The twin Anglo-Saxon monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow has been named as the UK's nomination for World Heritage Site status in 2009.
St Paul's Church in Jarrow is part of the monastery site
The site was home to the Venerable Bede in the 7th and 8th Centuries and one of the most influential cultural institutions in the western world.
The government nomination may see the site become the North East's third UNESCO World Heritage Site by 2010.
Hadrian's Wall and Durham Cathedral and Castle are already recognised sites.
The community of Wearmouth-Jarrow, described by Bede as "one monastery in two places", was the creation of 7th Century Northumberland nobleman Benedict Biscop.
The churches of St Peter, Monkwearmouth, in Sunderland, and St Paul, Jarrow, in South Tyneside, still contain parts of Benedict Biscop's original buildings, and would form the centre of the proposed Heritage Site.
Benedict Biscop created the communities of Wearmouth-Jarrow
A heritage centre called Bede's World already exists in Jarrow.
A campaign to achieve World Heritage Status was launched in 2002 by the Wearmouth-Jarrow Partnership.
The Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, said: "The partnership is delighted that the sites, which embody Bede's lasting contribution to learning and culture, will be recognised in this way."
Keith Merrin, director of Bede's World, added: "Inscription as a World Heritage Site and the work that will go on over the next four years towards that day will ensure that many more people are encouraged to visit and enjoy Wearmouth-Jarrow."
Paul Waggott, leader of South Tyneside Council said: "This is fantastic news not only for Jarrow and Wearmouth, but for north east as a whole."
The leader of Sunderland Council, Bob Symonds said: "As an influential centre of learning, the twin monastery Wearmouth-Jarrow was the Oxford and Cambridge of its time and its legacy lives on to this day."