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The Historical Works Of Venerable Bede

The monastery, which from its infancy, had been adorned by his virtues, the scene of his labours in the cause of Christianity whilst living, became after his death, the depository of his remains. He was buried under the South porch of the Church, which was in consequence dedicated to his memory. Over the tomb, says William of Malmesbury, was placed the following inscription:

PRESBYTER • HIC • BEDA • REQVIESCIT • CARNE • SEPVLTVS • DONA • CHRISTE • ANIMVM • IN • COELIS • GAVDERE • PER • ÆVVM • DAQVE • ILLI • SOPHIÆ • DEBRIARI • FONTE • CVI • JAM • SVSPIRAVIT • ORANS • INTENTO • SEMPER • AMORE.

His fame as a teacher soon spread over all Christendom. His works became the hand-books of instruction in every monastery. He was canonized, and altars erected everywhere to his memory. Boniface, the Apostle to the Germans, his contemporary, called him “THE LIGHT OF THE CHURCH,” and solicited that copies of his writings might be sent to him for the use of himself and his disciples. Thus, in a measure, it may be said that the genius and piety of the monk of Jarrow, dispelled the dark clouds of Paganism which hung over the dense forests of Thuringia, where a few years ago stood, in the quiet village of Gierstaedt, the little wooden church, in which the English Saint first preached the Gospel to the benighted heathen. In the dark glades of that primeval forest a splendid Candelabra, erected by the late Duke of Saxe Gotha, marks now the spot where Christianity first shed its light upon the wild tribes of Saxony. Alcuin, also his countryman, the preceptor of Charlemagne, omits no opportunity of sounding the praises of Bede, whose Homilies in his day were read in all churches, and at whose tomb numerous miracles had been performed.

His relics were removed by stealth from their quiet resting-place at Jarrow, by Ælfred, a priest of Durham. For several years he had offered up prayers at the Saint’s tomb, on the anniversary of his death. “On one of these occasions,” says Simeon of Durham, “he went to Jarrow as usual, and having spent some days in the church in solitude, praying and watching, he returned in the early morning alone to Durham, without the knowledge of his companions, a thing he had never done before, as though he wished to have no witness to his secret. Now, although he lived many years afterwards, having apparently achieved the object of his desires, he never again returned to that monastery. Thus too, when asked by his more familiar friends, “where were the bones of Venerable Bede?” knowing full well, he would answer: “no one is informed of that so well as I! Be fully assured, my beloved, beyond all doubt, that the same chest which holds the hallowed body of our father Cuthbert, also contains the bones of Bede, our revered teacher and brother. Beyond the receptacle of that nook, it were useless to search for any portion of his reliques.” After saying this, he would urge his associates to silence on this subject, lest strangers, who visited the church, might plot harm; their chief study being, if they could, to carry off the reliques of the saints, and particularly those of Bede.

In the year 1104 the bones of St. Cuthbert were removed; and those of Bede, which were contained in a linen sack in the same chest, were placed by themselves. Fifty years afterwards Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham, erected a shrine of gold and silver, richly adorned with jewels, in which he inclosed the relics of Venerable Bede and other saints, and caused this inscription to be placed over it:

Continet hæc theca Bedae Venerabilis ossa:

Sensum factori Christi dedit, aesque datori.

Petrus opus fecit, praesul dedit hoc Hugo domum:

Sic in utroque suum veneratus utrumque patronum.

In the reign of Henry the Eighth this beautiful shrine was demolished, and the relics of the saints treated with every indignity by an insane mob, urged on by its Puritanical leaders to destroy the monuments of the piety of their ancestors. The only memorial now remaining in the cathedral of Durham, of its once having been the resting-place of the remains of Bede, is a long inscription to his memory concluding with the well-known monkish rhymes:

Hac sunt in Fossa Bedæ Venerabilis Ossa.

