Please rotate your device

Foundation of the First Abbey

655AD

Information

A monastery was founded on the current Cathedral site on the north bank of the River Nene in Saxon times. At that time the area was called Medeswell, later Medehamstede. This translates as 'the home or farmstead in the water meadows'. The monastery was founded by Peada, son of King Penda of Mercia. It was completed by Peada’s brother Wulfhere. At that time Mercia was a pagan Saxon kingdom, but as part of a marriage contract with neighbouring Christian Northumbria, Christian missionaries were allowed to found a religious house here. The original monastery may have been built of timber, but seems to have been later replaced in stone. These original monks were Celtic Christians.





The Arm of St Oswald

1000

Information

A monk from Peterborough Abbey stole the arm of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and took it to his abbot at Peterborough in an effort to gain favour. Oswald was a convert to Christianity and King of Northumbria from 634 to 642. He spent much of his early life in exile, but when he returned to fight for his throne, he raised a cross and prayed for victory. Oswald won the battle and ruled as king of Northumbria until his death. While Oswald was king, he became known for his piety and generosity. During the celebration of an Easter feast, he supposedly gave away all the silver plates along with the food to the poor. The chronicles say his chaplain; Bishop Aidan blessed Oswald, saying “may this arm that has been so generous never perish”. When Oswald died in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, his arm was taken to Bamburgh where it remained uncorrupted. The arm remained the primary relic of Peterborough and the chapel of St Oswald still has a watch-tower where the monks safeguarded it day and night. St. Oswald’s arm disappeared from the chapel during the reformation along with its silver casket.    





Resources

Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

Information

King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





Resources

Death of St Kyneburgha

680AD

Information

Saint Kyneburgha or Kyneburga was the daughter of Saxon King Penda of Mercia. She converted to Christianity and founded an abbey for both monks and nuns in Castor in the 7th century, becoming the first Abbess. She died 15th September 680 AD and was originally buried in Castor. She was moved to Peterborough Abbey and later still to Thorney Abbey and is remembered on her feast day on 6th March.





Saint Pega Dies

719

Information

Saint Pega was the sister of Saint Guthlac of Crowland Abbey and the daughter of Mercian nobility. Her name is remembered in the village of Peakirk, or Pega's kirk, an earlier word for church. Pega created a hermitage in what is now Peakirk. The hermitage was based on the edge of the desolate fens, close to Car Dyke. From here she could guarantee a quieter life and one full of many challenges due to the boggy fens. The church of Saint Pega was built after her life, but contains the base of a Saxon cross. It also contains fragments of a monument similar to the Hedda Stone in Peterborough Cathedral. These were said to have been created in her honour. She was said to have sailed to her brother's funeral in Crowland, along the river Welland. Whilst there she cured a blind man from Wisbech. Sometime after the funeral Pega travelled to Rome. She died there in 719. It is rumoured that Pega's heart was returned to the village and kept in a box there as a relic. Her saints day in 8th January. Picture attribution: John Salmon / St Pega, Peakirk - Stained glass window