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Bède le Vénérable - Stéphane Lebecq, Michel Perrin et Olivier Szerwiniak (dir.)
Un historien en son milieu

Bede’s Devotion to Rome :
the Periphery Defining the Center

Michael e. Hoenicke Moore
p. 199-208

Résumé

La vie religieuse et intellectuelle de Bède était centrée sur la Northumbrie et sa micro-chrétienté, imprégnée d’influences irlandaises et gallicanes. Bède, pourtant, était convaincu que la culture développée dans les monastères de Wearmouth et de Jarrow était fondamentalement romaine. De fait, Benoît Biscop a voulu créer dans ces monastères une Rome miniature, en y rassemblant les livres et les objets qu’il s’était procurés à Rome et en Gaule, et qu’il considérait comme romains. Cette communication entend en réalité montrer que la culture « romaine » de ces monastères était une nouvelle configuration intellectuelle, propre à la Northumbrie, et que la culture « romaine » de Wearmouth et Jarrow était en fait une synthèse northumbrienne : elle représente une Rome idéale, construite non seulement de l’extérieur, mais de la périphérie même de la chrétienté. La référence à Rome y est l’expression des aspirations universalistes de Wearmouth et Jarrow, et non le reflet de la domination intellectuelle et de l’influence de Rome1.

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  • 2 Bede, Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus Apostolorum, M. Laistner, ed. CCSL 121, Turnhout, Br (...)

1It has often been noted that Bede was profoundly devoted to Rome ; that he believed the English church had been established by Rome, and that his own monastery represented the best tradition of the Roman church. In what follows, I wish to suggest that the culture of the Northumbrian church, of which Bede’s writings were a highpoint, were a new and distinctive cultural configuration, which did not ‘come from Rome’ but which did think of itself as Roman. In this setting, ‘Rome’ was a point of conceptual gravitation, and not an intellectual powerhouse radiating its culture and views around the northern world. To that extent, the meaning of Rome, as the center of the church, was projected on it by outsiders, and indeed, by those on the periphery of the church. The effort to imagine Rome could certainly draw on earlier images of Rome. Consider Bede’s note, in his little handbook entitled Names of Regions and Places in the Acts of the Apostles : ‘Rome : a city in Italy, formerly the mistress of the whole world, named after its founder Romulus, which because of its exceptional virtue, many writers call The City, as if it were the only one’2. The reference is learned and austere, bearing little relation to all the religious hopes Bede associated with the idea of Rome, but illustrating the fact that Bede’s understanding of the city drew on the history of ‘Rome’ as an image and a concept.

  • 3 Cf. Bede’s resume of his own writings, Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V. 24, B (...)
  • 4 On Bede’s cultivation : P. Riché, Les écoles et l’enseignement dans l’Occident chrétien de la fin d (...)
  • 5 R. Kottje, “Beda Venerabilis”, Gestalten der Kirchengeschichte, ed. M. Greschat, 12 vols. Stuttgart (...)
  • 6 P. Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom : Triumph and Diversity, AD 200-1000, London, Blackwell, (...)
  • 7 “Sedes Roma Petri, quae pastoralis honoris facta caput mundo, quidquid non possidet armis religione (...)
  • 8 Brown, Rise of Western Christendom, p. 218.


2The writings of the Venerable Bede (673-735) are remarkable for their richness and depth of learning, ranging from his many exegetical studies and handbooks to histories and scientific works on computus and time3. In Pierre Riché’s estimation, Bede was the most cultivated man of his age, while Arnold Angenendt remarks that Bede’s Latin was better than that of contemporary writers in Rome4. The setting for this erudite accomplishment was no less remarkable : the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, perched along the rocky coast of the North Sea in the kingdom of Northumbria. Bede was born in Northumbria, and never travelled outside the kingdom, entering Wearmouth- Jarrow in childhood5. These monasteries, so amply supplied with books and other furnishings by their founder, Benedict Biscop, had a considerable grandeur of scale – some six hundred monks, and the best library north of the Alps6. The monasteries were at the northern periphery of a church whose center of attention was the Mediterranean – yet the clerics who lived and wrote there fervently believed that their learned religious culture was fundamentally Roman. Rome had an unparalleled conceptual priority in the European imagination. Prosper of Aquitaine put it this way : ‘Rome the see of Peter, established as the head of the world in pastoral honor – whatever it does not besiege with arms it holds by religion’7. The implications of this contrast, between periphery and center, suggest that what Bede thought of as a Roman cultural and religious imperative was something new and distinctive, the formation of a cultural tradition within one of the autonomous regional churches of the seventh and early eighth centuries, a micro-christendom in the phrase of Peter Brown8. By the term Roman, we should understand the universalist claims of a local scholarly tradition.

