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The Somborne & District Society

Wearmouth and Jarrow. The Venerable Bede

Wearmouth and Jarrow, the monastic home of the Venerable Bede 27th Feb 2008 Graham Trussler.Wearmouth and Jarrow were important centres of Christianity in this country during the 8th century and Graham told us the history of some of the important monks from this period. The first was Benedict Biscop who was born in Northumbria and was one of King Oswiu’s companions. He undertook five journeys to Rome and later founded the monastery at Monkwearmouth... At the age of 25 he embraced the Christian life and set out for Rome with St.Wilfrid. Wilfrid did not complete the journey but when Benedict reached Rome, he was very impressed and returned full of enthusiasm. Some years later he embarked on a second trip to Rome following which he took a course of instruction and became a monk. He then made his third visit to Rome and after this he was appointed abbot to St Peter & St. Paul’s in Canterbury where he remained for two years. He greatly impressed king Egrid who granted him land in Northumbria in 674 so that he could build the monastery of St. Peters, Monkwearmouth. Benedict wanted to build a model monastery which demonstrated the best of the continental church in an area of the country previously influenced by the Celtic monastic tradition. He made two more trips to Rome to find craftsmen to build his monastery and also to find books for the library which became one of the greatest in the country. The church of St. Peters was completed in 12 months and while in Rome the Pope had granted Benedict privileges which prevented the civil power from interfering with the monastery. The king also was so pleased with St.Peters that he granted Benedict more land in Jarrow to build St. Paul’s which became another model monastery. The second story was that of St. Ceolfrid, he was of noble birth, became a monk and moved to Monkwearmouth where he eventually was put in charge of the new monastery. He was abbot for 28years and doubled the size of the monastery. During his time a single volume bible in vulgate Latin was produced for the first time and three copies were made of this bible. These bibles required 1500 cattle skins alone to produce the vellum, each copy weighed 75lbs and two monks worked continuously on them. When Ceolfrid decided to retire he led a final mass in front of 600 monks and then set off on a pilgrimage to Rome taking with him one of the three bibles to present to the Pope. Ceolfrid died on the journey but the bible survived and is now the only complete copy in existence. The next story was that of Bede who was born in 673 and entered the monastery of St. Peters Monkwearmouth at the age of seven years. He benefited from the monastery’s unique library which was based on the books acquired by Benedict. Unlike Benedict Bede hardly travelled but he acquired enormous knowledge and wrote approximately 70 books including the history of the English ecclesiastics, the translation into Anglo-Saxon of the Gospel of St. John as well as 45 commentaries on the bible. He like Benedict followed the roman rule and could not understand the Celtic approach to Christianity. He died in 735 and after his death became known as the Venerable Bede.The twin monasteries at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow were extremely important in medieval times but the Viking threat eventually drove both into silence

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