Benedict Biscop

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Benedict Biscop (628–c.690) at 25 left his position at Oswiu's Northumbrian court to undertake the first of several pilgrimages to Rome. Twenty years later, after becoming a monk at Lerins (near Cannes), accompanying Archbishop Theodore from Rome to Canterbury, and spending two years supervising the monastery there, he returned to Northumbria, founding the twin monasteries of Monkwearmouth (674) and Jarrow (681/2). He imported stonemasons and glaziers from Gaul, on his frequent travels he collected books, relics, pictures, and other ‘spiritual treasures’, and not least brought John the arch-cantor from Rome to teach Roman monastic office. Concerned to establish not only a centre of learning, but also a stable, obedient order, his rule, with Benedictine overtones, combined the best of seventeen monasteries observed on his travels. Enriched by his own experiences of Mediterranean culture and monasticism, the foundations became centres of intellectual achievement, notably producing the saint and historian Bede.

Audrey MacDonald

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