The previous post described York’s history and the building of this Minster, finished in the 1400’s (York’s History and the building of the The York Minster, January 20, 2015). Here we get to see it! I’ll set the stage for the beautiful York Minster by showing you this fabulous ceiling from its Chapter House. If I could’ve included more of the windows in the photograph, you’d be even more impressed! I’m lying on my back in the middle of the floor to get this shot; I probably could have lain there mesmerized for hours, but I was afraid of being stomped on by people who were also looking up at the ceiling, not down at me on the floor. Spectacular, isn’t it? Now, with that appetizer, on to the Minster!
OVERVIEW OF THE MINSTER
Instead of a photograph, I’ll have to show you a schematic of the Minster, shown to the right. It’s hard to capture the beauty of this cathedral because (1) it’s huge (it’s one of the largest in Northern Europe), and (2) it’s nestled in the heart of the city and you can’t back up far enough to capture it all. Hopefully seeing some of its parts will give you a reasonable idea of how magnificent it truly is.
FROM THE OUTSIDE
And of course I must include some of the gargoyles! A sculptor obviously has to have some fun, after all.
THE INSIDE, NAVE AND TRANSEPTS
The interior is impressively enormous, and beautiful.
THE CHAPTER HOUSE
The Chapter House, built in 1280, is a private meeting room where all the priests could gather for readings or to conduct business. This Chapter House is an octagonal building
with a pointy roof. Nice on the outside, but the inside is better (below). Like many chapter houses, there are places for all the priests to sit along the walls; note that the sculptors had a good time with the figures above the seats!
The last picture shows a model of the superstructure built to support the ceiling. This is 1280, remember! The central post (king post) is constructed from 3 huge oak trees spliced together …. For perspective there is a human figure at the center.
YORK MINSTER WINDOWS
And then there are the marvelous (and numerous!) stained glass windows.
That last window, the West Window, is from 1338! Its heart-shaped tracery is called “The Heart of Yorkshire”. Note in some of the pictures above that it is difficult to discern the images. Over the centuries the windows have shifted and buckled and the glass has cracked and been repaired so many times that there is as much lead as glass. To address this, the church is carefully (and at significant expense) restoring the windows, starting with the Great East Window of 1408, shown on the left. This window depicts the beginning and end of the world, and is the largest existing expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. Happily, a few of the repaired window panes were on display. The first one, below, is from Revelation 16:3 – “The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died“. The repaired panes are pretty spectacular.
Well, enough for now. The next York post will show you some cool stuff from a couple of museums, and then we’re off to Durham, site of England’s greatest Norman church, and Hadrian’s Wall. Perhaps you’ve surmised from our northern trajectory that our main goal here is bonny Scotland, which we’ll explore in some depth.