A seventh-century epigraph, written in abbreviated Latin and nowadays walled above the western entrance of the junction between the Victorian nave and the chancel, states that the basilica of St Paul was dedicated nine days before the Kalends of May, in the fifteenth year of Ecgfrith’s kingdom and when Ceolfrid, who founded the church, had been abbot for four years.
Although Bede describes St Peter in Wearmouth and St Paul in Jarrow as “one monastery in two places”, recent research suggests that they were founded separately and later administratively conjoined. While St Peter in Wearmouth was founded by a former royal minister – Benedict Biscop – on a land given to him for this purpose by the king of Northumbria, it seems that the foundation of St Paul in Jarrow by abbot Ceofrid occurred directly on a royal estate. St Paul is not far from South Shields, which was probably the site of an early medieval royal villa. Petrographic analyses and Historic Landscape Characterisation (HCL) have recently shown that the stonework reused in the 7th century masonry of the church is likely to come from the Roman fort of Arbeia, not far from South Shield and within the territory that must have been administered directly by the king of Northumbria. The close involvement of the king in the foundation of St Paul is also suggested by the fact that Ecgfrith himself is said to have personally marked the site of the altar.