A LEADING clergyman has his “fingers crossed” that a bid to put Sunderland on the world tourist map will win approval.
A successful World Heritage Site application would see the twin monastic site of Wearmouth-Jarrow placed on the same historical footing as the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China.
A decision on the bid, which could give a major tourism boost to the area, is expected to be announced this summer by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
The focal point of the project is the famous medieval saint and scholar, the Venerable Bede, known as the Father of English History, who studied and prayed at the monastic site of St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth.
The Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, who is also chairman of the Wearmouth-Jarrow partnership, which is spearheading the bid, said: “The process of the World Heritage Site bid for Wearmouth-Jarrow has been an amazing partnership effort.
“A wide variety of people have shown great commitment and enthusiasm for it, from St Peter and St Paul’s churches, Sunderland and South Tyneside Councils and other partner venues, to the countless people on the ground, who, on a day-to-day basis, care for these two wonderful sites in the midst of our communities.
“I think it is true to say that we honestly believe we have given this our very best shot, and we are now sitting waiting with fingers crossed for the outcome of the deliberations about our site, the result of which we hope to hear in July.”
In February, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester, backed the bid during a visit to St Paul’s Church and nearby Bede’s World museum, both in Church Bank, Jarrow, where Bede once lived and studied, 1,300 years ago.
Last September, an assessor from the International Council for Monuments and Sites, the specialist body responsible for evaluating World Heritage nominations, visited the dual monastic bid.
A final decision on the bid is expected to be made during the World Heritage Committee’s annual meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, between June 24 and July 6.