S t. P e t e r ' s
W e a r m o u t h - J a r r o w
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Home of the Venerable Bede in the 7th century AD, part of the Anglo-Saxon Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery.
St. Peter’s, built on land given by King Ecgfrith to St. Benedict Biscop in 673 AD, is the earlier of the twin site to come to life, and in the church can be seen the original carved stone within a reconstruction of the abbot’s seat among many artifacts uncovered during the 1960’s archaeological excavation conducted by Dame Professor Rosemary Cramp of Durham University.
Many Northumbrian saints are connected with St. Peter’s Church along with the Venerable Bede, namely St. Hild, Abbess of Whitby, whom Bede describes as having entered convent life “on land to the north of the Wear”, and the abbots of the twin monastery: St. Benedict Biscop, the patron saint of Sunderland, St. Ceolfrid, St. Eosterwine, St. Hwaetbehrt and St. Sigfrid, and St. Lawrence, to whom a chapel was dedicated at St. Peter’s in the time of the abbots.
Reverend Tom Gibbons
Former Vicar of St. Peter's
A new guide to St. Peter's for 2017 is available when you visit.
This handy guide costs only £3 and includes a timeline history of St. Peters. It also includes a plan of the church with suggestions for your tour. Featured on the cover is an ariel photograph of the church grounds where the footprint has been mapped out of the 8th century monastery buildings.
Look for your copy at the entrance to the visitor centre when you visit the church.
The St. Peter's Educational Activities for Kids project has a dedicated web-page filled with activities that schools and young people may be interested in. To visit their page please click on this link (opens in a new window).
Benedict Biscop (also referred to in ancient texts as Benet Biscop or Biscop Baducing) is the Patron Saint of Sunderland. He founded the monastery and library of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the 7th C and so is celebrated in services and activities here each year as well as having a stained-glass window dedicated to him.
Benedict Biscop's Feast Day is 12th. January each year.
Benedict Biscop is the patron saint of painters and musicians.
Of noble birth, in 653 AD St. Benedict left his service as courtier to King Oswiu of Northumbria to embark on a life of spirituality. After pilgrimages around Europe, including Rome, for many years he took his vows as a monk at Saint-Honorat, Lerins, where he stayed as a novice for two years before journeying to Rome again. Returning to Britain in 669 AD with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Theodore, he was appointed as Abbot of St. Peter and St. Paul in Canterbury. After two years he returned to Rome to collect relics, works of art and manuscripts with which he could found a monastery at Wearmouth in the kingdom of Northumbria where the king had given him land.
Benedict created a building that was unique at the time in Britain - bringing in French workmen to create lead roofing, glass windows and detailed carving. Once work was under way St. Benedict returned for a fifth time to Rome and obtained from Pope Agatho's collections an enormous academic treasure house of manuscripts to establish a library for heritage and teaching in Wearmouth. He also brought to Wearmouth John, the Abbot of St. Martin's at Rome, who taught to monks the uncial hand - an elegant rounded script for use in creating manuscripts - as well as teaching the chants used for worship in the Roman liturgy. This new monastery was dedicated to St. Peter.
In an effort to spread Christianity even further St. Benedict obtained land (and no doubt support and protection) from King Ecgfrith of Northumbria on the south side of the river Tyne in Jarrow to build another new monastery. This new monastery was dedicated to St. Paul.
The twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow set a new standard in art, design, learning, ministry and worship. Benedict's library and works of art were unrivaled in Britain.
Monasteries had been devout places in Britain up until this time, but they were remote, often barely accessible places such as on the islands of Iona or Lindisfarne. This 'new model' in Britain brought the Church onto the mainland and introduced a civilizing force of arts, worship and learning that encouraged studiousness and respect. His work began a new age in Britain that lead to further mainland monasteries being established and a re-establishment of civilisation based on cultural pursuits that filled a vacuum created by the collapse of Roman rule a few centuries beforehand. He is also widely accepted as the father of Benedictine monasticism in England.
Saint Bede's Feast Day is 25th. May each year.
Bede is the Patron Saint of English writers and historians
Bede is also Doctor of the Church and considered to be the Father of English History
Benedict Biscop's Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery in it's quiet, devout way gave us today Venerable Bede (also spelled Baeda or Beda). Bede was born in what is now modern day Sunderland. At the age of 7, quite probably because he had become an orphan he was accepted into the monastery by Benedict Biscop for holy orders. It has been suggested that Benedict Biscop did this because Bede was of noble birth, but we know little of his circumstances and cannot find any documentary links to any families of the time.
Bede is widely acknowledged as the father of modern history due to his many works, chiefly Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (“Ecclesiastical History of the English People”) and St. Peter's is often visited by historians even today. The reason why he is given this honorary title is because he was meticulously careful to separate fact from legend and to cite his sources - an approach that historians still follow today.
Venerable Bede was one of the first to propose that we should have a calender that counted backwards and forwards from the birth of Christ, giving us the modern approach of dates as AD and BC. He was also involved in helping to set the date for Easter each year. So his work still affects us today. You can see a list of Bede's works by clicking on this link. You can read even more about Venerable Bede using the menu above to navigate around this website.
Venerable Bede even gave us the very word by which we are known as a people and for a language which we speak across the world - English.