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The Vita Bedae and the craft of hagiography.

Gameson, Richard and Gameson, Fiona (2020) 'The Vita Bedae and the craft of hagiography.', History., 105 (367). pp. 567-587.


Bede was (and is) justly renowned for his scholarship and admired for his piety; an early cult, such as it was, proved abortive and he was never canonised. Nevertheless, he was subsequently the subject of a Vita which, in sharp contrast to his own autobiographical note, is pointedly hagiographical. The oldest surviving copy of the text in question was added as an early supplement to the manuscript of the Historia ecclesiastica that was given to Durham Cathedral priory by Bishop William of Saint Calais (d. 1096). Although the text is anonymous, internal evidence suggests that it was probably composed at Jarrow after its restoration in the 1070s or alternatively in Durham after the conversion of the cathedral community to a Benedictine priory (1083), staffed with monks from Jarrow. Because the sources for the Vita Bedae are identifiable, the work provides a sharply focused lens through which to perceive the devices that could be used by an eleventh‐century hagiographer to re‐present a very famous subject as a saint, and the various strategies he uses to achieve this end are duly explored. More generally, the text provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on medieval perceptions and expectations of sanctity.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 07 October 2022.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Gameson, Richard & Gameson, Fiona (2020). The Vita Bedae and the Craft of Hagiography. History 105(367): 567-587 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:21 August 2020
Date of first online publication:07 October 2020
Date first made open access:07 October 2022

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