Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of
Saint Peter in York,
commonly known as
York Minster, is the cathedral of York, England, and
is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. The minster is
the seat of the
Archbishop of York, the second-highest office of the
Church of England, and is the mother church for the
Diocese of York
and the Province of York. It is run by a dean and chapter, under
the Dean of York. The title "minster" is attributed to churches
established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches,
and serves now as an honorific title. Services in the minster are
sometimes regarded as on the
High Church or
Anglo-Catholic end of the
The minster has a very wide
Decorated Gothic nave and chapter house, a
Perpendicular Gothic Quire and east end and Early English North and
South transepts. The nave contains the West Window, constructed in
1338, and over the Lady Chapel in the east end is the Great East
Window (finished in 1408), the largest expanse of medieval stained
glass in the world. In the north transept is the Five Sisters Window,
each lancet being over 53 feet (16.3 m) high. The south
transept contains a rose window, while the West Window contains a
heart-shaped design colloquially known as 'The Heart of Yorkshire'.
2 Architecture of the present building
2.1 Stained glass
2.2 Towers and bells
5 Dean and chapter
7 Astronomical clock
York Mystery Plays
10 See also
12 External links
York has had a verifiable Christian presence from the 4th
century. The first recorded church on the site was a
wooden structure built hurriedly in 627 to provide a place to baptise
Edwin, King of Northumbria. Moves toward a more substantial building
began in the decade of the 630s. A stone structure was completed in
637 by Oswald and was dedicated to
Saint Peter. The church soon fell
into disrepair and was dilapidated by 670 when
to the See of York. He repaired and renewed the structure. The
attached school and library were established and by the 8th century
were some of the most substantial in Northern Europe.
In 741 the church was destroyed in a fire. It was rebuilt as a more
impressive structure containing thirty altars. The church and the
entire area then passed through the hands of numerous invaders, and
its history is obscure until the 10th century. There was a series of
Benedictine archbishops, including
Saint Oswald of Worcester, Wulfstan
and Ealdred, who travelled to Westminster to crown William in 1066.
Ealdred died in 1069 and was buried in the church.
The church was damaged in 1069 during William the Conqueror's harrying
of the North, but the first Norman archbishop, Thomas of Bayeux,
arriving in 1070, organised repairs. The Danes destroyed the church in
1075, but it was again rebuilt from 1080. Built in the Norman style,
it was 111 m (364.173 ft) long and rendered in white and red
lines. The new structure was damaged by fire in 1137 but was soon
repaired. The choir and crypt were remodelled in 1154, and a new
chapel was built, all in the Norman style.
The Gothic style in cathedrals had arrived in the mid 12th century.
Walter de Gray
Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered the
construction of a Gothic structure to compare to Canterbury; building
began in 1220. The north and south transepts were the first new
structures; completed in the 1250s, both were built in the Early
English Gothic style but had markedly different wall elevations. A
substantial central tower was also completed, with a wooden spire.
Building continued into the 15th century.
The Chapter House was begun in the 1260s and was completed before
1296. The wide nave was constructed from the 1280s on the Norman
foundations. The outer roof was completed in the 1330s, but the
vaulting was not finished until 1360. Construction then moved on to
the eastern arm and chapels, with the last Norman structure, the
choir, being demolished in the 1390s. Work here finished around 1405.
In 1407 the central tower collapsed; the piers were then reinforced,
and a new tower was built from 1420. The western towers were added
between 1433 and 1472. The cathedral was declared complete and
consecrated in 1472.
The nave of
English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral's
treasures and the loss of much of the church lands. Under Elizabeth I
there was a concerted effort to remove all traces of Roman Catholicism
from the cathedral; there was much destruction of tombs, windows and
altars. In the
English Civil War
English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to the
forces of Cromwell in 1644, but Thomas Fairfax prevented any further
damage to the cathedral.
Following the easing of religious tensions there was some work to
restore the cathedral. From 1730 to 1736 the whole floor of the
minster was relaid in patterned marble and from 1802 there was a major
restoration. However, on 2 February 1829, an arson attack by Jonathan
Martin inflicted heavy damage on the east arm. An accidental fire
in 1840 left the nave, south west tower and south aisle roofless and
blackened shells. The cathedral slumped deeply into debt and in the
1850s services were suspended. From 1858
Augustus Duncombe worked
successfully to revive the cathedral.
