York Minster is an imposing Anglican Gothic cathedral in York,
northern England. It is the seat of the Archbishop of York, and
cathedral for the Diocese of York.
It has a very wide Decorated Gothic nave and chapter house, a
Perpendicular Gothic choir and east end, and Early English north
and south transepts. The nave contains the West Window, constructed
in 1338, and the Great East Window (finished in 1408) over the
Lady Chapel in the east end. In the north transept is the Five
Sisters Window, each lancet being over 16 metres high. The organ
in the choir has been destroyed by fire on two occasions; the
current device dates from 1829 and was substantially restored
* 1 History
* 2 The Towers and Bells
* 3 See also
* 4 External link
York has had a Christian presence from the 300s. The first 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 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 Saint Wilfred ascended to the see of York; he put in place
efforts to repair and renew 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,
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, but the first Norman archbishop,
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 365 feet 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.
Gothic style in cathedrals had arrived in the mid 12th century.
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 walls. A substantial central
tower was also completed, with a wooden spire. Building continued
into the 15th century. The Chapter House was completed in the
1260s. 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. In 1407 the central
tower collapsed; the piers were then reinforced, and a new tower
was built from 1420. The cathedral was declared complete in 1472.
The Reformation led to the first Protestant archbishop, 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 Catholicism from the cathedral; there
was much destruction of tombs, windows, and altars. In the 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
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, in 1829 an arson attack inflicted
heavy damage on the east arm, and an accidental fire in 1840 left
the nave, south west tower, and south aisle roofless, blackened
shells. The cathedral slumped deeply into debt, and in the 1850s
services were suspended, but from 1858 Augustus Duncome 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
was close to collapse. £2,000,000 was raised and spent by
1972 to reinforce and strengthen the building foundations and
roof. A fire in 1984 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 to designs
which had won a competition organised by BBC Television's Blue
The Towers and Bells
York Minster has three towers, the two west towers holding bells
and clock chimes. 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) hung for change ringing and 11 chiming bells (tenor
23 cwt) which are rung from a clavier in the ringing chanber.
The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime
and Great Peter strikes the hour. The change ringing bells are
rung regularly on Sundays before Church Services and at other
times, the ringers practice on Tuesday evenings. The chiming bells
are rung before services occasionally.
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