The History Bit
Known as The Venerable Bede,(AD 673-735,) Bede was an author, scholar, skilled linguist and translator who also composed works on astronomical timekeeping and the motions of the sun, Earth and Moon. He was widely regarded as the ‘father of English history’ as his most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People is one of the most important original references on Anglo-Saxon history. This work also played a key role in the development of an English national identity. He was an English monk who lived at the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Wearmouth-Jarrow, a double monastery at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth, England. and the Bede museum tells the story of Bede and his time, from the beginnings of the Anglo-Saxon period through Bede’s life, death and extraordinary legacy.
Sophie and I wanted to go somewhere nearby, and as the museum had recently been reopened after a year of being shut down for lack of funds, this is where we went.
When we arrived the chap at reception asked us if we’d come to hear the lecture on that day, we hadn’t known there was one but said yes anyway and went in to see what it was all about. It was a fascinating talk by the Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of York and director of the Sutton Hoo Research Project Professor Martin Carver, and his talk was on the Anglo Saxon buriel site at Sutton Hoo. He was really interesting and humorous with it. Afterwards we had lunch at the cafe and then went around the Bede Museum itself.
The Venerable Bede
The museum takes you through the times that Bede lived in
One of the statues by a timeline display showing Bede’s vision of English origins.
6th-century inhumation grave from Norton, Cleveland,
replica of anglo Saxon helmet
replica of the Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving manuscript of the nearly complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate. Three versions were originally produced in the double monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in around 700AD, and it is believed Bede had a personal involvement in their creation. Commissioned by Ceolfrid in 692 the double monastery raised 2000 head of cattle to produce the vellum pages of these huge, beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Two versions have been lost and the only survivor, from which the Jarrow Hall copy and only one other have been made, now resides in the Laurentian Library in Florence.
The Franks Casket is a small Anglo-Saxon whale’s bone chest from the early 8th century, The casket is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes. Generally reckoned to be of Northumbrian origin, it is of unique importance for the insight it gives into early Anglo-Saxon art and culture. Both identifying the images and interpreting the runic inscriptions has generated a considerable amount of scholarship. The imagery is very diverse in its subject matter and derivations, and includes a single Christian image, the Adoration of the Magi, along with images derived from Roman history (Emperor Titus) and Roman mythology (Romulus and Remus), as well as a depiction of at least one legend indigenous to the Germanic peoples: that of Weyland the Smith. It has also been suggested that there may be an episode from the Sigurd legend, an otherwise lost episode from the life of Weyland’s brother Egil, a Homeric legend involving Achilles, and perhaps even an allusion to the legendary founding of England by Hengist and Horsa. The inscriptions “display a deliberate linguistic and alphabetic virtuosity; though they are mostly written in Old English and in runes, they shift into Latin and the Roman alphabet; then back into runes while still writing Latin”. Some are written upside down or back to front. This is a replica, the original being in the British Museum.
There are several pieces of medieval stonework on display
This is a fragment of cross arm and cross head dating from the first half of the 8th century.
as well as stained glass from the same time period.
Next time we’ll visit the Anglo Saxon farm and village, so stay tooned!