During the 20th century there was more concerted preservation work,
especially following a 1967 survey that revealed the building, in
particular the central tower, was close to collapse. £2,000,000 was
raised and spent by 1972 to reinforce and strengthen the building
foundations and roof. During the excavations that were carried out,
remains of the north corner of the Roman Principia (headquarters of
the Roman fort, Eboracum) were found under the south transept. This
area, as well as remains of the Norman cathedral, re-opened to the
public in spring 2013 as part of the new exhibition exploring the
history of the building of
On 9 July 1984, a fire considered "likely" to have been caused by a
lightning strike destroyed the roof in the south transept, and
around £2.5 million was spent on repairs. The fire was
photographed from just south of the minster in the early hours. This
picture was subsequently published showing the South
transept alight with a list of North Yorkshire firefighters attending.
The stations attending ranged from Scarborough to Harrogate. Huge
amounts of water were needed to provide jets at great height to hit
the roof timbers and protect the Rose Window. Most of the water was
pumped from the Ouse nearby because the water supplies around the
minster were inadequate. Fire crews from the main
York fire station in
Clifford Street worked hard to protect the Rose Window and stop the
fire spreading into the tower and organ. Many crews worked for hours
and some were on high levels of the minster at the time when the South
transept roof fell in, forming a pile of timber covering the whole of
the south transept floor to a height of at least six feet. The
restoration work was completed in 1988, and included new roof bosses
to designs which had won a competition organised by
Blue Peter programme. In 2007 renovation began on the east front,
including the Great East Window, at an estimated cost of
There have been choir schools associated with the Minster since the
7th century. A 'song school' was founded in 627 by Paulinus of York,
Archbishop of York. Buildings used by the school have
been awarded listed status, among them the school house built
1830–1833, two houses dating back to 1837, and a Georgian
building of 1755.
Architecture of the present building
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The cruciform plan of
York Minster by Georg Dehio
York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe
and clearly charts the development of English
Gothic architecture from
Early English through to the Perpendicular Period. The present
building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. It has a
cruciform plan with an octagonal chapter house attached to the north
transept, a central tower and two towers at the west front. The stone
used for the building is magnesian limestone, a creamy-white coloured
rock that was quarried in nearby Tadcaster. The Minster is 524.5 feet
(159.9 m) long and the central tower has a height of 235 feet
(72 m). The choir has an interior height of 102 feet
(31 m).
The north and south transepts were the first parts of the new church
to be built. They have simple lancet windows, including the Five
Sisters in the north transept. These are five lancets, each 16.3
metres (53 ft) tall and five feet wide and glazed with grey
(grisaille) glass, rather than narrative scenes or symbolic motifs
that are usually seen in medieval stained glass windows. In the south
transept is a rose window whose glass dates from about 1500 and
commemorates the union of the royal houses of
York and Lancaster. The
roofs of the transepts are of wood, that of the south transept was
burnt in the fire of 1984 and was replaced in the restoration work
which was completed in 1988. New designs were used for the bosses,
five of which were designed by winners of a competition organised by
Blue Peter television programme.
The chapter house
Work began on the chapter house and its vestibule that links it to the
north transept after the transepts were completed. The style of the
chapter house is of the early
Decorated Period where geometric
patterns were used in the tracery of the windows, which were wider
than those of early styles. However, the work was completed before the
appearance of the ogee curve, an S-shaped double curve which was
extensively used at the end of this period. The windows cover almost
all of the upper wall space, filling the chapter house with light. The
chapter house is octagonal, as is the case in many cathedrals, but is
notable in that it has no central column supporting the roof. The
wooden roof, which was of an innovative design, is light enough to be
able to be supported by the buttressed walls. The chapter house has
many sculptured heads above the canopies, representing some of the
finest Gothic sculpture in the country. There are human heads, no two
alike, and some pulling faces; angels; animals and grotesques. Unique
to the transepts and chapter house is the use of Purbeck marble to
adorn the piers, adding to the richness of decoration.
The Kings Screen and organ
The nave was built between 1291 and c. 1350 and is also in the
decorated Gothic style. It is the widest Gothic nave in
has a wooden roof (painted so as to appear like stone) and the aisles
have vaulted stone roofs. At its west end is the Great West Window,
known as the 'Heart of Yorkshire' which features flowing tracery of
the later decorated gothic period.
