Sutton Hoo: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Introduction: Bede (ca. 672–735) was a monk at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria and the foremost theologian in early medieval England. He wrote commentaries on many books of the Bible, the lives of several saints, educational treatises, and scientific texts. He is best known for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, intended to recount and shape a history of Roman-rite Christianity in the British Isles. The account of Raedwald excerpted here is the earliest record of this king's reign (and therefore difficult to verify); it is shorter than a modern historian would like, and it likely relies as much on hearsay as on what we would call verifiable fact. Raedwald is considered the most likely occupant of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo.

Indeed, so great was the zeal of Edwin's devotion to the true faith that he also persuaded the king of the East Angles, Eorpwald the son of Raedwald—along with his province—to accept the faith and sacraments of Christ, having abandoned all worship of idols. His father Raedwald, when he was dwelling in the kingdom of Kent some years before, was also initiated into the Christian sacraments, but in vain; for upon returning home he was led astray by his own wife and certain wicked teachers, and once deprived of the integrity of his faith he lived worse than he had before, and in the manner of the Samaritans of old seemed to worship both Christ and the old gods that he had formerly served. In the same sanctuary he kept simultaneously an altar for Christ's sacrifice and a small altar for sacrifices to demons. Aldwulf, a king of the same realm who ruled within living memory, declared that this sanctuary had survived until his own time and that he himself had seen it when he was a boy. The aforementioned Raedwald, however, was noble in birth but ignoble in deed; he was a son of Tytil, whose father was Wuffa, for which reason the kings of the East Angles are called Wuffings.

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