All Saints Church North Street

1128 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

July, 2016

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On your own

Reasons for trip

This is one of York’s undiscovered gems. Tucked away across the river from the main attractions of York, you wouldn’t know there was a church here if it wasn’t for the top of the steeple peeping above the buildings. For a parish church, this has the best collection of stained glass in York, if not the country.

There has been a church here since before the Norman Conquest, and the nave is narrow compared with the side aisles, suggesting a Saxon origin. The present building dates from the C12th. The arcades date from the C13th when the side aisles were added with their end chapels. The chancel was rebuilt in the C14th when the urban elite started to build large houses in the parish. The stained glass dates from the C14th or C15th, when larger windows replaced the original narrow lancet windows. The nave was extended to the west and the tower and spire were added. The angel ceilings were installed in the C15th. The church was restored in the C19th and most of the church furniture, apart from the pulpit are early C20th.

The main reason for visiting the church is for the glass, but it is actually a rather nice unspoilt Medieval church. An arcade separates the north and south aisles. The eastern most of the nave pillars are the original Norman round pillars. Those at the west end are from the C14th extension and are octagonal.

The carved wooden screens around the chancel are early C20th. The rood came from the now redundant “St Sampson’s Church.”: This has the figures of the Virgin Mary and St John on either side of the Crucified Christ with carved wooden angels.

The C15th painted chancel ceiling is a splendid painted hammer beam ceiling with angels playing musical instruments at the ends of the beams. The side aisles have unpainted angel hammer beam ceilings. In the chancel is the rector’s stall with a misericord dated to 1472.

The pulpit in the north aisle dates from 1675 and is all that remains of the three decker pulpit which would have sat in the centre of the church. The panels have paintings of the Virtues.

The most impressive part of the church are the stained glass windows. There is information about the windows in the church and a small guide book for sale.

The first window in the north aisle is the shields window. The shields date from the C15th.

Next to it is the Thomas window dating from 1410. On the left is the apostle, Doubting Thomas. In the centre is Christ showing Thomas his wounds.

Beyond this is the ‘Corporal Acts of Mercy’ window from 1410. Jesus teaches that people are judged on their acts of mercy towards the needy. The middle two rows of the window illustrate the six corporal acts – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and bringing relief to prisoners.

Next to it is the 1410 ‘Pricke of Conscience ‘ window which illustrates a popular devotional poem of 1340. It depicts the last fifteen days of the world. It is a call to repentance. In the top two lights redeemed souls are being lad into Heaven by St Peter, while the dammed are being taken to Hell.

The window in the Lady Chapel at the end of the north aisle dates from 1330 and is the earliest window in the church. It was originally the east window above the high altar with its figure of Christ Crucified in the centre. The panels tell the Christian story of salvation.

The great east window above the high altar dates from 1410 and was given by the Blackburn family who can be seen kneeling at the bottom. On the left is John the Baptist. In the centre is St Anne teaching the young Virgin Mary to read. On the right is St Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his shoulders.

The window at the end of the south aisle was originally placed here in 1350 but much of it was repaired in the C19th. At the top are the Virgin Mary and St John with the Crucified Christ. at the centre bottom is the figure of Christ with the cup of sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. On either side are kneeling figures of the donors.

The eastern most window in the south aisle is from 1430 and has St Michael and St John. St Michael on the left is defeating Satan, represented as a blue animal with three heads. His face was stolen in 1842 and has been replaced by a piece of clear glass. On the right is St John. He is holding a palm in his hand. Our Lady on her death bed was given it by an angel and told that it be given to St John to carry before her coffin.

Next to this is the Nine Orders of Angels window. Until 1965 this was very fragmented and no-one knew what it was meant to represent. The sketchbooks of an antiquarian called Henry Johnston were found in the Bodlean Library in Oxford. He had visited York in 1670 and made sketches of many of the stained glass windows including this one. It depicts the nine orders of angels as described by a C5th writer. The window was carefully restored using the sketch. If a piece of glass was missing, it was replaced by a piece of modern glass.

The last window in the south aisle is the 1410 St James window. On the left is St James as a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela. In the middle is the Virgin and Child. On the right is the kneeling figure of an archbishop. He is saying Mass. Above him is the image of Christ accompanied by four angels. The incomplete description beneath him is the only surviving indulgence in an English stained glass window.

The west window contains panels made up from fragments found lying around the church. It was placed here in 1977.

The church is open daily between 10am- 5pm (3pm in winter). It is well worth finding. Chances are you will also have it to yourself. The post code is YO1 6JD and the grid reference is SE 601517.

There are more pictures, especially of the windows “here.”:


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