The east end of the Minster was built between 1361 and 1405 in the
Perpendicular Gothic style. Despite the change in style, noticeable in
details such as the tracery and capitals, the eastern arm preserves
the pattern of the nave. The east end contains a four bay choir; a
second set of transepts, projecting only above half-height; and the
Lady Chapel. The transepts are in line with the high altar and serve
to throw light onto it. Behind the high altar is the Great East
Window, the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world,
which is currently undergoing a massive conservation project, due to
be completed in 2015–16. Below the Great East Window currently sits
the Orb, a stainless steel dome which opened at the end of October
2012, containing five of the conserved panels from the window, one of
which is changed each month. The Orb enables visitors to see the work
of renowned medieval artist, John Thornton, up close, revealing the
remarkable detail in each panel.
The sparsely decorated Central
Tower was built between 1407 and 1472
and is also in the Perpendicular style. Below this, separating the
choir from the crossing and nave is the striking 15th century choir
screen. It contains sculptures of the kings of
England from William
the Conqueror to Henry VI with stone and gilded canopies set against a
red background. Above the screen is the organ, which dates from 1832.
The West Towers, in contrast with the Central Tower, are heavily
decorated and are topped with battlements and eight pinnacles each,
again in the Perpendicular style.
English Heritage has recently made publicly available a monograph
on the architectural history of
York Minster. The book charts the
construction and development of the minster based on the architectural
recording of the building from the 1970s.
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West window of
York Minster (more detail visible in full size image)
York as a whole, and particularly the minster, have a long tradition
of creating beautiful stained glass. Some of the stained glass in York
Minster dates back to the 12th century. The Minster's records show
that much of the glass (white or coloured) came from Germany. Upon
arrival at York, it was intricately painted, fired, then glazed
together with lead strips (came) into the windows. The 76-foot
(23 m) tall Great East Window, created by John
Thornton in the early 15th century, is the largest expanse of medieval
stained glass in the world. Other windows in the minster include an
ornate rose window and the 16.3 metres (53 ft) tall Five
Sisters window. Because of the extended time periods during which the
glass was installed, different types of glazing and painting
techniques which evolved over hundreds of years are visible in the
different windows. Approximately two million individual pieces of
glass make up the cathedral's 128 stained glass windows. Much of the
glass was removed before and pieced back together after the First and
Second World Wars, and the windows are constantly being cleaned and
conserved to keep their beauty intact.
In 2008 a major conservation project of the Great East Window
commenced, involving the removal, repainting and re-leading of each
individual panel. While the window was in storage in the minster's
stonemasons' yard, a fire broke out in some adjoining offices, due to
an electrical fault, on 30 December 2009. The window's 311 panes,
stored in a neighbouring room, were undamaged and were successfully
moved to safety. In September 2015 Phase One of the renovation
project of the East Front of the Minster was completed.
Towers and bells
The two west towers of the minster hold bells, clock chimes and a
concert carillon. The north-west tower contains Great Peter
(216 cwt or 10.8 tons) and the six clock bells (the largest
weighing just over 60 cwt or 3 tons). The south-west tower
holds 14 bells (tenor 59 cwt or 3 tons) hung and rung for
change ringing and 22 carillon bells (tenor 23 cwt or
1.2 tons) which are played from a baton keyboard in the ringing
chamber (all together 35 bells.)
The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and
Great Peter strikes the hour. The change ringing bells are not
currently rung, following the termination of the ringers' volunteer
agreements in October 2016.
York Minster became the first
England to have a carillon of bells with the arrival of a
further twenty-four small bells on 4 April 2008. These are added to
the existing "Nelson Chime" which is chimed to announce Evensong
around 5.00 pm each day, giving a carillon of 35 bells in total (three
chromatic octaves). The new bells were cast at the Loughborough Bell
Foundry of John Taylor & Co, where all of the existing minster
bells were cast. The new carillon is a gift to the minster. It will be
the first new carillon in the
British Isles for 40 years and first
hand played carillon in an English cathedral. Before Evensong each
evening, hymn tunes are played on a baton keyboard connected with the
bells, but occasionally anything from Beethoven to the Beatles may be
The organ on the choir screen
Thomas Becket was murdered and subsequently enshrined at
York found itself with a rival major draw for pilgrims.
