St Martin’s Church

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Things to do


Date of travel

April, 2015

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The C15th church of St Martin was destroyed during a Baedeker raid on York in 1942. Only the tower and part of the south wall survived. The rest was reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble. The church was rebuilt in the 1960s on a much smaller scale and, when re-hallowed, was dedicated to peace and reconciliation, serving as “a shrine to all who died in the two world wars, a chapel of peace and reconciliation between nations and men”. The organ at the back of the church was a gift from the German Government and there is a memorial to all the people who died in the 1942 raids, including German airmen.

The church has been reconstructed from the south aisle. The rest of the building was left as a shell, open to the sky. The double sided clock overhanging the street dating from 1668 survived the raid. On the top is the C18th figure of the ‘Little Admiral’ taking a sighting of the sun with his sextant.

The restoration work has maintained the fabric of the tower, south porch and south wall with their balustrade and crocketed pinnacles.

The inside is considered to be one of the most successful post-war restorations in the country, successfully combining C15th and modern design. It is a small church, occupying the area of the original south aisle. An arcade with pointed arches separates a tiny north aisle, with a windowless wall.

On the 70th Anniversary of the bombing, St Martin’s joined the Community of the Cross of Nails. On one of the pillars is a nail cross, a replica of that made from Medieval nails of the bombed Coventry cathedral.

At the back of the nave is the Medieval font with its gilded cover dating from 1717.

At the back of the north wall is the original C15th stained glass window. For safety, this had been removed from the church at the start of the Second World War and has been reinstated in the church. It is considered as one of the finest examples of C15th glass in the country and is beautiful with the light shining on it. It depicts the story of St Martin de Tours.

The wood ceiling is painted a vivid blue with gold or green painted ribs and gilded bosses.

On the walls are monuments from the Medieval church. The splendid alabaster monument monument is that of Sir William Sheffield who died in 1617 and his wife Elizabeth. High on the wall near the altar is the monument to Robert Horsfield, Sheriff of York. Propped up on the floor is a small brass effigy of Christopher Harrington rescued from the floor of the bombed church. On the south wall, still in its original position is a monument to John Kendall, with a regilded angel at the bottom.

The church furniture is modern and specially designed for the church. The reredos is aluminium painted with gold and is a modern interpretation of the Last Supper. It glows when the sunlight catches it. Above, is the east window, a blaze of colour depicting the church burning.

This is a very different church and almost a surprise on the first visit. It is necessary to understand something of the history of the church to appreciate it fully. The church is open daily.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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