York Minster

It was a sunny but windy day when we visited York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe.

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The current Gothic-style cathedral was built starting in 1230. But, you can still see the foundations of the older, Norman-style church underneath the building.  Well, unless the lower part was closed for renovations like on the day we visited. Somewhere on that west portico are some tiny little carvings of a Klingon and a Ferengi, put there by modern stonemasons in a personal touch, just as their 13th century forecarvers would have done.

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In the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to the forces of Cromwell in 1644, but Thomas Fairfax (who was a York man) prevented much damage to the cathedral.  The organ base and casing is from 1832 although the organ mechanics are only from 1903 (only!!).

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On 9 July 1984, a fire believed to have been caused by a lightning strike destroyed the roof in the south transept, and around £2.5 million was spent on repairs. Restoration work was completed in 1988, and included new roof bosses (the bits where the beams join) to designs from children via a competition organised by BBC Television’s Blue Peter programme (a kid’s show).  This boss has some children looking into a well with a rabbit. I think it is taken from one of the beatitudes.  At least  I think that’s what our guide said. The rose window was also under restoration and the workers were making a lot of noise.

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The Five Sisters window in the north transept made of five lancets, each 16 metres (52 ft) high and glazed with grey glass, rather than narrative scenes or symbolic motifs that are usually seen in medieval stained glass windows.  Til I learned this, I thought it was just really dirty.

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A view of the south transept ceiling and my good friend and traveling companion, Cat. To avoid having to give everyone complimentary neck massages on the way out, there was a mirror placed so you could look up while looking down. Beautiful church and beautiful friend in one shot.

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Behind the high altar is the Great East Window which tells the story of Genesis and is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. Which would have been amazing to see but it’s currently undergoing a massive conservation project.  Instead, it was covered by the largest expanse of painted plastic in the world. Below the Great East Window currently sits The Orb, a stainless steel dome containing five of the conserved panels from the window, one of which is changed each month. We did get to see the Orb and thus to see some of the stained glass panels from the Great East Window up close.

A picture of before the restoration of the panel showing St. John being told by an angel to write to the seven churches of Asia.

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And the actual glass panel post-restoration. I never really realized how the glass was painted until I saw it up close.  New epoxies have allowed the glaziers to remove many of the lead lines which were holding pieces of glass together. This makes for a clearer picture.

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The Chapter House (this one built starting in 1260) is my favourite part of a Cathedral (if I’m allowed to play favourites). The Chapter House is where the priests met each morning to hear a chapter read. They are usually round, which makes for a great space and really funky acoustics. Each priest has his own chair round the outside and you can whisper and still hear all round the circle. No gossiping for the priests!! The ceilings are always amazing, as are the floor tiles. I think I’d rather hang out in the cozy Chapter House than the big drafty Cathedral!

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My trusty red walking shoes in the Chapter House.  An eight-pointed sword star and blue X marks my spot.

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2 thoughts on “York Minster

  1. Pingback: York | A Fish and a Bicycle

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