More specifically, pilgrims spent money and would leave gifts for the
support of the cathedral. Hence Walter de Gray, supported by the King,
petitioned the Pope. On 18 March 1226, Pope Honorius issued a letter
to the effect that the name of William (Fitzherbert), formerly
Archbishop of York, was "inscribed in the catalogue of the Saints of
the Church Militant." Thus there was now St William of
name is perhaps more often associated with the adjacent St William's
York had its saint but it took until 1279, when William de
Wickwane (William de Wykewayne) was elected archbishop, for the
remains of the canonised William to be transferred to a shrine
prepared for them behind the high altar. This was placed on a
platform raised upon the arches of the crypt removed to this position
for that purpose. On 29 December King Edward I himself, together with
the bishops who were present, carried on their shoulder the chest or
feretory containing the relics to their new resting-place and Anthony
Beck, consecrated the same day as Bishop of Durham, paid all the
The tomb of
Walter de Gray
Walter de Gray was erected in the south transept. His
remains were interred on "the vigil of Pentecost, 1255" under his
effigy "in full canonicals" carved in Purbeck marble under a canopy
resting on ten light pillars. It was subsequently somewhat hidden
behind a screen of ironwork erected by
Archbishop William Markham in
the early 19th century.
The fire of 1829 destroyed the organ and the basis of the present
organ dates from 1832, when Elliot and Hill constructed a new
instrument. This organ was reconstructed in 1859 by William Hill and
Sons. The case remained intact, but the organ was mechanically new,
retaining the largest pipes of the former instrument.
In 1903, J.W. Walker and Sons built a new instrument in the same case.
They retained several registers from the previous instrument.
Some work was undertaken in 1918 by Harrison & Harrison when the
Tuba Mirabilis was added and the Great chorus revised. The same firm
rebuilt this Walker-Harrison instrument in 1931 when a new console and
electro-pneumatic action were added together with four new stops. The
smaller solo tubas were enclosed in the solo box. In 1960, J.W. Walker
& Sons restored the actions, lowered wind pressures and introduced
mutations and higher chorus work in the spirit of the neo-classical
movement. They cleaned the organ in 1982.
The fire of 1984 affected the organ but not irreparably; the damage
hastened the time for a major restoration, which was begun in 1991 and
finished two years later by Principal Pipe Organs of York, under the
direction of their founder, Geoffrey Coffin, who had at one time been
assistant organist at the Minster.
See also: List of musicians at English cathedrals
The organists of
York Minster have had several official titles, the
job description roughly equates to that of Organist and Master of the
Choristers. The current Organist and Director of Music of the Minster
is Robert Sharpe. There is also an Assistant Director of Music, Ben
Among the notable organists of
York Minster are four members of the
Camidge family, who served as the cathedral's organists for over 100
years, and a number of composers including John Naylor, T. Tertius
Noble, Edward Bairstow, Francis Jackson, and Philip Moore.
Dean and chapter
As of 6 January 2018:
Vivienne Faull (since 1 December 2012 installation)
Precentor: Peter Moger (since 12 September 2010 installation)
Pastor: Michael Smith (since 7 July 2013 installation)
Chancellor: Christopher Collingwood (since 15 September 2013
one vacancy, since 1 July 2017 retirement of David Butterfield,
Archdeacon for Generous Giving and Stewardship; before his
appointment, this canonry was the
Archdeacon of York's ex officio.
Bosa of York, Bishop of
Saint (died c. 705)
Osbald, King of
Northumbria (died 799)
Ealdred (archbishop of York)
Ealdred (archbishop of York) (1061–1069)
Thomas of Bayeux,
Thomas II of York,
William of York,
Archbishop (1141–1147, 1153–1154)
Roger de Pont L'Eveque,
Walter de Gray,
Sewal de Bovil, Dean and
John le Romeyn,
Henry of Newark,
Prince William of Hatfield, Infant son of Edward III (1337)
Henry Percy, soldier (1364–1403)
Richard le Scrope,
York (died 1522)
George Meriton, Dean of
Thomas Danby (MP) (1610–1660)
Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, (1730–1782)
John Farr Abbott, barrister (1756–1794)
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
York Minster astronomical clock
The astronomical clock was installed in the North
Transept of York
Minster in 1955. The clock is a memorial to the airmen operating from
bases in Yorkshire,
County Durham and
Northumberland who were killed
in action during the Second World War.
The West Door, illuminated in December 2005
In November 2002,
York Minster was illuminated in colour, devised by
York-born Mark Brayshaw, for the first time in its history. The
occasion was televised live on the BBC1 Look North programme. Similar
illuminations have been projected over the Christmas period in
York Minster was also artistically illuminated on 5 November 2005,
celebrating the 400th anniversary of the foiling of York-born Guy
Fawkes' gunpowder plot. This was done by
Patrice Warrener using his
unique "chromolithe" technique with which he 'paints' with light,
picking out sculpted architectural details.
