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Its prospects were perhaps further damaged by Viking attacks, which began to affect the north-east coast in particular in the 790s, and ultimately by the Scandinavian settlement of parts of Northumbria in the 860s, which threw the archdiocese of York into disarray. Wearmouth/Jarrow lay in a region which, on the evidence of place-names, saw little direct Viking settlement, and it is perhaps simplistic to suppose that the monastery ended primarily on account of these traumas, but, for whatever reason, monasticism seems to have died away over this period.

Out of whom chiefly hath been gather’d, since the Saxons arrival, such as hath been deliver’d, a scatter’d story picked out here and there, with some trouble and tedious work from among his many legends of visions and miracles . . Yet, from hence to the Danish invasion it will be worse with us, destitute of Beda. Degory Wheare took a more polemical stance,139 arguing that ‘in the times of our venerable Bede, the Ocean of Miracles and Wonders burst in upon the Church, and overflowed it’, although he approved the comments of ‘this diligent and pious Writer’ on near-contemporary matters.

While Cuthbert did not claim to have witnessed such, as in these reported instances, his letter does present Bede’s case within these conventions, and both he and his audience obviously knew these and other examples of the type. Nor was the physicality of this death fully shared by Cuthbert with his friend. Bede’s initial illness was characterised by ‘frequent attacks of breathlessness but almost without pain’. On the penultimate day, his breathing became ‘very much worse, and a slight swelling had appeared in his feet’ but at that point his corporality passed behind a veil and the focus is entirely on the ‘great holiness and peace’ with which he spent his last hours: chanting ‘songs to the glory of God, and spreading out his hands he ceased not to give God thanks’.

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