo-Saxon church over the correct method of obtaining the Easter date.

One of the important themes of the Historia Ecclesiastica is that the conversion of the British Isles to Christianity had all been the work of Irish and Italian missionaries, with no efforts made by the native Britons. This theme was developed from Gildas’ work, which denounced the sins of the native rulers during the invasions, with the elaboration by Bede that the invasion and settlement of the British Isles by the Angles and Saxons was God’s punishment for the lack of missionary effort and the refusal to accept the Roman date for celebrating Easter.

Although Bede discusses the history of Christianity in Roman Britain, it is significant that he utterly ignores the missionary work of Saint Patrick. No information is presented on who these two bishops were or where they came from. Also important is Bede’s view of the conversion process as an upper-class phenomenon, with little discussion of any missionary efforts among the non-noble or royal population.

Another view, taken by historian D. Farmer, is that the theme of the work is “the progression from diversity to unity”. According to Farmer, Bede took this idea from Gregory the Great and illustrates it in his work by showing how Christianity brought together the native and invading races into one church.

Farmer cites Bede’s intense interest in the schism over the correct date for Easter as support for this argument, and also cites the lengthy description of the Synod of Whitby, which Farmer regards as “the dramatic centre-piece of the whole work. The historian Walter Goffart says of the Historia that many modern historians find it a “tale of origins framed dynamically as the Providence-guided advance of a people from heathendom to Christianity; a cast of saints rather than rude warriors; a mastery of historical technique incomparable for its time; beauty of form and diction; and, not least, an author whose qualities of life and spirit set a model of dedicated scholarship.

Much of the “current” history in the Historia is concerned with Wilfridwho was a bishop in Northumbria and whose stormy career is documented not only in Bede’s works but in a Life of Wilfrid. A theme in Bede’s treatment of Wilfrid is the need to minimize the conflict between Wilfrid and Theodore of Tarsusthe Archbishop of Canterburywho was involved in many of Wilfrid’s difficulties.

The Historia Ecclesiastica includes many accounts of miracles and visions. These were de rigueur in medieval religious narrative, [31] but Bede appears to have avoided relating the more extraordinary tales; and, remarkably, he makes almost no claims for miraculous events at his own monastery.

Bede apparently had no informant at any of the main Mercian religious houses. There were clearly gaps in Bede’s knowledge, [35] but Bede also says little on some topics that he must have been familiar with.

The Historia Ecclesiastica has more to say about episcopal events than it does about the monasteries of England. Bede does shed some light on monastic affairs; in particular, he comments in book V that many Northumbrians are laying aside their arms and entering monasteries “rather than study the arts of war.

Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

What the result of this will be the future will show. Bede’s account of life at the court of the Anglo-Saxon kings includes little of the violence that Gregory of Tours mentions as a frequent occurrence at the Frankish court. It is possible that the courts were as different as their descriptions make them appear but it is more likely that Bede omitted some of the violent reality. He never abbreviated the term like the modern AD.

Bede counted anno Domini from Christ’s birth, not from Christ’s conception. In book I chapter 2 he used ante incarnationis dominicae tempus before the time of the incarnation of the Lord. However, the latter was not very influential—only this isolated use was repeated by other writers during the rest of the Middle Ages.

The first extensive use of “BC” hundreds of times occurred in Fasciculus Temporum by Werner Rolevinck invneerabile years of the world anno mundi. Some early manuscripts contain additional annalistic entries that extend past the date of completion of the Historia Ecclesiasticawith the latest entry dated eclcesiastica The Historia was translated into Old English sometime between the end of the ninth century and about ; [43] although the surviving manuscripts are predominantly in the West Saxon dialectit is clear that the original contained Anglian features and so was presumably by a scholar from or trained in Mercia.


The Historia Ecclesiastica was copied often in the Middle Ages, and about manuscripts containing it survive. About half of those are located on the European continent, rather than on the British Isles. It was printed for the histogia time between andprobably at Strasbourg, France. The belief that the Historia was the culmination of Bede’s works, the aim of all his scholarship, a belief common among historians in the past, is no longer accepted by most scholars.

The Historia Ecclesiastica has given Bede a high reputation, but his concerns were different from those of a modern writer of history. Some historians have questioned the reliability of some of Bede’s accounts.

Bède le Vénérable ()

One historian, Charlotte Behr, asserts that the Historia’s account of the arrival of the Germanic invaders in Kent should be considered as current myth, not history. Manuscripts of the Historia Ecclesiastica fall generally into two groups, known to historians as the “c-type” and the “m-type”. Some genealogical relationships can be discerned among the numerous manuscripts that have survived.

The earliest manuscripts used to establish the c-text and m-text are as follows. With few exceptions, Continental copies of the Historia Ecclesiastica are of the m-type, while English copies are of the c-type. O is a later text than C but is independent of it and so the two are a valuable check on correctness. They are thought to have both derived from an earlier manuscript, marked “c2” in the diagram, which does not survive.

A comparison of K and c2 yields an accurate understanding of the original c-text, but for the first three books, which are not in K, it is sometimes impossible to know if a variant reading in C and O represents the original state of the c-text, or is a variation only found in c2.

One long chapter, book I chapter 27, is also found in another manuscript, Rh. The m-text depends largely on manuscripts M and L, which are very early copies, made not long after Bede’s death. Both seem likely to have been taken from the original, though this is not certain. Three further manuscripts, U, E, and N, are all apparently the descendants of a Northumbrian manuscript that does not survive but which went to the continent in the late-8th century. These three are all early manuscripts, but are less useful than might be thought, since L and M are themselves so close to the original.

The text of both the m-type and c-type seems to have been extremely accurately copied. However, 26 of these are to be found within a transcription from an earlier source, and it is apparent by checking independent copies of those sources that in such cases Bede copied the mistake faithfully into his own text.

Copies are sparse throughout the 10th century and for much of the 11th century. The greatest number of copies of Bede’s work was made in the 12th century, but there was a significant revival of interest in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many of the copies are of English provenance, but also surprisingly many are Continental.

The first printed copy of the Historia Ecclesiastica appeared from the press of Heinrich Eggestein in Strasbourgprobably between and A defect in the text allows the identification of the manuscript Eggestein used; it subsequently appeared in a catalogue of the Vienna Dominicans of Eggestein had also printed an edition of Rufinus ‘s translation of Eusebius ‘s Ecclesiastical Historyand the two works were reprinted, bound as a single volume, on 14 March by Georg Husneralso of Strasbourg.

Another reprint appeared on 7 Decemberfrom Heinrich Gran and S. A Paris edition appeared in[60] and in John de Grave produced an edition at Antwerp. Two reprints of this edition appeared, in and Michael Sonnius produced an edition in Paris inincluding the Historia Ecclesiastica in a collection of other historical works; and in Johann Commelin included it in a similar compilation, printed at Heidelberg.

InAbraham Whelock produced at Cambridge an edition with the Old English text and the Latin text in parallel columns, the first in England. All of the above editions were based on the C-text.

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The first edition to use the m-type manuscripts was printed by Pierre Chifflet inusing a descendant of the Moore MS. Douglas as “an enormous advance” on previous ones, adding that textual criticism of Bede hardly then changed untilwhen the Plummer edition appeared. Subsequently, the most notable edition was that of Charles Plummerwhose Venerabilis Bedae Opera Historicawith a full commentary, has been a foundation-stone for all subsequent scholarship.

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