  • 9 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Praef., p. 4. See also W. Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History(...)
  • 10 The mismatch between Rome and its northern admirers can be dated at least to the sack of Rome in 41 (...)
  • 11 J. Wallace-Hadrill, “Rome and the Early English Church : Some Questions of Transmission”, in Settim (...)
  • 12 R. Markus, Gregory the Great and his World, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 84-85 ; (...)
  • 13 J. Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages, 476-752, London, Routledge & Kegan (...)

3We are told by Bede that Gregory the Great initiated the evangelisation of Britain, and carefully guided the missionary Augustine of Canterbury with his letters of instruction. Nothhelm discovered these letters in the Vatican archives, and brought them to Bede who could then incorporate them in his history9. The memory of this Roman mission was strong in the English church, and this encouraged a sense of Roman origins – devotion to Gregory and thus to the see of St. Peter was profound and emotional, an attitude that continued among later Anglo-Saxon missionaries to the Continent. At the outset, we can point to a certain disconnection between Rome and the Anglo-Saxons10. It is not clear that Pope Gregory actively pursued a policy of missionary expansion in the barbarian kingdoms11. As Robert Markus has pointed out, Gregory still hoped that the eastern emperor would reestablish the Empire and thus protect and expand the Christian world : to ‘bend the necks of the nations into subjection to the Christian Empire’12. That is to say, Gregory, the ‘Consul of God’, according to his epitaph, focused his hopes on the revival of Byzantium and reconquest rather than on these small troops of missionaries – his views were conservative, holding to the dream of a Constantinian world state13.

  • 14 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, II.1, p. 130.

  • 15 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, II.6, p. 155.

  • 16 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, III.25, p. 306. On the synod of Whitby, see H. Vollrath, Die Synoden (...)

4For the Anglo-Saxons and for Bede, nevertheless, Rome was the origin, and the permanent emotional and intellectual center of the northern churches. He recorded with delight how Pope Gregory celebrated the first conversions among the English, by having masses said ‘in the churches of the sainted apostles Peter and Paul, over their bodies’14. Bede had a special interest in the bodies of the apostles of Rome : in his view they were the actual center of the church. Peter and Paul kept an eye on later missionaries and had a special concern for the evangelization of Britain. St. Laurence learned this to his regret when he was given a thrashing by St. Peter in a dream, for having abandoned his flock15. The dénouement of the council of Whitby turned on the question of Peter’s special leadership of the Church, and the inheritance of this status by the bishops of Rome. Wilfrid quoted Mt. 16:18-19, which had become a locus classicus for Roman primacy : ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven’16. For Bede, then, the Synod of Whitby was only an official recognition of the triumph in England of ancient Roman tradition.

  • 17 On the earliest traditions about Peter : R. Pesch, Simon-Petrus : Geschichte und geschichtliche Bed (...)
  • 18 E. Caspar, “Die älteste römische Bischofliste”, in Papsttum und Kaisertum. Forschungen zur politisc (...)
  • 19 D. Birch, Pilgrimage to Rome in the Middle Ages : Continuity and Change, Studies in the History of (...)

5Indeed, the special status of Peter and Paul in the early church could be confirmed in the Gospels – an interpretation highlighted as the concept of apostolicity and episcopal succession emerged in the third century17. By the time of Irenaeus, the tradition was established that Peter and Paul had founded the Roman church with their martyrdom, and the earliest lists of bishops placed Peter at the head of a list of succession18. The idea of Roman primacy was bolstered by the presence there of the bodies of Peter and Paul, both thought to have been martyred in the reign of Nero. From the second century onward, Rome was a major goal for pilgrims19. The Vatican basilica, built by Constantine, so it seems, to enclose the relics of St. Peter, and the church of Paul on the Ostian Way were the center of the attraction of Rome, and the bodies buried there were conceptually the origin and center of the church of Rome.

  • 20 Richards, Popes and the Papacy, p. 9-10. See also G. Haendler, Die Rolle des Papsttums in der Kirch (...)
  • 21 « Petrus per os Leonis (Per Leonum orig.) locutus est», cited in S. Kuttner, “Auctor noster beatus (...)
  • 22 M. Maccarrone, “La dottrina del primato papale dal IV all’VII secolo nelle relazioni con le chiese (...)

