York Minster - West Front

Audrey Clarke

Doncaster, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Challenge finalist “Architecture The British Isles – Beginning with Y challenge” June 2011

Featured in "Artists of Redbubble " 20/05/10
Featured in " Architecture The British Isles" 24/05/10

Taken using a Canon Powershot Pro 1

A history of York Minster

The first Minster: 7th to 11th Centuries

York’s first Minster was built for the baptism of the Anglo Saxon King, Edwin of Northumbria. Edwin was christened in a small wooden church that had been built for the occasion, this event occurred on Easter Sunday in the year 627. Almost immediately Edwin ordered that this small wooden church should be rebuilt in stone. Edwin was killed in battle in 633 and the task of completing the stone Minster fell to Oswald.

This small stone church built on the same site as the original wooden one was enlarged over time. It survived through the Viking age in York but was badly damaged by fire in the year 1069 when the Normans finally took control of the city of York. While we know something of the history of these early versions of York Minster, to date no archaeological evidence of them has been uncovered.

The Norman Minster: 1100 – 1220

Once the invading Normans had taken control of the city a decision was taken to build a new Minster on a fresh site to replace the old fire damaged Saxon Minster. Around the year 1080 Thomas of Bayeux became Archbishop and started building a cathedral that in time grew into the Minster we have today. This vast Norman church was completed around the 1100, and the base of some of its distinctive columns can be seen today in the Undercroft.

During the mid twelfth century the Norman church was enlarged at both East and West; this may have been due to fire damage sustained in 1137, but this now seems unlikely.

Today’s Minster: from 1220 into the future

In 1215 Walter Gray became archbishop and he was to serve the cathedral for 40 years. It was Walter who started to transform the Norman Church in to the Minster we have today. Firstly the South and North transepts were built, Walter died before they were completed. In 1291 work began on the Nave (western end) this was completed by around 1360. Work then transferred to the East end with the building of the Lady Chapel and then the Quire this was completed by around 1405. In 1407 the central tower collapsed and work on its replacement was not finished until 1433. Between 1433 and 1472 the Western towers were added and the Minster finally completed. The Minster that we know today had taken about 250 years to build.

Heritage and challenge

From 1472 until 1829 the fabric of the building changed very little although there were big changes to the way in which worship in the Minster was carried out. In February 1829 Jonathan Martin deliberately started a fire in the Quire. This act of arson resulted in the destruction of the entire east end roof and timber vault and all the wooden furniture of the Quire. Just 11 years later a second, accidental, fire destroyed the Nave roof and vault.

In the twentieth century two major events affected the building. Between 1967 and 1972 major work was undertaken to stop the Central tower collapsing. This involved close co-operation between engineers and archaeologists, but no trace of the Saxon Minster was uncovered.

On the 9th of July 1984 fire broke out in the South Transept after the Minster had been hit by lightning. The damage resulting from 3 hours of fire took some 4 years to fully repair and restore.

York Minster Revealed

Work to maintain and restore this ancient building is constant. The York Minster Revealed project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will improve access to the Minster; reveal more of its story and history to those who visit; and as its centrepiece restore the Great East Window, the world’s largest single expanse of medieval stained glass.

Artwork Comments

  • Ray Clarke
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