St Paul's Monastery

Religious Place Jarrow Tyne And Wear

St Paul's Monastery

Religious Place In Jarrow, Tyne And Wear

Anglo-Saxon Monastery where St Bede spent his life from the age of seven.

St Paul's Monastery and Church is twinned with St Peter's at Wearmouth in Sunderland and both were created by Northumbrian nobleman Benedict Biscop who was inspired by Christian life in Rome. He approached King Ecgfrith of Northumbria for land, and St Peter's was built in 674, while St Paul's Monastery followed in 681. 

Originally at St Paul's, there were two churches; a larger church which served the local people and the monks, and a smaller building exclusively used by the monks. There was another building by the riverside used as a guest house and there is evidence of terraced gardens towards the river used to grow vegetables and herbs.

The church as we see it today is comprised of the nave and the North aisle, which were built in 1865 by Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The chancel at the opposite end of the church is part of the Anglo-Saxon Monastery built in 681. The ruined buildings surrounding the church are the cloisters, built when the monastery was refounded in the 1070s. These are some of the earliest dateable Norman buildings in Northern England.

St Paul's is famous for being the home of St Bede; a scholar, monk and writer. Bede was educated at St Paul's from the age of 7 and spent most of his life in the monastery. He wrote extensive ecumenical writings and his most famous work 'Ecclesiastical History of the English People' gained him the title 'The Father of English History'. Bede also studied 'computus', or the science of calculating calendar dates. He attempted to compute the Easter date, but this was met with much controversy. This ongoing debate still remains unresolved to this day, with Easter celebrated on different dates. Bede also popularised the practice of dating forward from the birth of Christ, using the term Anno Domini (AD).

Bede died in 735 and in the 1020s bones found at the site were thought to be Bede's remains. They were taken to Durham Cathedral and placed in their own tomb shrine in the Galilee Chapel. The shrine was destroyed during the Reformation, but his remains were re-buried in the Galilee Chapel alter tomb which still stands today.

Inside St Paul's Church are a number of interesting artifacts. Set above the chancel arch is a dedication stone with the date 687AD, which makes it the oldest dedication stone in the country. 

 There is also the 'Saxon Cross' or 'Jarrow Cross' which is a square ended, inscribed cross signifying growing literacy in the area. It has a Latin inscription meaning 'In this unique sign, life is restored to the world'

Also around the church there are three wooden sculptures by artist Fenwick Lawson including 'The Risen Ascended Christ' created in the 1970s. You may have seen other works of his in the North East, including his statue of St Cuthbert at Lindisfarne Priory and Pieta at Durham Cathedral.

The church and monastery are now managed by the English Heritage and entry is free. Please check the English Heritage website for opening times.

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54.980231, -1.472261
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54.980743, -1.472637

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Parking is available close to the monastery on Church Bank.

Sandra Clemens

Contributed by Sandra Clemens

I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.

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