6The primacy of the bishop of Rome was recognized by bishops in the east Mediterranean as well. Constantinople itself never seriously challenged the primacy of Rome, a position to which the popes clung with ‘fanatical consistency’20. Consider, for example, the famous acclamation of the Council of Chalcedon (451), when it recognized the Tome of Leo : ‘Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo’21. Peter was thought of as the ancestor of each successive pope, and the pope as the ‘adopted son and heir’ of Peter. This concept allowed Bede to think of the evangelisation of Britain as an act of Peter himself. The topic of the primacy of Rome, and the expressions given to this idea by popes from pseudo-Clement onward has given rise to an enormous body of scholarship. Here one can mention the many careful studies of Michele Maccarrone, which detail the history of Roman claims to primacy and the recognition of those claims by theologians and by other bishops ; and Charles Pietri’s analyses of Christian Rome and papal ideology22.

  • 23 Y. Congar, L’ecclésiologie du haut moyen âge de Saint Grégoire le Grand à la désunion entre Byzance (...)
  • 24 F. Kempf, “Primatiale und episkopal-synodale Struktur der Kirche vor dem gregorianischen Reform”, A (...)
  • 25 R. Benson, “Provincia = Regnum”, in Prédication et propagande au moyen âge. Islam, Byzance, Occiden (...)
  • 26 Kempf, “Primatiale und episkopal-synodale Struktur”, p. 30. For Augustine’s Africa, see F. Cross, “ (...)

7As Pietri has shown, when we reflect on the centrality of Rome in the early medieval period, it is not adequate to consider only the claims to primacy made by Rome, and to explain the prestige of the Roman pontiffs by reference to doctrinal history. The doctrinal history is itself complex : Cyprian provided doctrinal grounds giving every bishop an authority comparable to that of the Roman bishop. The bishops of Arles or Canterbury, just as much as the pope, were successors of Peter, in a chain of ordination going back to Christ. On the other hand, Roman primacy was the rock on which local episcopal authority rested, and while bishops often acclaimed the popes in august terms, this was a gesture toward origins rather than a sentiment in favor of constant contact with and interference from Rome23. Bishops therefore ruled in a more or less autonomous fashion, and formed regional associations operating with a strong sense of local solidarity and particularity. The regions of Milan and Aquilaeia, and the churches of Visigothic Spain, Africa, Celtic Ireland, and Gaul all formed independent entities24. To call them ‘provincial’ churches is to make them seem incomplete, or part of a hierarchical organization, which would be anachronistic25. They were simply independent regional churches, organized around provincial synods, often led by important bishops of ‘apostolic sees’. For each of these churches, local solidarity was expressed in the unique traditions of their region. Each had its own liturgical customs and theological traditions, its own saints and sacred landscape, and its own conciliar legislation26.

  • 27 “Siquidem et ceteri apostoli cum Petro pari consortio honoris et potestatis effecti sunt, qui etiam (...)

8Isidore of Seville explained that, although Peter was the first to receive the power of binding and loosing, that power and honor were shared by the other apostles. The priority of Rome was not exclusionary or of a different kind, but the honor and power of other apostolic sees were equal to that of Rome27. Isidore attempted to place the priority of Rome and the equality of all bishops within a single framework :

  • 28 “Quod vero de parilitate agitur apostolorum, Petrus praeeminet caeteris, quia a Domino audire merui (...)

9But concerning the question of the equality of the apostles, Peter takes precedence over the others because he deserved to hear from the Lord : ‘You will be called Cephas ; you are Peter’ (John 1,42) and other things ; and he first received in the Church of Christ the honor of the priesthood not from any other but from the Son of God himself, and the Virgin [...] Although his dignity of power is transferred to all bishops of the Catholics, yet in a special way and with a singular privilege it remains forever higher to the bishop of Rome as the head than to all the other members28.

  • 29 “Quod vero per manus inpositionem a praecessoribus dei sacerdotibus episcopi ordinantur, antiqua es (...)
  • 30 Goffart, Narrators of Barbarian History, p. 297-298.

  • 31 Bede, Expositio Apocalypseos, R. Gryson, ed., CCSL 121A, Turnhout, Brepols, 2001, see Gryson’s disc (...)
  • 32 “Apocalypsis sancti Iohannis, in qua bella et incendia intestina ecclesiae...” Bede, Expositio (Pra (...)

10Every apostolic see had an independent claim to this fundamental power, and could transmit that authority from successor to successor without dilution, a traditio29. Mention of Isidore should also remind us that in the churches of northern and western Europe, it was often the thinkers from these areas whose works seemed the most relevant. Bede loved to name his sources, as Walter Goffart has pointed out, as a way of bringing them forward as oath-helpers30. The sources Bede used for his Exposition on the Apocalypse, for example, show how he relied on the great library of Wearmouth-Jarrow as a store-house of Roman ecclesiastical culture. The sources also reveal what this Roman culture consisted of : Rome itself was perhaps represented by Gregory the Great, but most of these sources are from elsewhere : the Donatist Tychonius, some minor traces of Irish influence, Primasius, Isidore of Seville (Etymologiae, De Officiis, Differentiae), Augustine and Jerome31. The terrifying visions of the Apocalypse showed an internal war and conflagration of the church in its last days32. In developing his understanding of time and history, Bede did not draw on a Roman school of thought, but instead helped synthesize a Northumbrian school, organized around a theme of ‘being Roman’.

