Jarrow Lectures arrive

As I was working on the recent post on the Codex Amiatinus I got a surprise in the mail, the two newest Jarrow lectures (2004 & 2006) hot off the press. I had forgotten that I had even ordered them. You can set up a standing order with the Church of St. Paul, Jarrow [The Lecture Secretary, 1 Duchess Crescent, JARROW, Tyne & Wear, NE32 5QJ; Tel: (0191) 489 1344] Publication isn’t exactly regular. There is a note on the invoice that the 2002, 2005, and 2007 are “still unavailable (no text from lectures)”.

Richard Morris, Journeys from Jarrow, Jarrow Lecture 2004 (31 pages)

Morris talks about quite a variety of travel related material, reiterating the importance of travel routes through the Irish Sea. He takes pains to point out that Jarrow was a major port in Bede’s day, known as Ecgfrith’s port (portus Ecgfridi) and that the Tyne valley was a ‘Northumbrian valley of the Kings’ due to all the royal monasteries, bishop’s see at Hexham on the upper Tyne, ports and palaces (Arbeia/South Shields). Jarrow Slake, a mudflat, is believed to be the site of the port for the era when boats where beached to unload rather than moored. Really the Tyne is the most important river system north of the Humber given that it runs both along the Wall and south into the Deiran heartland so we shouldn’t be surprised that it was developed particularly in the time of Ecgfrith when it ceased to be a frontier of two warring kingdoms.

I had not realized that Bede had a convent so close that it was possibly in sight across the river at Donmoutha. Then again I also hadn’t realized that legend claims that King Oswine of Deira was born at Arbeia, but it may explain why he was buried at the monastery of Tynemouth. Morris also offers a relocation of Gilling to Gilling East and a discussion of royal monasteries in that region. It is interesting that there are hints to the shape of the church in Deira under Oswine becoming visible.

Morris spends quite a bit of time discussing the conditions and preparations for travel. He then focuses on Coelfrith’s last departure for Rome in 716. He identifies Kirkdale in Yorkshire as the location of the Aelbreht’s monastery where the messenger caught up with him. Kirkdale is not far from Gilling East so it may be that Coelfrith was taking a trip through lands of his family and his youth before leaving his homeland forever. He believes that the trip to Rome by nearly 80 monks had been planned for some time and then Abbot Coelfrith surprised them all with the decision to join them. This would explain why such a huge number of monks accompanied Coelfrith, or perhaps if Morris is right, he accompanied them.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything in Morris’ talk but he has given me a few things to think about on Oswine, Coelfrith and the Deiran church. I think it is worthwhile if you are interested in early travel or Wearmouth-Jarrow in particular.

P.D.A. Harvey, Maps in the Age of Bede, Jarrow Lecture 2006, 17 pages.

I get the impression that there isn’t much known about Roman or early medieval maps and what is known has generated a lot of friction among those who study them. About the only thing useful I found here was that there are only scale or picture maps from this era are found in Wearmouth-Jarrow manuscripts but both come from known origins. The only work of Bede’s with a scale map is his On the Holy Places where he almost certainly copies Adomnan’s map. Period copies of neither survive, but maps found in Bede’s work are just like Adomnan’s. The other picture map (of the tabernacle in exile in the Codex Amiatinus) was created from a biblical description and is a copy of Cassiodorus’ map. So there is nothing original in either of these maps and support the idea that Wearmouth-Jarrow didn’t really like illustrations in their works (no matter how many times the Ezra miniature is reproduced on book covers or in chapters etc). There are no carpet pages, evangelist portraits or even elaborate initials in the Codex Amiatinus. From what I’ve read recently it seems to be a pretty bare book.