The amiable countenance of Christ and his saints

St Paul's Jarrow, Chancel

The chancel of St Paul's Church in Jarrow, originally the 7th century monastery chapel

St Benedict Biscop (who died on January 12, 690) was founder and Abbot of the Monkwearmouth-Jarrow monastery, where St Bede lived.

From Bede’s account, St Benedict founded his monastery church in line with universal Orthodox practice, as it was prior to the regrettable iconoclastic influence upon Rome of the Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th century, down to an iconostasis at the head of the nave.


IN the first place, he brought back [from Rome] a large quantity of books of all kinds; secondly, a great number of relics of Christ’s Apostles and martyrs, all likely to bring a blessing on many an English church; thirdly, he introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church, by obtaining permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the archchanter of the church of St. Peter, and abbot of the monastery of St. Martin, to teach the English. This John, when he arrived in England, not only communicated instruction by teaching personally, but left behind him numerous writings, which are still preserved in the library of the same monastery.

In the fourth place, Benedict brought with him a thing by no means to be despised, namely, a letter of privilege from Pope Agatho, which he had procured, not only with the consent, but by the request and exhortation, of King Egfrid, and by which the monastery was rendered safe and secure for ever from foreign invasion.

Fifthly, he brought with him pictures of sacred representations, to adorn the church of St. Peter, which he had built; namely, a likeness of the Virgin Mary and of the twelve Apostles, with which he intended to adorn the central nave, on boarding placed from one wall to the other; also some figures from ecclesiastical history for the south wall, and others from the Revelation of St. John for the north wall; so that every one who entered the church, even if they could not read, wherever they turned their eyes, might have before them the amiable countenance of Christ and his saints, though it were but in a picture, and with watchful minds might revolve on the benefits of our Lord’s incarnation, and having before their eyes the perils of the last judgment, might examine their hearts the more strictly on that account.

St Bede, Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow.


THOSE who confess the incarnate presence of God the Word by word, by mouth, in the heart and the mind, by writing and in icons:

May their memory be eternal!

Canon of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy. Translation from Anastasis.