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Saint Cædmon

Rowan  Lewgalon

Overath, Germany

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Faber-Castell Watercolour-Pencils “Albrecht Dürer”
30×40 cm watercolour paper 300g/m²

According to Bede, Cædmon was a lay brother who worked as a herdsman at the monastery Streonæshalch (now known as Whitby Abbey).
One evening, while the monks were feasting, singing, and playing a harp, Cædmon left early to sleep with the animals because he knew no songs. While asleep, he had a dream in which “someone” (quidem) approached him and asked him to sing principium creaturarum, “the beginning of created things.” After first refusing to sing, Cædmon subsequently produced a short eulogistic poem praising God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Upon awakening the next morning, Cædmon remembered everything he had sung and added additional lines to his poem. He told his foreman about his dream and gift and was taken immediately to see the abbess. The abbess and her counsellors asked Cædmon about his vision and, satisfied that it was a gift from God, gave him a new commission, this time for a poem based on “a passage of sacred history or doctrine”, by way of a test. When Cædmon returned the next morning with the requested poem, he was ordered to take monastic vows. The abbess ordered her scholars to teach Cædmon sacred history and doctrine, which after a night of thought, Bede records, Cædmon would turn into the most beautiful verse. According to Bede, Cædmon was responsible for a large oeuvre of splendid vernacular poetic texts on a variety of Christian topics.

After a long and zealously pious life, Cædmon died like a saint: receiving a premonition of death, he asked to be moved to the abbey’s hospice for the terminally ill where, having gathered his friends around him, he expired just before nocturns.

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