Bede Memorial Cross
A large grey stone Northumbrian cross on a grey stone base, surrounded by a low wooden fence. The amount and detailing of carving on all surfaces is particularly notable. The west face is carved with the main inscription. The south face is carved to a depth of 3 cm with a relief of birds and animals intertwined within foliage. The east face is carved with scenes from the life of Bede, with their titles under each: Baeda comes to Jarrow; Benedict and Siggfrith; The Codex Amiatinus; Baeda Writing the History; Baeda's Last Moments. Between each scene are further intricately carved patterns based on the porch in the tower of St. Peter's Church. The north face has relief carvings of eleven bishops: Trumbergt; Benedict Biscop; Eggfrith; John; Fosterwinn; Siggfrith; Geolfrith; Agga; Hvaegbergt; Geowulf; Eggbert. A foliate pattern links each head. The cross is carved with a rope tracery design on the arms and boss.
Despite his status in the English church, there was no memorial to Bede in the north east until the installation of this Northumbrian cross. A memorial movement was inaugurated by the Dean of Durham Cathedral in 1903 and a committee under the Mayor of Sunderland easily raised the requisite £300. The cross was unveiled by the Archbishop of York and the close attention to detail in the carving was much admired.
The scroll ornamentation is taken from the Lindisfarne Gospels; the birds and animals 'springing from a harp emblematic of his poetic gifts' illustrate his love of nature. The main inscription on the west face are extracts from Bede's Ecclesiastical History and from his Life of St. Cuthbert. The verse repeated in Latin, Runic, Miniscule and English scripts was written on his deathbed.(2)
Although one of the inscriptions records that the Cross was removed for safe keeping during the Great War, there is no record of similar precautions being taken for the Second World War, though Sunderland was repeatedly targeted by the German air force.
The Venerable Bede (672-735) was born on monastery land at Wearmouth and joined the monastery at Jarrow in 681, where he was one of only two monks to survive a plague. Christianity had only been fully accepted in Northumbria in 627 and Bede's life coincided with a flourishing period of Northumbrian culture. Cured of his stammer by St. Cuthbert in 687 he became a priest in 703 and published The History of the English Church and People in 731. He was revered in his lifetime as a holy man, and after his death his remains were transported to Durham Cathedral to save them from molestation by Viking raiders.(1)
Incised on west face of column:TO THE HO / LY BISHOP / EADFRITH / AND THE / BRETHREN / WHO SERVE / CHRIST IN / THE ISLAND / OF LINDIS / FARNE. / I HAVE NOT / PRESUMED TO / WRITE DOWN / ANYTHING OF / SUCH A MAN / AS OUR FATHER / CUTHBERT WITH / OUT THE CLOSEST / ENQUIRY INTO / THE FACTS NOR / TO PUBLISH WHAT / I HAD WRITTEN / WITHOUT THE / MOST CAREFUL / SCRUTINY OF / SURE WITNESSES / --- / TO THE MOST / GLORIOUS KING / CEOLUULF / BEADA SERVANT / OF CHRIST / AND PRIEST / AT YOUR REQUEST / O KING I GLADLY / SENT SOME TIME / AGO MY DRAFT / OF THE CHURCH / HISTORY OF THE / ENGLISH RACE / THAT YOU MIGHT / READ AND APPROVE / IT. I NOW SEND / IT TO YOU AGAIN / TO BE COPIED / OUT THAT YOU / MAY STUDY IT / MORE FULLY AT / YOUR LEISURE. Latin inscription below.
Incised on south face of column: Miniscule inscription
Incised on east face of column: ERE A MAN GO HENCE / FARING AS ALL NEED FARE / NONE IS THERE MORE WISE / MORE THAN HE OUGHT TO BE / IN WELL BETHINKING / WHAT TO HIS SPIRIT / OF GOOD OR OF EVIL / AFTER HIS DEATH DAY / DOOMED MAY BE
Incised on north face of column: Runic inscription
Incised on west (front) of base: UNVEILED 11TH OCTOBER 1904
Incised on south face of base: THIS MEMORIAL CROSS WAS REMOVED IN 1914 / FOR SAFETY DURING THE GREAT WAR / AND RE-ERECTED IN 1921. / G.W. MILBURN / YORK SCULPT
Incised on east face of base: TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN MEMORY OF / HIS SERVANT BAEDA THE VENERABLE WHO / WAS BORN BETWEEN WEAR AND TYNE DCLXXIII / AND DIED AT JARROW ASCENSION DAY DCXXXV
PMSA recording information