Experts say Sunderland church not worthy of World Heritage Status

St Peter's Church
St Peter's Church
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A LANDMARK bid to put Sunderland on the world tourist map could be thrown out, it was revealed today.

The bid has suffered a major blow after an influential committee recommended refusing World Heritage Site status to the twin monastic site of Wearmouth-Jarrow.

A successful bid would put the site, which includes St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, on the same historical footing as such famous attractions as the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China.

Now the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), the body responsible for evaluating World Heritage nominations, has come out against the bid, following a visit to the dual site.

Rejection of the bid would be a huge setback, following a decade of campaigning led by the Wearmouth-Jarrow Partnership under its chairman the Bishop of Jarrow, The Rt Rev Mark Bryant.

Bishop Bryant said: “We will be looking at the report in more detail and consulting with English Heritage and the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) to decide on the implications for the nomination.”

Icomos claims the bid failed to show the full intellectual significance of the work of medieval scholar the Venerable Bede, known as the Father of English History, and the historic significance of the Wearmouth-Jarrow site, split between St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church, Jarrow.

Experts also say the site’s monastic ruins are not “peak examples” of such remains across Northern Europe.

The report’s findings will be considered this summer by officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), with a final decision expected to be made during the World Heritage Committee’s annual meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, between June 24 and July 6.

The assessment by Icomos bluntly concludes: “Icomos recommends that the Twin Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow, United Kingdom, should not be inscribed on the World Heritage List.”

Heritage officials were unconvinced after inspecting the site in September.

A spokesman said: “Icomos considers that the material above and the below-ground remains are too limited to convey the Outstanding Universal Value proposed and that they cannot be proven unique or exceptional without further investigation of other 7th century monastic sites with high archaeological potential.

“Icomos, as a result of the scarcity of remains, also considers that the conditions of integrity and authenticity have not been met for the physical features of the twin monastery.”

A spokesman added: “Icomos further considers that the proposed Outstanding Universal Value of Wearmouth-Jarrow as a tangible manifestation of an exceptional centre of intellectual endeavour in the early Middle Ages, uniquely documented in the writings of the Venerable Bede, could not be justified in the context of the World Heritage Convention.”

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