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For a man to be remembered due to his writings after more than 1000 years is a noteworthy occurrence. There must be something truly remarkable about this person and surely deserves the time and effort spent in a closer look at his work. The person I am referring to is of course Bede, or the Venerable Bede to give him his correct title. The definitions of venerable in the dictionary are, respected, esteemed, and honoured. After his death, his friends were lavish in their praise of this amazing man. It comes across quite clearly that he was a “nice” person, a gentleman, and a truly ‘venerable’ man.He was born about 672 or 673 A.D. in Northumbria. At seven years of age, his family delivered him to the monastery at Wearmouth, which was located at the mouth of the river Wear. There he was introduced to, and taught, a version of the Benedictine Rule. In 681 a monastery was established nearby at Jarrow at the mouth of the river Tyne. Bede moved there and along with twenty or so monks, continued service and education. This was under the guidance of Abbot Ceolfrith, who became a great friend and an inspiration to the young Bede.
When he was nineteen years old, he was ordained as a deacon. This was an office normally reserved for much older monks. At thirty, he became a full priest. It is assumed from his writings that he never left the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, in his entire life, apart from a trip to Lindisfarne, and a trip to York.What then was it that made this man so remarkable? He produced two major works, and has become known as "the father of English history.” His most important work was “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People." His other major work being “The History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow”. From the titles you would hardy think they were ever destined to be best sellers, but remember that in those days, the only history being recorded was by Bede and other monks. Were it not for them we would know very little about our past. He was also a poet and wrote poems in Old English and Latin. In total he wrote some sixty books, (was he the first churner?) and when I say ‘wrote’ that is exactly what I mean as every word was scribed by Bede and his brother monks.
These were the days when our friends the Romans had left and kingdoms were rising and falling, none more so than the mighty kingdom of Northumbria. Bede was the Kate Adie of his day (incidentally she comes from Wearmouth as well). He describes the mighty battles as well as the everyday happenings. He also tells us of the politics between Northumbria, and the Christianity of the Roman world.Bede not only gave us a true and honest history of the English people, but also was the nearest thing we had to a scientist in those days. It is accepted that his calculations were the first to show the connection between the moon and the tides. He meticulously charted the movement of tides and the various phases of the moon to come up with the first workable tide tables.
Even in those far off days, Bede was recognized internationally. Pope Leo XIII named him a doctor of the Church in recognition of his work.
During Easter, 735, Bede died. The Roman Church now celebrates his feast day, on 25 May.
Bede’s World is split into three parts:•The Museum
The museum successfully attempts to create the peace and tranquillity of a Benedictine Monastery. The exhibits are set out in such a way that it is a sheer pleasure to wander from one to the next, learning the story of Bede and his work. A huge tableau showing monks building the monastery takes pride of place, and the Gregorian chanting in the background sets it off perfectly. Finds from excavations are on display and include some of the first coloured window glass made in England. Unbelievably, the colours appear as clear and bright today as they were when they were made over 1300 years ago. You can sit in alcoves and listen to the ‘voice’ of Bede reading from his books, or try on the monks cloak and cowl. (I nearly frightened the life out of myself when I tried them on. They actually suited me!)The museum also has a shop where you can buy a range of books and tapes, souvenirs, cards and other gifts, and there is a cafeteria adjacent to the building.
The farm is called Gyrwe (pronounced 'Jeerwe') after the Old English name for Jarrow, and is a living breathing experience. The farm explores the life and work of the people who lived outside the monastery. It is, as you would expect all daub and wattle, with several very convincing buildings and implements. New buildings are being planned all the time based on the evidence of archaeological work in Northumbria and using accurate materials.The animals have not had it easy during the foot and mouth crisis, but have survived more or less intact. Here you can see the breeds of pigs, sheep, cattle, goats and poultry, which were bred 1000 years ago. You can see the ancient strains of wheat and vegetables, which our ancestors ate, being grown here. The farm provides an excellent setting for the regular series of “Living History” demonstrations that are planned throughout the year.
St. Paul's church is a living thriving church and is the parish church of Jarrow. The section, which relates to Bede, is the chancel. It is a direct survival from the 7th century when it was a chapel within the monastery itself. The original stone slab which records in a Latin inscription the dedication of the church on 23 April AD 685 is still in situ, a fact which in itself is quite remarkable.Behind the church you will see the remains of the Benedictine monastery, which was re-built on the site of Bede's monastery. Remains of buildings from Bede's day were found during excavations and the position of these walls is marked on the ground.
As usual I would advise anyone who intends visiting this or any other museum, to check for offers with the local tourist information centre. The full cost for a visit to Bede’s World is £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for children. Well worth it.It is simplicity itself to find as it is clearly marked, and not 5 minutes from the south end of the Tyne Tunnel. Don’t know where the Tyne is? Believe me you will before I am finished with one or two more ops on this fascinating county of Northumbria.
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