The first monastery on Lindisfarne was established in the 7th century AD by St Aidan. St Cuthbert was buried here at the end of the century; his remains were later moved to Durham. A new monastery was founded from Durham in the early 12th century.
The west front of the church contained two towers (the southern one remains). The inside face of the west front shows the traces of the vaulting that covered the nave of the church, a feature that recalls Durham.
At the top of the front are arrowloops that were constructed to defend the priory from attack during the border wars with Scotland.
The present parish church of St Mary was built to the west of the priory church and dates to the 13th century.