It was a wet morning in York and although we’d planned on visiting the Minister the following day, we knew the entrance fee provided unlimited visits for a year and decided to shelter from the rain. The guy on the entrance joked he’d heard it was the biggest umbrella in York.
Having paid our entrance fee of £11 and bought a £2.50 mini booklet, we were told that the free 10.30am tour was starting. 15 of us were ably led by an elderly volunteer who was both amusing and informative whilst managing to navigate an iPad to show us close up photos of images too high on the wall or ceiling to see properly. She was a former teacher and her voice was loud and clear. It was here we established the difference between a minster and a cathedral.
Following our taster tour, we visited the next day and spent another 2 hours at our own pace finishing with Holy Communion in the Lady Chapel.
It’s a majestic place with lots of detail but I had a few favourite things. The 12 semaphore saints: six headless saints either side of the Great West Doors. They all depicted a letter of the alphabet and with the aid of a crib sheet found they were saying ‘Christ is here’. Having seen a golden dragon head high in the roof the previous day, we struggled to find it again, and had to ask. It was thought to be part of a mechanism for raising a heavy lid and we were told, there was twice as much obscured as there was on show and that is was made from a single beam.
There was an extensive exhibition in the undercroft which told how in the 1960s the minster was in danger of collapsing and so the stone pillars were ringed with concrete and bolts.
The stained glass is magnificent and the rose window, destroyed in 1984 by fire but painstakingly restored, was a glorious finish. On the iPad we saw the bosses in detail, six of which had been designed by Blue Peter viewers following a competition which 35,000 children entered.
As this was the end of November, we watched a group of young school children rehearse their nativity play in the Chapter House and the University brass band practise their Christmas carols.
The exit was via the shop with its usual array of gifts both religious and/or tacky.