  • 33 M. Richter, “Practical Aspects of the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons”, in P. Ní Chatháin and M. Ric (...)
  • 34 A. Nichols, “The Roman Primacy in the Ancient Irish and Anglo-Celtic Church”, in Maccarrone, ed., I (...)

11On the other hand, Bede presents the history of England’s conversion as a struggle between two opposing forces – the Irish missionary influence of Iona in the north, and the Roman mission from the south33. This portrait has dominated scholarly perceptions, so that most accounts still portray this same dialectic. To follow Bede, the origins of the Roman impulse, to which he was so strongly devoted, went back to the original mission of Augustine and his inspiration by the pope. Despite Bede’s portrait of a stark division, however, it is clear that Irish clerics such as Columban shared the Anglo-Saxon devotion to St. Peter. Tírechán believed that important ecclesiastical disputes could be appealed to Rome, while the Collectio canonum Hibernensis is a witness to the strength of Romanists in Ireland34. It is worth pausing to consider what this great collection gathered under its own concept of Roman-ness : Biblical and patristic quotations, alongside conciliar law from Gaul and Africa.

  • 35 Bede, Vita quinque sanctorum abbatum, PL 94 : 713-730, see col.714. For the phrase peregrinatio pro (...)
  • 36 L. Von Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche auf dem Weg nach Rom und Monte Cassino im 8. Jahrhundert”, i (...)
  • 37 G. Tabacco, “La situazione politia italiana nel VII seculo”, in Martino I papa (649-653) e il suo t (...)

12For the purposes of intellectual history we should abandon Bede’s contrast of Roman and Irish influences, and look instead at the foundation of Bede’s intellectual activity, to which no one contributed more than Benedict Biscop (ca.628-690), who founded the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and set the tone of intellectual life there. Benedict was a gesith of king Oswiu, but in 653 withdrew from the world, and travelled to Rome seeking religious instruction. Benedict’s original motivation, then, was pilgrimage – seeking, like so many of his contemporaries, the ‘thresholds of the Apostles,’ as the goal of a peregrinatio pro Christo35. Lutz von Padberg is probably right to distinguish the Irish emphasis on self-exile and penance, from this Anglo-Saxon movement, combining missionary activity with pilgrimage36. Benedict Biscop was seeking something less open-ended than exile – a religious education and the aquisition of culture. Benedict was, in any case, ‘burning with desire for the blessed apostles.’ But in 653 he would have found a Roman church able to give little, if any, thought to the English. In that year Martin I was deported during a struggle with the emperor. The east-west axis of the Mediterranean occupied most of Rome’s attention, as the popes found themselves beset by the Lombards and locked in a battle of wills with the Byzantine emperors37.

  • 38 Bede, Vita quinque, col.714.

  • 39 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 146.
  • 40 G. Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries : Notes for the History of the Monasteries and Convents at Rome(...)
  • 41 Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries, p. 367.
  • 42 Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries, p. 379-407.


13On the other hand, what was Benedict hoping to find in Rome, and what did he think of as Roman ? It seems he did not need the attentions of the papacy. He wanted to see and adore in person the places where the bodies of the Apostles lay38. In any case, he could have found a reception in the Anglo-Saxon colony of pilgrims that already existed in Rome39. He sought training in what Bede calls the ‘ecclesiastical life’ – certainly some sort of monastic training, and it is not unlikely that he got this training in the Monasterium Sancti Martini, a Vatican monastery, in the shadow of St. Peter’s basilica, closely associated with the papacy and frequently benefitting from papal donations40. This monastery was a center of liturgical expertise. The monks of St. Martin took part in the liturgy of St. Peter’s, and its abbot was also arch-cantor for the basilica41. There is no way to determine what kind of monastic rule was followed at St. Martin’s, but it was probably a traditional conservative form of monastic life ‘according to canonical tradition’ – probably not the Rule of St. Benedict42.

  • 43 By the end of the eighth century, pilgrims of Frisian, Saxon, Lombard and Frankish origin had organ (...)
  • 44 ‘et quibus potuit praedicare non desiit.’ Bede, Vita quinque, col.714.


14St. Martin also specialized in welcoming and protecting pilgrims to Rome. The extensive properties of this monastery included a hospital for pilgrims and the church of St. Mary, which would house the schola Saxonum later in the seventh century43. Benedict entered the vita ecclesiastica with all the typical enthusiasm of a new convert : according to Bede, upon his return to Britain, Benedict ‘could not stop talking about it’44.