THE BOOK

OF

THE LIFE AND MIRACLES

OF

ST. CUTHBERT

BISHOP OF LINDISFARNE

THE

MINOR HISTORICAL WORKS

OF

VENERABLE BEDE

I

A METRICAL LIFE OF ST. CUTHBERT

To the Lord John, Priest and most beloved in the Lord of Lords, Bede, the Servant of Christ, sendeth Health

IT cannot be expressed, my beloved Lord in Christ, how much I feel your affection, and am always delighted, if so it might be, by your presence, nor how much I am excited by the continual memory of your holy sweetness, even amid the discomforts of the long journey, which you are eager to enter upon. Wherefore, (either to commemorate my own devotion, or to lighten the burden of your journey,) I have offered unto you the acts of the blessed Bishop Cuthbert, which I have lately written in verse. For I trust, without any doubt, that the company of so great a man may confer much happiness. For the sweetness of his affability consoles the sorrower; his contrite fervour stimulates the fainting; and his vigorous intercession defends him who is in danger. But you must know that I have not been able to relate all his acts: for both new wonders are daily wrought by his relics, and his old achievements are, in a novel way, confirmed by those who were able to know. One of these, as I already told you, I have in myself experienced in the guidance of my tongue whilst I was singing of his miracles. But if the powers of life accompany the wish, and the divine will be in unison with my inclinations, I hope that in another work I shall hand down to memory some of those things which I had omitted. I beseech you, when you shall have arrived, under God’s protection, at the gate of the blessed Apostles, to remember and intercede with God in my behalf.

[The life itself, being a dull and heavy composition, and almost verbatim the same as that which follows in prose, we have not thought it worth while to trouble the reader with a translation.]

II

ANOTHER LIFE OF ST. CUTHBERT

IN PROSE

To the Holy and most Blessed Father Bishop Eadfield, and to all the Congregation of Brothers also, who serve Christ in the Island of Lindisfarne, Beda, your faithful Fellow-servant, sends greeting.

PREFACE

§ 1. INASMUCH as you bade me, my beloved, to prefix to the book, what I have written at your request about the life of our father Cuthbert, of blessed memory, some preface, as I usually do, by which its readers might become acquainted with your desire and my readiness to gratify it, it has seemed good to me, by way of preface, to recal to the minds of those among you who know, and to make known to those readers who were before ignorant thereof, how that I have not presumed without minute investigation to write any of the deeds of so great a man, nor without the most accurate examination of credible witnesses to hand over what I had written to be transcribed. Moreover, when I learnt from those who knew the beginning, the middle, and the end of his glorious life and conversation, I sometimes inserted the names of these my authors, to establish the truth of my narrative, and thus ventured to put my pen to paper and to write. But when my work was arranged, but still kept back from publication, I frequently submitted it for perusal and for correction to our reverend brother Herefrid the priest, and others, who for a long time had well known the life and conversation of that man of God. Some faults were thus, at their suggestion, carefully amended, and thus every scruple being utterly removed, I have taken care to commit to writing what I clearly ascertained to be the truth, and to bring it into your presence also, my brother, in order that by the judgment of your authority, what I have written might be either corrected or certified to be true. Whilst, with God’s assistance, I was so engaged, and my book was read during two days by the elders and teachers of your congregation, and was accurately weighed and examined in all its parts, there was nothing at all found which required to be altered, but every thing which I had written was by common consent pronounced worthy to be read without any hesitation, and to be handed over to be copied by such as by zeal for religion should be disposed to do so. But you also, in my presence, added many other facts of no less importance than what I had written, concerning the life and virtues of that blessed man, and which well deserved to be mentioned, if I had not thought it unmeet to insert new matter into a work, which, after due deliberation, I considered to be perfect.

§ 2. Furthermore I have thought right to admonish your gracious company, that, as I have not delayed to render prompt obedience to your commands, so you also may not be slow to confer on me the reward of your intercession; but when you read this book, and in pious recollection of that holy father lift up your souls with ardour in aspiration for the heavenly kingdom, do not forget to entreat the divine clemency in favour of my littleness, in as far as I may deserve both at present with singleness of mind to long for and hereafter in perfect happiness to behold the goodness of our Lord in the land of the living. But also when I am defunct, pray ye for the redemption of my soul, for I was your friend and faithful servant, offer up masses for me, and enrol my name among your own. For you, also, most holy prelate, remember to have promised this to me, and in testimony of such future enrolment you gave orders to your pious brother Gudfrid, that he should even now enrol my name in the white book of your holy congregation. And may your holiness know that I already have written in heroic verse, as well as in this prose work, which I offer to you, the life of this same our father beloved by God, somewhat more briefly indeed, but nevertheless in the same order, because some of our brethren entreated the same of me: and if you wish to have those verses, you can obtain from me a copy of them. In the preface of that work I promised that I would write more fully at another time of his life and miracles; which promise, in my present work, I have, as far as God has allowed me, done my best to perform.

Wherefore it is my prayer for you, that Almighty God may deign to guard your holinesses in peace and safety, dearest brethren and masters of mine.—Amen!








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