The World Heritage Bid

The World Heritage Bid

Today is a pretty important day for the north-east of England; today, our bid for UNESCO World Heritage Status was finalised and sent to London.

The bid covers the twin monasteries of St. Peter’s in Monkwearmouth and St. Paul’s in Jarrow, both founded in the 7th century. If the bid is eventually successful then the twin sites will be on a par with such places of historical importance as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Forbidden City in China and Egypt’s pyramids.

It’s pretty apt that today was chosen as it’s the festival day for Benedict Biscop, who founded St. Peter’s monastery and church at Monkwearmouth in AD 674. Under his direction, the monastery flourished. St. Paul’s was founded in nearby Jarrow in AD 681 as a sister site to St. Peter’s.

There are many good reasons why St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s deserve this recognition in my opinion!

When having St. Peter’s built, Benedict Biscop employed artisans from all over Europe to work on the buildings. The stained glass windows, created by French glaziers, are thought to have been among the first works in stained glass made in England.

At St. Peter’s you will find the original west wall dating from the 7th century, and even enter the church through the same entrance the monks did when the church and monastery were first built (see above photo, which is from the porch).

After their foundation, the twin monasteries soon became important centres for learning. The libraries at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s are thought to have been among the best in all of Europe.

The Venerable Bede was born nearby to St. Peter’s and began studying there as a young boy. As a man he lived and worked at St. Paul’s. He is known today as ‘the father of British history’ and considered by many to be Britain’s first historian of note.

Other scholarly works were created at the twin monasteries. In the 7th and 8th centuries, books were created and written by hand and excellence in these crafts soon earned the monks a high reputation. St. Peter’s became so renowned that the Pope Gregory II ordered a Bible from the monastery at the end of the 8th century. This Bible, known as the Codex Amiatinus, is the oldest Bible still in existence (it is currently kept at the Laurentian Library in Florence).

I could go on forever about the bid… but I really do hope that the joint bid for World Heritage Status is successful. Aside from the economic benefits the title would bring to my little corner of the world… it would be truly amazing to see it happen.


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