Benedict Biscop

Benedict Biscop

Benedict Biscop, c.628-690, English monk. He founded the monasteries of Wearmouth (at Sunderland) and Jarrow, and he was abbot of St. Peter's, Canterbury. Bede was his pupil.

Benedict Biscop (c. 628 - 690) (also known as Biscop Baducing) was an Anglo-Saxon abbot and founder of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory.


Early career

He was born of a good Northumbrian family and was for a time a thegn of King Oswiu.

At the age of 25, Benedict made the first of five trips to Rome, accompanying his friend Saint Wilfrid the Elder. However, Wilfrid was detained in Lyon en route to Rome. Benedict completed the journey on his own and, when he returned to England, he was "full of fervour and enthusiasm ... for the good of the English Church.

He made a second journey to Rome twelve years later, this time accompanied by Alchfrith of Deira, a son of King Oswiu. On this trip, he met Acca and Wilfrid. On his return journey to England, Benedict stopped at Lérins, an island off the French coast in the Mediterranean. During his two year stay there, from 665 to 667, he underwent a course of instruction, taking monastic vows and the name of "Benedict".

Following the two years in Lérins, he made his third trip to Rome. At this time, he was commissioned by the pope to accompany Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus back from Rome to Canterbury in 669. On their return, Benedict was appointed abbot of SS. Peter and Paul's, Canterbury, by Archbishop Theodore, a role he held for two years.


King Egfrith granted Benedict land in 674 for the purpose of building a monastery. He went to the Continent to bring back masons who could build a monastery in the Romanesque style. Benedict made his fifth and final trip to Rome in 679 to bring back books for a library, saintly relics, stonemasons, glaziers, and a grant from Pope Agatho granting his monastery certain privileges. Benedict made five overseas voyages in all to stock the library.

In 682, Benedict appointed Easterwine as his coadjutor and the King was so delighted at the success of St Peter's, he gave him more land in Jarrow and urged him to build a second monastery. Benedict erected a sister foundation (St Paul) at Jarrow. He appointed Ceolfrid as the superior, who left Wearmouth with 20 monks (including his protege the young Bede) to start the foundation in Jarrow. Bede, one of Benedict's pupils, tells us that he brought builders and glass-workers from Francia to erect the buildings in stone.

His idea was to build a model monastery for England, sharing his knowledge of the experience of the Catholic Church in Europe. It was the first ecclesial building to be built in stone, and the use of glass was a novelty for many in 7th-century England. It eventually possessed what was a large library for the time – several hundred volumes – and it was here that Benedict's student St Bede wrote his famous works. The library became world-famous, and manuscripts that had been copied there became prized possessions throughout Europe.


For the last three years of his life, Benedict was bed-ridden. He suffered his affliction with great patience and faith. He died on 12 January, 690.


In his life time he had seen the Church change from being divided between the Roman and Celtic Churches and threatened by a resurgent paganism, to becoming a strong united and growing Roman Catholic Church, united with the worldwide church. His monastery was the jewel in the crown, under the direct patronage of the Pope and ushered in a Golden Era for Christianity in England. He is recognized as a saint by the Christian Church, which holds his feast day on 12 January.

St. Benet Biscop Catholic High School

He is the patron saint of St Benet Biscop Catholic High School, a highly successful Catholic school in the Northumbrian town of Bedlington. In 2006 the school was named one of only a select number of schools to gain Business and Enterprise College status sponsored by the Co-operative group. The school boasts a large stained glass window in its foyer, depicting St. Benedict Biscop, his teachings and different aspects of the school's ethos.



  • Catholic Online
  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.
  • Bede's World guidebook, 2004
  • AVCeol: Anonymous, "Life of Abbot Ceolfrith" in Webb & Farmer (eds), The Age of Bede. London: Penguin, 1983. ISBN 0-14-044727-X
  • Blair, Peter Hunter, The World of Bede. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. ISBN 0-521-39138-5.
  • St. Benedict Biscop (AD 628-689) at Britannia
  • Benedict Biscop at Catholic Forum
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