  • 45 Bede, Vita quinque, col.715.

  • 46 ‘rursus beati Petri apostolorum principis amore devictus...’ Bede, Vita quinque, col.715.


15Soon he was back in Rome, during the papacy of Vitalian, but going on from there to the island monastery of Lérins, where he was tonsured and took up ‘the regular discipline (disciplina regularis) of a monk’45. Here he came into contact with the oldest traditions of Gallican monasticism. Once more, however, he was ‘overcome by his love for St. Peter the prince of the Apostles’46. Overcome by love – burning with desire – Bede’s intense and amorous expressions allow us to see that Benedict Biscop’s concept of Rome was centered, not so much on the tangible Rome whose streets he walked, but on the ideal Rome of a cult of St. Peter.

  • 47 D. Bullough, art. “Benedict Biscop”, in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 10th ed. Munich, Verlag Metzler, (...)
  • 48 Bede, Vita quinque, col.716.

  • 49 Bede, Vita quinque, col.719 ; Padberg, ‘Missionare und Mönche,’ p. 149.

16Biscop went on to make frequent trips to Rome, each time bringing back with books of ‘divine erudition’ and other treasures47. Returning to Northumbria, he began to teach concerning all he had learned about Roman monastic life and ecclesiastical institutions. Come as he was from Lérins, it is certainly possible that he thought of this ancient monastery, with its learned culture (for centuries the heart of the Gallican church) as ‘Roman.’ With the assistance of King Ecgfrith, he set out to reproduce in Northumbria all he had seen and learned in Rome48. He had available the rules of 17 monasteries for comparison, as well as the rule of the ’great abbot Benedict’ of Nursia49.

  • 50 Bede, Vita quinque, col.721.

  • 51 ‘Et tantum in operando studii prae amore beati Petri, in cujus honorem faciebat.’ Bede, Vita quinqu (...)

17Benedict Biscop had considerable resources at his command, and brought a vast supply of books to his northern retreat. His plans were epic - nothing short of establishing a miniature Rome at Monkswearmouth. In Bede’s account of Benedict’s back-and-forth ventures, it is interesting to note that no distinction was made between liturgical customs, books, pictures, relics of saints, and chanting – all of these things were part of a single cultural project. At the center, though, was what Bede calls the ‘most noble and very copious library, brought from Rome’50. The fact that many of these books came from Gaul did not prevent its being seen as Roman, nor did the fact that many of the authors gathered in this library were from the northern and western post-Roman kingdoms. Stone masons were brought from Gaul, to build a church ‘in the Roman manner’ – all of this was done, as Bede tells us, ‘out of love for Blessed Peter’51.

  • 52 ‘nullam magis sequendam nobis amplectendamque iure dixerim ea...’ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, (V. (...)

18What did Rome mean to the scholar Bede, and to Benedict Biscop, the founder of Wearmouth-Jarrow and architect of the Roman project of the Northumbrian church ? First of all, Rome was the church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and therefore of the papacy. At the Council of Whitby in 664, Wilfrid explained that no church is ‘more worthy to be imitated’ than Rome52. The evangelization of Britain had been undertaken by the popes, and guided by the Apostles from out of heaven, giving the island a direct origin in the oldest and most authentic sources in the church. This concept of a Roman tradition was thought to require, as if in a utopian dream, the replication in Britain of all the important features of the Roman church : its stone buildings, its windows, its sacred images and a doctrine about their use, liturgical equipment and Roman customs of chanting and ceremonial. Benedict was able to bring John, the arch- cantor of St. Martins in Rome, to train his monks in liturgy and Roman chant. Finally, and most significantly, being Roman meant having a first-class scriptorium and library, making possible the training and activities of scholars such as Bede.

  • 53 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 151.
  • 54 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 151.

19The traditional view is, that at Whitby we see the meeting of two contrary influences : the activity of wandering Irish missionaries in the north, and the Rome-oriented Kentish church in the south. Like Benedict Biscop, Wilfrid also was a frequent visitor to Rome53. This would mean that the union of the church under Roman principles – Roman easter, a Roman tonsure – was a victory of the southern church, and fits with Bede’s narrative of a south-upward development of English history. These clerics were attached to Rome, but Rome was not really making this kind of universal claim, denouncing local traditions of liturgy and law. It seems that this impulse was distinctive of a new, northern cultural configuration. In competition with the attractive, orthodox and learned culture of Irish clerics, the Roman party could claim universality. Like Benedict Biscop, Wilfrid also was a frequent visitor to Rome, and established Roman-style liturgy at Ripon – which like Wearmouth was also dedicated to St. Peter54.

