The Venerable Bede

October 26, 2008

The venerable Bede was a constant presence in my upbringing in Sunderland, I went to Bede School and I was born a couple of hundred yards from St Peters Church (pictured above) where in 680 AD at the age of seven, Bede was entrusted to Abbot Benedict to be educated.

Only recently have I begun to appreciate how influential Bede and his work have been on all of us as he was the first to use the term AD as an historical dating device, is thought to be the ‘father of english history’ and is the only englishman in Dantes Paradise.

Bede was to me a good example of the benefits of Dave’s concept of ‘signified narrative fragments’. Bede collated narrative both written and oral of which he questioned, challenged and signified their importance and reliability. So good were his verbatim recording of these fragments that historians have since been able to piece together just what books and reference material Bede would have had available. (perhaps he might also be the father of metadada).

One interesing example relates to St Augustine who in 597 AD had written to Pope Gregory then head of the Roman Church to ask:

“why there are different customs in different churches” despite a “common faith”. Pope Gregory replies “it pleases me, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the church of the English, which as yet is new”

“Choose, therefore, from every church those things that are pious, religious, and upright, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one body, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto”

What an amazingly complex domain approach. Don’t just force the Roman version of Christianity upon the English, look at what is already there and if it works don’t try to replace it, the detail of the Church of England religion should be emergent to fit the population of England.

I find this original anecdotal fragment both heartening, because it shows that religion wasn’t being force fed with its strange and exotic rituals but instead allows for amalgamation of our holy days and festivals, and sad because the religious leaders would subsequently succumb to the evils of power and authority and try and wipe out older tradition.

Reading these original fragments gives me a very different understanding of Roman History than that written by some historians and probably helps explain the presence of the occasional green man, ancient yew tree or three hare ceiling carving that we find within our local British churches.

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