St Peters District - History
St Peter's, Monkwearmouth is one of the oldest churches in Britain, where Christians have gathered for more than 1300 years. This is a place of worship and prayer, ministry and mission.
St Peterís was built in 674AD by Benedict Biscop, a pioneering monk who was given a grant of land by the Northumbrian King, Egfrith. Benedict built an important complex of church and monastic buildings in the Roman style, probably on the site of a settlement founded by Hilda of Whitby. Glaziers from Gaul (France) created the windows for Benedictís church establishing Monkwearmouth as the birthplace of British stained glass.
Benedict's work was continued and expanded by his successor Ceolfrid, the second Abbot. Ceolfrid expanded the library and supervised the making of three copies of the Latin Bible, one of which, the Codex Amiatinus, survives today in Florence, and is the oldest complete manuscript of the whole Bible.
Ceolfridís pupil Bede began his monastic life here at the age of 7. Bede grew up to be a gifted writer and he recounted the early history of St Peter's and of our sister church of St Paul at Jarrow in his Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow. His History of the English Church and People is a unique account of life in 7th century Saxon Britain.
St Peter's Church today
St Peter's was originally built as part of a monastery, but it is now a parish church. Much of the interior dates from a major restoration carried out in the 1870s, though medieval stonework is visible at the south side of the chancel arch. Following an arson attack in 1984, there were more changes during which the nave sanctuary and exhibition area were built, the chancel ceiling was repainted, and a fine Copeman-Hart organ was installed.
At the heart of the church is the nave altar, where people gather every Sunday to celebrate the eucharist. Either side of the altar are the lectern and pulpit from which the bible is read and preached. The colourful kneelers in the pews and stalls were stitched by members of the congregation after the 1984 fire; many of the designs reflect the life of the local community and other Christian themes.
At the north-west door stands the font where we are received by baptism as members of Christís Church. Carved from local Frosterley marble, the symbols are associated with St Peter, of whom Jesus said, 'the rock on which I shall build my churchí. These words and symbols also decorate the chancel ceiling. The chancel was originally a separate chapel, and is now used for midweek services and as a quiet place for private prayer, where the Sacrament is reserved.