20The coalescence of a tradition is often accompanied by a vision of the past which helps to explain its origins and significance. This is certainly true of the romanitas of Wearmouth-Jarrow. In being seen as a ‘Roman’ culture, the religious and intellectual resources of Northumbria could thus be seen as having a universal significance. Rome is thus the name for a proud universalism. The past of this tradition is presented in great detail throughout his masterpiece, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

  • 55 ‘Qua adridente pace ac serenitate temporum, plures in gente Nordanhymbrorum, tam nobiles quam priua (...)
  • 56 ‘Quae res quem aut habitura finem, posterior aetas uidebit.’ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, (V.23), (...)

21The owl of Minerva flies at dusk (to paraphrase Hegel). One of the most forceful impulses to write history is to feel a sense of twilight and completion, and a corresponding desire to look back over the origins and development of the era that seems to be reaching a conclusion. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History culminates in what he calls ’favourable times of peace and prosperity" (the year 731), with all Britain happily slumbering under good episcopal government, ecclesiastical unity with Rome, and the triumph of Northumbrian-Roman culture. According to Bede, Northumbrian nobles and commoners alike were flocking to take the tonsure55. What the effect of these conversions might be, Bede says, only a later age will know, hinting at the possibility that the sixth age of the world might be drawing to a close, just as his own life was, with the conversion and gathering together of all the peoples at the northern and western edges of the earth56.

22What Bede had shown, in the course of the Ecclesiastical History, was the progressive evangelization of the island, and the gradual acceptance by the peoples of Britain, Scotland and Ireland of Roman authority, Roman customs, and Roman intellectual culture. For the historian, however, it seems that Bede’s histories and exegeses are themselves the culmination of a cultural movement in the northern islands which assembled its high culture, liturgy and physical environment around the theme of Rome, and which proclaimed the universal significance of this culture by calling it Roman.

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Notes

1 This paper was completed during a stipendium at the Max-Planck Institut für Geschichte, Göttingen, and with the help of the Institute’s delightful library.

2 Bede, Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus Apostolorum, M. Laistner, ed. CCSL 121, Turnhout, Brepols, 1983, p. 165-178.

3 Cf. Bede’s resume of his own writings, Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V. 24, B. Colgrave and R. Mynors, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969, p. 567-571.

4 On Bede’s cultivation : P. Riché, Les écoles et l’enseignement dans l’Occident chrétien de la fin du Ve siècle au milieu du XIe siècle, Paris, Aubier Montaigne, 1979, p. 56. On Bede’s latinity : A. Angenendt, Geschichte der Religiosität im Mittelalter, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1997, p. 39.

5 R. Kottje, “Beda Venerabilis”, Gestalten der Kirchengeschichte, ed. M. Greschat, 12 vols. Stuttgart, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1984, 3, p. 58-68.

6 P. Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom : Triumph and Diversity, AD 200-1000, London, Blackwell, 1996.

7 “Sedes Roma Petri, quae pastoralis honoris facta caput mundo, quidquid non possidet armis religione tenet’”, cited in C. Pietri, “La Conversion de Rome et la primauté du pape (IV- VIe s.)”, in Il primato del vescovo di Roma nel primo millennio : ricerche e testimonianze, Atti del symposium storico-teologico, ed. Maccarrone, Roma, 9-13 ottobre 1989, Città del Vaticano, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 1991, p. 219-243.

8 Brown, Rise of Western Christendom, p. 218.


9 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Praef., p. 4. See also W. Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800) : Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1988, p. 297.

10 The mismatch between Rome and its northern admirers can be dated at least to the sack of Rome in 410. It seems that the Arian-Christian Goths were not overawed by impressions of Roman power or by the imperial cult, but rather by the Rome of Peter and Paul : F. Paschoud, “Le mythe de Rome à la fin de l’empire et dans les royaumes romano-barbares”, in Passaggio dal mondo antico al medio evo da Teodosio a san Gregorio Magno (Roma, 25-28 maggio 1977) ; Atti dei convegni Lincei 45, Rome, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1980, p. 123-138.

11 J. Wallace-Hadrill, “Rome and the Early English Church : Some Questions of Transmission”, in Settimane di Spoleto 7, 2 vols., Spoleto, 1960, p. 519-548, see p. 532.

12 R. Markus, Gregory the Great and his World, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 84-85 ; Gregory also believed that he owed obedience to the Byzantine emperors : see p. 88.

13 J. Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages, 476-752, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979, p. 13 ; Pietri, « La Conversion de Rome», p. 221.

14 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, II.1, p. 130.


15 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, II.6, p. 155.


