St. Peter’s One Thousand, Three Hundred Year History
Established in 674 AD
St.Peter’s Church and Monastery was built on land given by King Ecgfrith of Northumbria in AD 674.
It was founded by St. Benedict Biscop, who built St.Peter’s, Monkwearmouth and followed by St.Paul’s, Jarrow, seven years later as “one monastery in two places.”
The west wall, tower and porch survive from the original saxon church. The carvings in the porch, though under threat of erosion, represent some the most precious extant artwork from those times.
Benedict Biscop brought masons, craftsmen and glaziers from the continent to build in the Roman design and a vast library from Rome to create a centre of study and a scriptorium where the Venerable Bede composed the output of his works.
The boy Bede was born in the territory of this monastery and at the age of 7 entered the monastery under St. Ceolfrid’s tutelage. It was here that Bede lived, worked and worshipped.
The remains of the Venerable Bede are interred in the Galilee Chapel in Durham Cathedral to this day.
The major achievement of the twin monastery, and its most renowned scholar Bede, was the output of literature from its saxon scriptorium. Particularly under the abbacy of Biscop’s successor, Ceolfrith, Wearmouth-Jarrow’s status grew as another Rome in its collection of sacred writings, which the monks exported throughout all of Europe. The most well-known of these is the Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving one-volume Latin vulgate text of the Bible, intended for presentation to the Pope by Ceolfrith himself.
Caves are reputed to extend hundreds of metres along a system of underground tunnels (legend has it) all the way to Roker Park from St. Peter’s Church and Wearmouth Monastery and even possibly to Hylton Castle. It is rumoured that these tunnels were used by fishermen, keelmen and bargemen to smuggle illegal goods ashore in the 17th and 18th Centuries. It has further been a long standing belief locally that the treasurers and books from the scriptorium were hidden in caves by monks to avoid them being seized by the Viking hordes.