Saturday, 10 December 2011

York Minster

The York Minster posting is so large that I'm doing it in two pieces, this being the first.

And a view of the Minster at night. (I was on a Ghost Walk and the Minster was our starting point....pretty, I thought)

This is the last cathedral posting - having done Worcester, Gloucester, Durham, Lincoln before this one.

York Minster is a very beautiful place. Like Lincoln, you have to pay to get in. The ticket lasts a year so you can go back as many times as you wish within that time; if I lived closer I most definitely would!

Why's it called a Minster?  Yes, it is a cathedral  (cathedra, and hence cathedral,  being an old word for the seat of the Bishop, in this case the Archbishop of York). It was built at the end of the Roman empire as a centre for the Christian faith in the north of England. Minster (from the Saxon word mynster, simply means a mission church. So it's three things; a church (a christian place of worship), a Minster, (a missionary church) and a cathedral (the seat of a bishop and mother ship to the local diocese!)

I recommend you take advantage of the frequent free tours on offer as you find out so much more than if you would by reading the leaflets or wandering around on your own. I was highly amused.

The Minster is built from magnesium limestone, and is the largest gothic church this side of the Alps, measuring 150 yards by 28 yards.

It has 128 stained glass windows, which need to be cleaned and re-leaded every 80 years. It takes 2 years to remove a window and 22 years to clean and put back in, so you can see they need a lot of looking after - hence the entrance fee I guess.

 Much of the cathedral is built out of wood, which means that it burns quite well and there have been a number of fires. In 1840 a candle started a fire and destroyed the roof of the nave (right) which had to be replaced. They tried to restore it to the original condition and did quite a good job except that there is a carving of a baby being bottle fed on one of the bosses!

If you look carefully at this photo on the left, about half way down above the right hand arch, you can see something sticking out into the Nave. This is a golden dragon's head but no one is quite sure why it's there - probably part of a mechanism for raising a heavy lid probably over the font or some reliquary long gone.

There is also a memorial to William Wilberforce in the nave. He was a Yorkshireman who led the fight for the abolition of slavery.

At the far end of the nave is the Quire. (Quire/Choir?? Quire is the place, and the Choir are the singers that sing in the Quire) It's slightly askew to the Nave because of a mistake by the medieval builders. It's still standing though, so no harm done.

 In 1829 another fire destroyed the roof and most of the woodwork in the quire, including the organ. It was rebuilt, recreating the medieval and is a most wonderous thing.  The organ has over 4,000 pipes which if laid end to end would stretch for over 4.5 miles.

The fire was started on purpose by Johnathan Martin, who spent the rest of his life in an asylum.

These rows of seats (right) are the quire stalls. They have symbols on the back of each seat which represent the various parishes in the north of England.
 The organ above the quire stalls.

This is the cathedra, or throne, of the Archbishop of York. The quire also contains 267 memorials.

Another York Minster posting soon.


  1. I have never known the difference between a Minster and a Cathedral so I am wiser now. I shall have to go into the Minster next time I go to York, it's been years since I went in. I shall look forward to your next post :-)

  2. Yay! I'm from York and I don't know the difference between a Minster and a Cathederal I'm not quite sure why I correct people when they call it York Cathederal!!