16 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, III.25, p. 306. On the synod of Whitby, see H. Vollrath, Die Synoden Englands bis 1066, Konziliengeschichte, Reihe A : Darstellungen, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöningh, 1985, p. 48-57.

17 On the earliest traditions about Peter : R. Pesch, Simon-Petrus : Geschichte und geschichtliche Bedeutung des ersten Jüngers Jesu Christi ; Päpste und Papsttum 15, Stuttgart, Hiersemann, 1980.


18 E. Caspar, “Die älteste römische Bischofliste”, in Papsttum und Kaisertum. Forschungen zur politischen Geschichte und Geisteskultur des Mittelalters. Paul Kerh zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. A. Brackmann, Munich, Verlag der Münchner Drucke, 1926, p. 1-22.


19 D. Birch, Pilgrimage to Rome in the Middle Ages : Continuity and Change, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 13, Woodbridge, Suffolk, Boydell Press, 1998, p. 29-37.


20 Richards, Popes and the Papacy, p. 9-10. See also G. Haendler, Die Rolle des Papsttums in der Kirchengeschichte bis 1200. Ein Überblick und achtzehn Untersuchungen, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993, p. 69-98.


21 « Petrus per os Leonis (Per Leonum orig.) locutus est», cited in S. Kuttner, “Auctor noster beatus Petrus Apostolus : Pope Agatho on the Papal Office”, in Studia in Honorem eminentissimi cardinalis Alphonsi M. Stickler ; ed. R. Castillo Lara, Pontificia Studiorum Universitas Salesiana, Studia et Textus Historiae Iuris Canonici 7, Rome, Librario Ateneo Salesiano, 1992, p. 215-224.

22 M. Maccarrone, “La dottrina del primato papale dal IV all’VII secolo nelle relazioni con le chiese occidentale”, in Settimane di Spoleto 7, 2 vols., Spoleto, 1960, p. 633-742 ; C. Pietri, Roma christiana. Recherches sur l’église de Rome, son organisation, sa politique, son idéologie de Miltiade à Sixte III (311-440), Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 1, Rome, École française de Rome, 1976).

23 Y. Congar, L’ecclésiologie du haut moyen âge de Saint Grégoire le Grand à la désunion entre Byzance et Rome, Paris, Cerf, 1968, p. 151-163.

24 F. Kempf, “Primatiale und episkopal-synodale Struktur der Kirche vor dem gregorianischen Reform”, Archivum Historiae Pontificiae 16, 1978, p. 27-66, see p. 30sq.

25 R. Benson, “Provincia = Regnum”, in Prédication et propagande au moyen âge. Islam, Byzance, Occident, Paris, PUF, 1983, p. 41-69.

26 Kempf, “Primatiale und episkopal-synodale Struktur”, p. 30. For Augustine’s Africa, see F. Cross, “History and Fiction in the African Canons”, Journal of Theological Studies, 12, 1961, p. 227-247, see esp. p. 228f.

27 “Siquidem et ceteri apostoli cum Petro pari consortio honoris et potestatis effecti sunt, qui etiam in toto orbe dispersi euangelium praedicauerunt. Quibusque decedentibus successerunt episcopi qui sunt constituti per totum mundum in sedibus apostolorum [...]” Isidore of Seville : De ecclesiasticis officiis, ed. Ch. M. Lawson ; CCSL 108, Turnhout, Brepols, 1989, 2.5, p. 57. This serves to point out that the early history of the episcopate in Europe is not tied to the history of the papacy, but rather that the reverse is true

28 “Quod vero de parilitate agitur apostolorum, Petrus praeeminet caeteris, quia a Domino audire meruit : Tu vocaberis Cephas, tu es Petrus (Joan. i, 42) et caetera, et non ab alio aliquo, sed ab ipso Dei et virginis filio honorem pontificatus in Christi Ecclesia primus suscepit [...] Cujus dignitas potestatis etsi ad omnes catholicarum episcopos est transfusa, specialius tamen Romano antistiti singulari quodam privilegio, velut capiti, caeteris membris celsior permanet in aeternum”, ed. G. Ford, The Letters of St. Isidore of Seville, 2nd ed. Amsterdam, A. M. Hakkert, 1970, Letter 8, Isidore to Bishop Eugenius, p. 46.

29 “Quod vero per manus inpositionem a praecessoribus dei sacerdotibus episcopi ordinantur, antiqua est institutio.” Isidore, De ecc., 2.5, p. 59.

30 Goffart, Narrators of Barbarian History, p. 297-298.


31 Bede, Expositio Apocalypseos, R. Gryson, ed., CCSL 121A, Turnhout, Brepols, 2001, see Gryson’s discussion of Bede’s sources, p. 153-178.


32 “Apocalypsis sancti Iohannis, in qua bella et incendia intestina ecclesiae...” Bede, Expositio (Praef.), p. 221.


