The Age of Bede

The Age of Bede : AD 690 – 735

Bede was the greatest man of learning of the Anglo-Saxon age. His works were known throughout Europe and his monastery at Wearmouth – Jarrow, the brightest light of learning in ‘Dark Age’ Europe. Bede’s importance cannot be understated. He was the first man to write a history of the English and his chronological works were the most important factor in encouraging Europe to adopt the numbering of years from Christ’s birth. Anno Dominii (AD), The Year of Our Lord , was a phrase used by Bede in his chronological works. The system of dating we use today was first popularised by Bede over 1,200 years ago.

Anglo-Saxon stained glass at Jarrow
Anglo-Saxon stained glass at Jarrow © David Simpson

👈 Cuthbert | TimelineNorthumbria’s fall 👉

Jan 12, 690 – Biscop dies

Benedict Biscop the founder of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow has died of palsy. He has been succeeded by Ceolfrith who becomes abbot of both Monkwearmouth and Jarrow.

Anglo-Saxon tower of St Peter's church, Sunderland
Anglo-Saxon tower of St Peter’s church, Sunderland. It was part of the Wearmouth monastery of Benedict Biscop and Bede © David Simpson

692 – Bede a Deacon

Bede, a scholar at Jarrow monastery, has been ordained a deacon at the age of 19.

692 – Wilfrid banished

St Wilfrid has been banished from Northumbria once again following his refusal to allow the creation of a new bishopric based at Ripon. John of Beverley has replaced him as Bishop of Hexham.

Nov 21, 695 – Northumbrian a Frisian bishop

A Northumbrian monk called Willibrord is consecrated Bishop of the Frisians (Holland). He was trained by St Wilfrid during his time as a monk at Ripon.

Mar 20, 698 – St Cuthbert tomb miracle

On the anniversary of his death, St Cuthbert’s tomb has been opened at Lindisfarne and his body has been found incorrupt. The body has been transferred from the stone coffin into a wooden chest.

Lindisfarne or Holy Island
Lindisfarne or Holy Island © David Simpson

698 – Lindisfarne Gospels

Eadfrith has become the new Bishop of Lindisfarne where the Lindisfarne Gospels are now being created.

Lindisfarne Castle with Bamburgh Castle on the horizon to the right
Lindisfarne Castle with Bamburgh Castle on the horizon to the right © David Simpson

701 – Jarrow monks visit Rome

Monks from Wearmouth-Jarrow have visited Rome at the invitation of Pope Sergius.

Rome © David Simpson

703 – Bede becomes a priest

Bede has been ordained a priest by Bishop John of Hexham at the age of 30.

705 – Wilfrid returns

St Wilfrid, founder of Ripon, has been reinstated as Bishop of Hexham after a synod was held near the River Nidd in North Yorkshire.

Dec 4, 705 – Boy king attacked

Aldfrith, King of Northumbria, has died at Driffield and has been succeeded by his son Osred who is only 11. Osred is besieged at Bamburgh but his attacker, Eardulph, has been captured and beheaded.

Bamburgh Castle Dunes
View of Bamburgh from across the dunes to the south © David Simpson

709 – Death of St Wilfrid

St Wilfrid, aged 75, has died while visiting his monastery at Oundle  (Northamptonshire in Mercia). He has been succeeded by Acca as the new Bishop of Hexham. Wilfrid has been buried at Ripon. Acca, the new Bishop of Hexham, is an associate of Bede.

Ripon Cathedral from the market place
Ripon © David Simpson

711 – Pictish expansion halted

The Northumbrians have defeated the Picts in battle and prevented the expansion of their kingdom south of the Firth of Forth.

716 – Iona abandons old faith

The island monastery of Iona in Caledonia has abandoned Celtic Christian beliefs in favour of Roman Christian ways following the advice of Ceolfrith, the Abbot of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth.

July 4, 716 – Wearmouth abbot dies abroad

Abbot Ceolfrith, retiring from Monkwearmouth, has died at Langres en route for a papal visit. Meanwhile an illuminated bible called the Codex Amiatinus has been produced at Jarrow.

St Peter's church at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland
St Peter’s church at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland © David Simpson

716 – Boy king assassinated

Osred, the 19-year-old King of Northumbria, has been assassinated near the southern borders of his kingdom by his kinsmen Cenred and Osric. Cenred has become the new King of Northumbria.

716 – New Mercian king

The midland kingdom of Mercia will see a rise of its power under its new king, Ethelbald, who will become overlord of all the kingdoms in the south during his reign.

717 – Jarrow abbot converts the Picts

The abbot of Jarrow has persuaded Nechtan, King of the Picts, to convert to Roman Christianity. Nechtan expels Celtic-Christian monks from his kingdom.

718 – New bishop at York

Following the resignation of St John of Beverley, Wilfrid II (the second bishop to bear the name Wilfrid) has become Bishop of York.

Oct 718 – Osric new Northumbrian king

Cenred has died and has been succeeded by Osric who helped murder the boy King of Northumbria two years ago.

May 7, 721 – John of Beverley dies

Saint John of Beverley, formerly Bishop of York and Hexham, has died at Beverley monastery.

721 – Great works at Lindisfarne and Jarrow

The Lindisfarne Gospels have been completed on Lindisfarne. At Jarrow, Bede has completed his Life of St Cuthbert. The work has been specially written for the monks of Lindisfarne.

Church of St Paul Jarrow
Church of St Paul Jarrow © David Simpson

725 – Bede sets dates Anno Domini (AD)

A chronological work by Bede has introduced dating from Christ’s birth – Anno Domini.

729 – King Ceolwulf

Osric, King of Northumbria, has died and has been succeeded by the monk-like King Ceolwulf, brother of the late King Cenred.

731 – First English history is Bede’s

Bede has completed his greatest work, the History of the English Church and People, at Jarrow. He has dedicated his work to King Ceolwulf of Northumbria.

Jarrow Monastery
Later (mostly Norman) remains of monastery at Jarrow © David Simpson

732 – Rebels cut off king’s hair

King Ceolwulf has been captured and forcibly tonsured – he has had the centre of his head shaved. The action is thought to be an attempt to ridicule him for his interests in the way of life followed by monks .

734 – First Archbishop of York

Egbert, Bishop of York, has been successful in his application to the Pope to make York an archbishopric, following the advice of Bede. As an Archbishopric, York will now be independent of Canterbury. Egbert was a former pupil of Bede.

May 25, 735 – Death of Bede

The Venerable Bede has died at Jarrow. Northumbria mourns the loss of its greatest scholar and historian. His name will be remembered for centuries.

Bede's Tomb, Durham Cathedral
Bede’s Tomb, in Durham Cathedral © David Simpson

👈 Cuthbert era | Northumbria’s fall 👉


Bede’s Jarrow

North East England History and Culture