St Benedict Biscop

St Benedict Biscop

Image of St. Benedict Biscop reproduced by kind permission of © Nash Ford Publishing

St Benedict Biscop ( c628-690) was a Northumbrian nobleman who embraced Christianity in the seventh century. Very well connected at the English Court, he used his influence and his wealth to promote Christian learning in the North East.

A follower of the great St Benedict who is often thought of as the founder of monasticism, he founded two great abbeys in the North East, one in Sunderland and one in Jarrow. St Benedict was a great scholar who brought books, music, paintings and stained glass back from his journeys to Rome to adorn his churches. Immensely influential, he was partly responsible for the English Church adopting Roman practice after the synod of Whitby in 664. St Benedict Biscop’s most famous pupil was the Venerable Bede, the father of English historians. Bede wrote one of the first English biographies of his mentor in his history of the Abbots of Wearmouth.and Jarrow.

Bede wrote

“Benedict Biscop, a devout follower of Christ, inspired by grace from on high founded a monastery in honour of the most blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, on the north bank of the Wear, towards the mouth of the river, with the help of the venerable and holy king Egfrid who donated the land for it.”

“He (Benedict) brought back many holy pictures of the saints to adorn the church of St Peter he had built: a painting of the Mother of God, the blessed Mary, ever virgin, and one of each of the twelve apostles which he fixed round the central arch on a wooden entablature reaching from wall to wall: pictures of incidents in the gospels with which he decorated the south wall, and scenes from St John’s vision of the Apocalypse for the north wall. Thus all who entered the church, even those who could no read, were able, whichever way they looked to contemplate the dear face of Christ and his saints.”