In October 2010,
York Minster's south transept was selected for
"Rose", a son et lumiere created by international artists Ross Ashton
and Karen Monid which lit up the entire exterior of the south transept
of the minster and illuminated the Rose Window. There were also
satellite illuminate events in Dean's Park.
York Mystery Plays
York Mystery Plays
In 2000, the Dean and Chapter allowed the
York Mystery Plays to be
performed for the first time inside the Minster, directed by Greg
Doran. The Plays returned to the Minster for a second time in
2016, directed by Phillip Breen with
Philip McGinley performing the
role of Jesus.
The Minster School, York
Archbishop's Palace, Bishopthorpe
Architecture of the medieval cathedrals of England
York Minster Police
Medieval Arabic and Western European domes
Dean of York
Old Palace (York): Minster Library and Archives
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Cathedral Church of St Peter,
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(1257261)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 July
York Minster centre for school visits,
York Minster fact sheets, the
great west window
^ Sara N. James, Art in England: The Saxons to the Tudors: 600–1600
(Oxbow books, 2016) page 105
^ Brown, S. (2003)
York Minster: An architectural history c
1220–1500. English Heritage.
^ Gibson, Peter (1979). The Stained and Painted Glass of
Norwich: Jarrold Publishing. pp. 5–6.
^ The ONE Show. 29 January 2008.
York Minster Stoneyard blaze caused by electrical fault". York
Press. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
York Minster fire: medieval stained glass window saved". Daily
Telegraph. 31 December 2009.
^ "Fire crews rescue medieval
York Minster window".
BBC News Online.
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York Minster window gets major renovation".
BBC News. 30 July 2014.
Retrieved 19 September 2015.
^ "Bell ringers update".
York Minster Society of Change Ringers.
Retrieved 15 October 2016.
^ Perraudin, Frances (13 October 2016). "For whom the bell tolls: York
Minster to fall silent as ringers sacked". The Guardian. Retrieved 16
^ Peacock, Alix (4 April 2008). "New Bells for
York Minster". Minster
York Minster. Retrieved 10 August 2009.
^ a b Purey-Cust, A. P. The Very Reverend Dean
York Minster (1897)
Isbister & Co
^ National Pipe Organ Register-
York Minster — College of Canons (Accessed 6 January 2018)
Diocese of Leicester – Installation of Faull as Dean of York
York Press – Moger to take charge of Minster services
^ a b
York Minster — full accounts, 2013 (Accessed 6 January 2018)
^ "50th Anniversary of the Astronomical Clock" (PDF).
York Minster. December 2005. Retrieved 27 July 2008.
^ Archive of Mystery Plays at National Centre for Early Music.
York Mystery Plays review – an epic medieval disaster movie". The
Guardian. 2 June 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
Brown, Sarah (1999). Stained Glass at
York Minster. London: Scala in
association with the Dean and Chapter of York.
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York and the
East Riding (2nd ed.). London: Penguin Books.
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A history of the choristers of
The Guardian Christmas illuminations
Cathedral Church of York, 1899, by A. Clutton-Brock, from Project
Photos and plans
Sound of the chime and photography of
 – "Rose" by Ross Ashton & Karen Monid – "son et lumiere"
Cathedrals of the Church of England
London, St Paul's
Oxford, Christ Church
Newcastle upon Tyne
Deans of York
William of St. Barbara
Robert of Ghent
Simon of Apulia
Roger de Insula
Geoffrey de Norwich
Walter of Kirkham
Sewal de Bovil
Roger de Holderness/Skeffling
Robert de Scarborough
Henry of Newark
Raymond de Goth
William de Colby
Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord
Cardinal Angelicus Grimaud
William Foxley Norris
Churches in York
Medieval parish churches
All Saints, North Street
All Saints, Pavement
Holy Trinity, Goodramgate
Holy Trinity, Micklegate
St Andrew, St Andrewgate
St Crux, Pavement
St Cuthbert, Peasholme Green
St Denys, Walmgate
St Helen, Stonegate
St John, Micklegate
St Lawrence, Lawrence Street
St Margaret, Walmgate
St Martin, Coney Street
St Martin-cum-Gregory, Micklegate
St Mary Bishophill Junior
St Mary, Castlegate
St Michael, Spurriergate
St Michael-le-Belfrey, High Petergate
St Olave's, Marygate
St Sampson, Church Street
St Saviour, St Saviourgate
Other Anglican churches
Christ Church, Stockton Lane
Roman Catholic churches
St George, George Street
St Wilfrid, Duncombe Place
The Ark Church
York Unitarian Chapel
ISNI: 0000 0001 2191 1610