York Minster – the Magnificent Medieval Cathedral of Northern England

The Chapter House

Windows cover almost all of the upper wall space of the highly decorated Chapter House, filling it with light.

Innovative design and a light wooden roof meant that the buttressed walls could support the ceiling without the need for a central column, creating a beautiful open space.

The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
York Minster Chapter House Roof by Daniel Beresford on 500px.com
York Minster Chapter House Roof by Daniel Beresford on 500px.com
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House

Grotesques

Grotesques are fantastical or mythical figures used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles are forms of grotesque that include a drainage spout to help prevent heavy rainwater running down the face of the building.

York Minster is covered with grotesques inside and out.

York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff

Current stonemasons working on the finishing touches of the York Minster restoration have carved sometimes amusing grotesques doing unusual things.

This chap will eventually be baring his derriere to all and sundry from a lofty position above the city, affixed to York Minster.

The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell
The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell

The 11-ton Great Peter Bell

The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and Great Peter strikes the hour.

York Minster. Credit Manuamador
York Minster. Credit Manuamador

Great Peter is the name of the northwest tower’s bell, weighing in at almost 11 tons. The six other bells that ring every quarter of an hour weigh 3 tons each.

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 heard.

York Minster's 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
York Minster’s 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff

Reformation and Restoration

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands.

Queen Elizabeth I was determined to have all traces of Roman Catholicism removed from the cathedral. Tombs, windows, and altars were destroyed.

York Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson
Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson

During the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1644, but York Minster was spared damage thanks to the influence of parliamentary general Thomas Fairfax.

In the 1850s services were suspended as the cathedral slumped deeply into debt.

York Minster, late 1800s
York Minster, late 1800s

To date, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on restoration work, but the results speak for themselves. York Minster will continue to reach to the skies for millennia to come.

The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft
The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft

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