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Durham University

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Bronze statue of the Venerable Bede unveiled

(24 May 2013)

‘Beda Bede’ by Dr Fenwick Lawson

‘Beda Bede’ (Photo - Howard Little ABIPP)

A bronze statue of the Venerable Bede was unveiled this week, as part of the countdown to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition.

The statue, a casting of internationally-renowned sculptor Fenwick Lawson’s work, the “Young Bede” or the “Beda Bede”, has been installed at the entrance to Durham University’s Palace Green Library, just yards from the saint’s tomb in Durham Cathedral.

Palace Green Library, on Durham’s World Heritage site, is the venue for the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition, which opens on July 1 and runs until September 30.

The original Young Bede was carved from a 150-year old chestnut tree which grew in the precincts of Durham Cathedral and now stands in the entrance lobby of the Pontifical Beda College in Rome. The bronze casting was made by Fondeira Boccea in Rome.

To have this iconic depiction of the young scholar saint, deriving from Durham and now returned to Durham from Rome, installed in Palace Green Library in the heart of the University, marking the 2013 visit of the Lindisfarne Gospels, is all of immense significance.

Fenwick Lawson, one of Britain’s most esteemed sculptors who is an honorary graduate of Durham University, was raised in Durham and still has a workshop in the City.

Mr Lawson took inspiration from the Lindisfarne Gospels for the Celtic carvings of the stool on which Bede sits. He made these carvings years before it was decided that the Gospels were coming to Durham.

The University hosts several of his works, including the ‘Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension’ sculpture hanging in Grey College Chapel and a sculpture of Mary in the chapel of St Mary’s College.

Among the best known of his works is his astonishing life size work The Journey, depicting six monks carrying the body of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, which was made from elm trees and stands on Holy Island. A bronze casting of this was later made and installed in Millennium Square in Durham city centre.

St Bede, commonly referred to as the Venerable Bede, was an English monk at the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow between 673 and 735 AD. One of the Durham University Colleges bears his name – the College of St Hild and St Bede.

Bede was the polymath of his age – a historian, theologian, natural scientist, astronomer and environmentalist and regarded in the Western Church as the last great ‘Father of the Church’. It is therefore appropriate that he should represent learning, research and knowledge in the historic Palace Green Library.

Professor Paul Murray, Dean and Director of the University’s Centre for Catholic Studies, spoke at the ceremony, which was hosted by Mr Jon Purcell, Durham University Librarian,

He said: “I am immensely thankful to Fenwick Lawson for this magnificent piece of work. His work combines a grandeur of scale and vision with a simplicity and purity of line and form; a robust ruggedness with a sensitive beauty.”

Jon Purcell closed by noting, “Everyone who visits the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition will view this bronze statue of Young Bede as part of their experience, we hope that visitors will take time to admire it.”