St Peter's


Location; On the north bank of the Wear estuary, across the river from Sunderland on the A183.

Benedict Biscop (Biscop simply means Bishop), was a member of the court of King Oswiu. But in 653 he went on a pilgrimage to Rome with Wilfrid. After a time as Abbot of the monastery of St Peter & St Paul in Canterbury, he made further trips to Rome to collect books. In 674AD he founded St Peter's, constructed in the style he had seen on the continent. French craftsmen were employed to furnish the windows with stained glass.

In 681AD Benedict founded the twin monastery of St. Pauls in Jarrow. Further visits to Rome enabled him to amass a considerable library, which is thought to have formed the basis of the work of Bede. Benedict died in 690AD.

In these times before printing, books were acquired by monasteries to be copied. The Wearmouth-Jarrow foundation developed a famous reputation for it's copies. A notable surviver is the 8th Century Codex Amiatinus, which has found it's way to the Laurentian Library in Florence.

Description; The remaining Saxon work consists of the tower and the west wall of what is now the south isle of the church. As with many Saxon churches, the tower started as a porch, but was extended upwards in later Saxon times.

Inside, the east wall shows the faint impression of the original roofline, to the right of the opening which gave access to a loft space, as at Barton-Upon-Humber

The two windows above are partly obscured by the tower, and from the outside (see above) can only be seen as slits, see top picture. This shows that these windows were inserted before the conversion of the porch into a tower.

The eastern arch of the tower was the original entrance to the church, and is arguably the finest surviving Saxon arch in the country, supported by four circular pillars and bases carved with mythological serpent designs, now much weathered.

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Sources; The Golden Age of Northumbria by Jane Hawkes; Sandhill Press.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia

Footsteps of the Northern Saints by Basil Hume

All Photographs by the author.