We are completely in the dark about what happened to Bede’s body after his death around what we have come to estimate to have been May 25, 735. There are currently no know records of how monks were buried at that time in St. Peter’s monastery or even where in the grounds.
After formative years in St. Peter’s, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland it is reputed that St Bede moved to the twin monastery in Jarrow. However he is known to have travelled very little and there is no supporting evidence that he ever left the large St. Peter’s monastery comprised of a significant priesthood (believed to be 400), scriptorium, library, farms and gardens that had been built at the Sunderland site. It is doubly of doubt that a further hugely expensive scriptorium would have been created at Jarrow when there was already a new one at Sunderland, staffed by newly trained monks, along with ink production, paper-making, book-binding and curing of leathers to produce bindings. It seems infeasible that Bede would have wanted to be very far night or day from the books he so cherished and studied. When some reference or other came to mind he would have wanted to be near the books for him to refer to.
Bede kept on creating and producing books until shortly before his death, indeed Cuthbert’s Letter gives us written evidence that Bede was continuing to work on his cherished books right to the very final moments of his days, “Then the boy of whom I spoke, whose name was Wilberht, said once again: “There is still one sentence, dear master, that we have not written down.’ And he [Bede] said: ‘Write it.’. Until new evidence is found huge doubt remains around this whole area.
At a much later date bones reputed to be Bede’s were taken from the Jarrow site. These bones were then moved to Durham Cathedral. A tomb was created in Durham Cathedral but sadly this tomb was destroyed in the Reformation. The present tomb, built in 1831 is inscribed with Bede’s own words:
“Christ is the morning star,
who when the night
Of this world is past
brings to his saints
The promise of the light of life
& opens everlasting day”
A service is held each year in Durham Cathedral on the feast day of Saint Bede for which you are very welcome to attend. More details will be made available each year on the Durham Cathedral website.