Bri­tain’s Trea­sures

York Min­ster

History Revealed - - CONTENTS -

The land­scape of York is dom­i­nated by a Gothic master­piece: the grand cathe­dral that is York Min­ster, seat of the Arch­bishop of York – the third most se­nior po­si­tion in the Church of Eng­land af­ter the Queen and the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury. The foun­da­tions were laid around 1220, but the first church on this site ap­peared in the early sev­enth cen­tury, and York has been the heart of Chris­tian­ity in the north of Eng­land ever since.

The city’s re­li­gious roots trace back fur­ther still: it was here in AD 306, when York was a Ro­man set­tle­ment known as Eb­o­racum, that Con­stan­tine the Great was de­clared Western Em­peror by his soldiers. He went on to le­galise Chri­tian­ity across the Ro­man Em­pire, and con­verted to the faith on his deathbed in AD 312. The site on which the min­ster now stands was once home to a Ro­man basil­ica – the cer­e­mo­nial cen­tre of a for­mer fortress – and its re­mains can be seen in the min­ster’s un­der­croft.

York’s first church was built in AD 627, when King Ed­win of Northum­bria con­verted to Chris­tian­ity. A wooden church was quickly con­structed for his bap­tism and, in AD 633, be­gan to be re­placed with a church of stone. It burnt down in AD 741, was re­built once more, then was dam­aged in 1069 dur­ing the Har­ry­ing of the North – a se­ries of cam­paigns in­sti­gated by Wil­liam the Con­queror to sup­press his op­po­nents and es­tab­lish his dom­i­nance across Eng­land.

In 1215, work be­gan on the cur­rent cathe­dral. En­vi­sioned as a ri­val to Can­ter­bury, it took more than 250 years to com­plete and was con­se­crated in 1472. It is the sec­ond-largest Gothic cathe­dral in Europe and fea­tures the widest Gothic nave in Eng­land.

Much of the min­ster’s stained glass was re­moved dur­ing the two World Wars in case of bomb­ing

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