33 M. Richter, “Practical Aspects of the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons”, in P. Ní Chatháin and M. Richter, eds., Irland und die Christenheit. Bibelstudien und Mission/Ireland and Christendom : the Bible and the Missions ; Veröffentlichungen des Europa Zentrums Tübingen, Kulturwissenschaftliche Reihe, Tübingen, Klett-Cotta, 1984, p. 362-376.

34 A. Nichols, “The Roman Primacy in the Ancient Irish and Anglo-Celtic Church”, in Maccarrone, ed., Il primato, p. 473-491 ; see p. 481-482.

35 Bede, Vita quinque sanctorum abbatum, PL 94 : 713-730, see col.714. For the phrase peregrinatio pro Christo, see col.715.

36 L. Von Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche auf dem Weg nach Rom und Monte Cassino im 8. Jahrhundert”, in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 111, 2000, p. 145-168.

37 G. Tabacco, “La situazione politia italiana nel VII seculo”, in Martino I papa (649-653) e il suo tempo. Atti del XXVIII Convegni storico internazionale, Todi, 13-16 ottobre 1991, Spoleto, Centro Italiano di studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1992, p. 3-19.

38 Bede, Vita quinque, col.714.


39 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 146.

40 G. Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries : Notes for the History of the Monasteries and Convents at Rome from the V through the X Century ; Studi di Antichità christiana 23, Vatican City, Pontificio Istituto di archéologia christiana, 1957, p. 230-240.

41 Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries, p. 367.

42 Ferrari, Early Roman Monasteries, p. 379-407.


43 By the end of the eighth century, pilgrims of Frisian, Saxon, Lombard and Frankish origin had organized themselves into separate scholae, as guilds of mutual protection. Such permanent communities of foreigners added to the attractiveness of a journey to Rome and diffused knowledge of the city and its spiritual and intellectual treasures : A. Stoclet, “Les établissements francs à Rome au VIIIe siècle : Hospitale intus Basilicam Beati Petri, Domus Nazarii, Schola Francorum et Palais de Charlemagne”, in Haut Moyen-Age. Culture, éducation et société. Études offertes à Pierre Riché, Cl. Lepelley, et Al., La Garenne-Colombes, Éditions Européennes Erasme, 1990, p. 231-242. W. Moore, The Saxon Pilgrims to Rome and the Schola Saxonum, Fribourg, Society of St. Paul, 1937, p. 98.

44 ‘et quibus potuit praedicare non desiit.’ Bede, Vita quinque, col.714.


45 Bede, Vita quinque, col.715.


46 ‘rursus beati Petri apostolorum principis amore devictus...’ Bede, Vita quinque, col.715.


47 D. Bullough, art. “Benedict Biscop”, in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 10th ed. Munich, Verlag Metzler, 1980, 1 : 1856-1857.


48 Bede, Vita quinque, col.716.


49 Bede, Vita quinque, col.719 ; Padberg, ‘Missionare und Mönche,’ p. 149.

50 Bede, Vita quinque, col.721.


51 ‘Et tantum in operando studii prae amore beati Petri, in cujus honorem faciebat.’ Bede, Vita quinque, col.716.


52 ‘nullam magis sequendam nobis amplectendamque iure dixerim ea...’ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, (V.21), p. 548.

53 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 151.

54 Padberg, “Missionare und Mönche”, p. 151.

55 ‘Qua adridente pace ac serenitate temporum, plures in gente Nordanhymbrorum, tam nobiles quam priuati [...] accepta tonsura [...]’ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, (V.23), p. 557-561.

56 ‘Quae res quem aut habitura finem, posterior aetas uidebit.’ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, (V.23), p. 560.

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Michael e. Hoenicke Moore, « Bede’s Devotion to Rome :
the Periphery Defining the Center », in Stéphane Lebecq, Michel Perrin et Olivier Szerwiniak (dir.), Bède le Vénérable, Villeneuve d'Ascq, IRHiS-Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion (« Histoire et littérature de l'Europe du Nord-Ouest », no 34), 2005, p. 199-208.

Référence électronique

Michael e. Hoenicke Moore, « Bede’s Devotion to Rome :
the Periphery Defining the Center », in Stéphane Lebecq, Michel Perrin et Olivier Szerwiniak (dir.), Bède le Vénérable, Villeneuve d'Ascq, IRHiS-Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion (« Histoire et littérature de l'Europe du Nord-Ouest », no 34), 2005 [En ligne], mis en ligne le 13 octobre 2012, consulté le 29 avril 2017. URL : http://hleno.revues.org/340

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Michael e. Hoenicke Moore

Honors College, University of Houston

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