York Minster

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2016

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York Minster is a stunning building both “outside”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/156672-review-york-minster and inside. In fact there is so much to see and admire inside, I have split this into two parts, with the nave, puplitum and transepts described in a “separate review.”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/163081-review-york-minster.

The quire was the last bit of the Minster to be completed between 1361 – 1472, and is Perpendicular. It was used in the Middle Ages by the Minster clergy for services and is still used for “choral evensong.”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/162880-review-york-minster The organ is above the pulpitum separating the quire and nave.

The woodwork in the quire had to be replaced after a disastrous fire caused by arson in 1828. It retains the style of the medieval woodwork with very tall crocketted canopies above the stalls on the back wall. Each of these has a plaque on the back wall with symbols for the saint representing each of the prebendal churches. The candles which are lit for Evensong in the winter months. The Archbishops throne is on the north wall and the pulpit on the south wall.

Steps lead up to the Sanctuary. Behind the high altar is an elaborately carved stone screen.

The Crypt is beneath the high altar and reached from the quire aisles. Its massive vaulted ceiling helps support the sanctuary. It was rebuilt in the C14th using much of the original stone from the Norman crypt. This gives a false impression of its age as the architecture is pure Norman. Round Norman pillars with carved capitals support the rib vaulted ceiling. Each one has a different carving.

At the east end are three modern stone altars. On the wall between the altars is a mid C15th statue of St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read. Next to it is a C12th carving of the Virgin and child which was discovered during the restoration of the quire after the 1829 fire. The damage to the heads is thought to be due to C16th iconoclasts.

The crypt is used for baptism services. The base of the font is C15th. The elaborate cover was designed by Ninian Comper in 1947. Near it is a stone trough or lavatorium was used to wash ceremonial vessels.

The doomstone is a survival from the first Norman Minster. It is a representation of Hell, with lost souls being pushed into a boiling cauldron by devils and demons.

The crypt extends under the quire and central crossing as the undercroft, which is now the exhibition area explaining the 2000 year old history of the site. This contains the simple modern stone altar and shrine to St William of York. The original shrine was destroyed in the Reformation and a fragment of carved stone from it is on display in “Barley Hall.”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/162898-review-barley-hall

The quire aisles were designed to act as an ambulatory, allowing pilgrims to visit the shrine of St William of York behind the altar, when there were services in the quire.

Prince William, the second son of Edward III and Queen Philippa in the north quire aisle is the only Royal tomb in the Minster. Even though the tomb shows a young boy, Prince Edward died in infancy in Hatfield. His head is supported by a tiny angel and his feet rest on a lion. The sprigs of broom on the red background are the badge of the Plantagenets.

On the opposite wall is the tomb of Archbishop Thomas Savage, who was the last archbishop before the Reformation. Above is a chantry chapel, reached from the sanctuary, where masses could be said for his soul.

There are many other splendid tombs of archbishops and other important York families along the walls of both quire aisles.

At the far end of the north aisle is a small exhibition about the repair work on the stained glass windows. One of the glass panels from the Great East window, awaiting restoration, is on display. It shows David slaying Goliath with a stone from his sling and receiving a blessing from the hand of God.

In the past, lead was used to repair any cracks in the glass. This resulted in an increase in the amount of lead making the images more difficult to interpret. This extra lead is being removed, returning the windows to what they were like when first made. Modern techniques use glue to repair the cracks.

At the end of the south aisle is All Saints’ Chapel which is the memorial vault of the Earls of Stafford.

The Great East Window is early C15th and is the largest expanse of Medieval glass in the world. In January 2016, conservation work was still ongoing on the Great East Window. The top part is temporarily filled with plain glass.

There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/north_yorkshire/york/york_1/minster/index.html


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