St. Peter's Church – Sunderland, England - Atlas Obscura

St. Peter's Church

One of England's oldest stone churches and the birthplace of the "father of English history." 


St. Peter’s is an Anglo-Saxon church located in Monthwearmouth, Sunderland, that was first built in 674 CE by the local noble Benedict Biscop. To this day, the original porch and west wall of the church remain standing, complete with various stone carvings.

The church was both the birthplace and main work location of one of the United Kingdom’s greatest scholars, the Venerable Saint Bede. Although a keen author, teacher, and scholar, Bede is most well-known for writing The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731 CE. The manuscript earned him the unofficial title of “the father of English history.”

The old stone church—it’s one of the oldest stone churches in England—has its own long, battered history. Viking raiders first sacked Stm Peter’s Church in 794 CE. Various other raids were carried out over the next hundred years. The Danes who settled in Northumbria and started the Daneland attacked the church around 860 CE, causing much of it to fall to rubble. It is believed this is the main reason only a single wall and the porch of the original church remain standing today.

Due to constant harassment from Viking raiders, the church was initially abandoned around 874 CE. It was finally restored in 1875.

Today, the church makes up one of the three churches of the Parish of Monkwearmouth. The grounds of the church received a major overhaul in 2015 to better show the size of the site back when it was initially constructed. The stained glass windows were also fully replaced in 2016 to better show the works completed by the Venerable Saint Bede while living at the church.

Know Before You Go

Guided tours are available Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday tours must be pre-booked and tours are not offered on Sundays. If you can't visit in-person, you can take a virtual tour of the old church via Google Maps.

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