Bede and His World Revisited: Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Britain

By University of Sydney

April 10, 2012 - May 29, 2012

10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

160 Missenden Road, Newtown NSW 2042

University of Sydney

This course is a continuation of ‘Bede and Cultural life in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Britain.’ It will present a more in-depth study of the world of the the Venerable Bede, the ‘father of English history’ and one of the most prolific and influential writers of the early Middle Ages. It will concentrate on his varied achievements as a writer, studying his work as an educationist, historian of both official history and daily life, and poet. The course will also examine the important subject of the inter-action between the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic society, and the competing claims to supremacy of each society, The artistic achievement of the golden age of Northumbria (and Britain in general), in the areas of architecture, manuscript illumination, sculpture and music, during the later 7th and early 8th centuries, will also be examined in depth.


Week 1: Bede – Introduction

  • His Personal life and Education
  • His Role as teacher
  • His Educational Writings I

Week 2: Bede – the Educator

  • The Daily life of the monastic classroom and community
  • The Pace and psychology of monastic Learning
  • Bede’s Educational Writings II

Week 3: Bede as official historian

  • The Official History of the English Church and People
  • The Problem with the Celts and their history
  • Bede’s official synthesis

Week 4: Bede and personal history

  • Bede’s own community at Wearmouth and Jarrow
  • His Lives of the Abbots of his own community
  • His personal perspective in these writings

Week 5: Bede and Cuthbert

  • Cuthbert – the two versions of his life
  • Cuthbert as exemplar
  • Bede’s view of Cuthbert

Week 6: Bede as poet

  • Bede’s poems – an overview
  • His artistic achievement as poet
  • His poetic techniques

Week 7: Architecture, sculpture, manuscript illumination

  • Anglo-Saxon architecture
  • Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Sculpture
  • Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Manuscript Illumination

Week 8: Bede and Gregorian Chant

  • The Origins and Development of Gregorian Chant
  • The Introduction of Gregorian Chant to Britain and its dissemination
  • Bede’s Knowledge of Chant
  • The Characteristics of Gregorian Chant


At the end of this course participants will:

  1. have a deeper understanding of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic worlds of the Venerable Bede, their tensions, and their inter-action
  2. be able to appreciate the different purposes and approaches of Bede’s historical writing
  3. be able to appreciate Bede’s outstanding work and as an educator and poet
  4. be able to discern and appreciate the outstanding flourishing of the arts during Bede’s lifetime in the areas of architecture, manuscript illumination, sculpture and music


  • Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. ed. D H Farmer, Penguin, 1990.
  • Bede, Libri II De Arte Metica et De Schematibus et Tropis, The Art of Poetry and Rhetoric. AQ-Verlag, 1991.
  • Brown, Michelle P, Manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon Age. British Library, 2007.
  • DeGregorio, Scott, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Bede. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Marsden, John, The Illustrated Bede. Macmillan London, 1999.
  • Ward, Benedicta, SLG. The Venerable Bede. Geoffrey Chapman, revised edition 1998.
  • Ward, Benedicta, SLG. High King of Heaven. Continuum, 1999.




Centre for Continuing Education
02 9036 4785