Saints of Wearmouth
The history of the North-East region is rich with the number of recorded saints, thanks in large part to the writings of the Venerable Bede, who chronicled their life stories. Durham and Lindsifarne are noted particularly for the lives of Columba, Paulinus, Aidan, Cuthbert, Oswald and Bede, the latter three being buried (the head of Oswald, at least).
The story of Wearmouth-Jarrow (and of Wearmouth in particular) begins with a woman, Hild, better known for her ministries at Hartlepool then Whitby and the time of the critical Synod of Whitby. Bede tells us that Hild began her monastic life for a year on land on the north of the River Wear, at the request of Bishop Aidan – a hide of land, sufficient to sustain the life of a small community cell. The oral tradition at St.Peter’s, supported by Christian art in the church, is strong that Hild has a historic connection with Wearmouth.
Bede, traditionally known as the monk of Jarrow, began his monastic life at the age of 7 at St.Peter’s monastery, Wearmouth. Rarely writing of himself, he describes that “I was born in the lands of this monastery” (the sunder-lande) and most likely was what is locally known as a mackem. He wrote of the ‘one monastery in two places’ for at Wearmouth he would have seen, learnt from and used the vast library that was brought here by Benedict Biscop from Rome. But he was a servant of both monasteries and given the task of writing and teaching the monks, which required him to travel between the two. (See the Bede’s Way). Tradition also has it that his body is buried in Durham Cathedral, as previously mentioned.
Benedict Biscop, the founder abbot, was sent here by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury to build the monastery on lands given by King Egfrith. He made several journeys to Rome to furnish and adorn the monastery and its mission, leaving the care of the monastery under his successor, abbot Ceolfrith.
Ceolfrith, like Bede, was a long-term resident and over his long rule as abbot increased the community to 600 monks and increased the output of the scriptorium, which has has left its mark on the numerous saxon scriptures still extant in Europe.
Other saints of Wearmouth-Jarrow are known to us thanks again to the record of Bede,: the abbots Eosterwine, Sigfrid and Huetbert. S.Lawrence, a Roman martyr, was celebrated here by the first community and at St.Peter’s there remains a chapel to S.Lawrence, according to Bede, on the site, still yet to be discovered by archaeological research.
Feast days celebrated at St.Peter’s:
12th January -Benedict Biscop, patron saint of the City of Sunderland
3rd February -Lawrence
7th March – Eosterwine
25th May – Venerable Bede
8th August – Sigfrid
25th September – Ceolfrith
19th November – Hild
(Huetbert’s feast day is at present still unknown, perhaps because he outlived Bede, who would otherwise have recorded the date of his passing and thereby the date of his celebration)