In giving a strictly ecclesiastical orientation to Carolingian learning and in concentrating, in the scientific field, on the elementary techniques of computation, Alcuin had followed the example of Bede (672–735), the greatest scholar of the early Middle Ages. It was a programme of study dictated by the needs of the time; for in Northumbria, in the early eighth century, it was even more urgent than in Charlemagne’s realm to devise a reliable method of education through which a clergy, recruited from recent converts whose mother-tongue was not derived from Latin, could be equipped to read the Latin Scriptures and to understand the principles of cosmography and astronomical computation whereby the timing of the great festivals of the Church was determined. 1