Historical Works of Venerable Bede/Volume 2/Life of Bede/Chapter 10
HIS BURIAL IN THE CHURCH OF JARROW, AND THE REMOVAL OF HIS REMAINS TO THE CATHEDRAL OF DURHAM.
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 • SOPHIA • DEBRIARI • FONTE• CVI • JAM •
SVSPIRAVIT • ORANS • INTEXTO • 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 bis memory. Boniface, the Apostle to the Germans, his contemporary, called him "the light of the chuch," 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.
- In the Calendar of our Book of Common Prayer, the 27th of May is still dedicated to his memory.