Bede was one of the most notable monks, scholars and writers of Anglo-Saxon England. He lived from 672 to 735 during which he produced a rich body of theological, literary and scientific works. His scholarly output made him one of the most learned men of contemporary Europe and the earliest to lay a sound basis for the Old English language in England.
He wrote extensively on theological themes, about the history of saints and English kings and on scientific topics such as astronomical chronology. He most notably attained popularity as one of the earliest and most authoritative historians of medieval Europe. Following his death, he gained widespread popularity among the English and was venerated as a saint.
Bede, later known as Venerable Bede, joined a monastery at the age of seven. Monasteries at the time were the only centers of learning in Anglo-Saxon England and Bede began his scholarly pursuits at a young age. Being an exceptional monk with extraordinary dedication and knowledge, Bede was ordained before the standard canonical age and became a priest at 30.
During his lifetime, Anglo-Saxon England witnessed a flurry of scholarly works undertaken at Christian monasteries all over the British Isles, Bede being the most eminent scholar of the time. He penned down nearly 60 works in his lifetime.
He also sang and penned down many pieces of poetry, some of which are extant today. His fondness for music was reflected by the fact that he also penned many writings on music and metrics.
The breadth of Bede’s scholarly pursuits was wide as he wrote about a diverse range of subjects. He most notably penned down several books on histories, earning his place as one of the earliest historians of post-Roman Europe.
He also wrote a large body of theological texts, ranging from commentaries of Bible to details of the lives of famous Christian saints. He further wrote on grammar and as an avid translator, translated many major Latin works to English language effectively making them available to a sizable portion of the English population.
His translations also laid the basis for a body of Old English literature which would eventually evolved into modern English language.
The book for which Bede remained famous through most of the medieval period was “An Ecclesiastical History of the English People”. Bede completed this work in 731 and the key significance of this five-volume book was the fact that it was one of the earliest and most complete accounts of England from the days of Caesar in 1st century B.C. all the way to 8th century A.D.
Bede relied on a number of works in writing the book and focused mainly on the arrival and spread of Christianity through the British Isles from 6th century onwards. At his monastery, Bede had access to a rich variety of Latin and Greek literature which helped him greatly in penning down his magnum opus. This work continued to be used by medieval scholars and historians and one of the most pre-eminent works of history in medieval Europe.