York Minster, the enormous cathedral officially speaking is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York. However, it is more common to hear it referred to as York Minister. It is the largest of its kind (Gothic) in Europe and is the seat of the Archbishop of York being the second-highest office of the Church of England. The present building took 252 years to build from 1220 to 1472. The central tower was to have a spire. However, this design was abolished because the central tower would have collapsed under the weight of the spire. If it had been erected, it would have added another 100ft to the top. There are 128 stained glass windows at York Minster with over 3 million items of glass within them.
Minster and Cathedral
York Minster is both a Minster and a Cathedral. The word "minster" derives from the latin word "monastarian" and the local monks would go out to teach or minister. The reason why it is also a cathedral is because it has the throne of a Bishop. It derives again from latin "cathedra" and literally means seat, of which in York is the seat of an Arch Bishop.
The Minster's History
The minister is managed as it were, by a Dean and a Chapter. However, the term minster is used when a church is established in Anglo-Saxon times. Some well known features of the minster is its Rose Window and Chapter House that you find at the rear of the minister. It also has a wide decorated gothic nave that contains of a west window that was constructed in 1338. It is the largest expanse of stained glass in the world. The five sisters window is located in the north transept that is 52ft high.
York has had a Christian presence since the 4th century but it is believed that it could be earlier due to missionaries sent from Rome. However, the first church on the site was a simple wooden construction built in 627 to baptise the King of Northumbria. Then a more substantial building was constructed that fell into disrepair. In 741 it was destroyed in a fire and another more impressive structure was constructed until it was damaged in 1069 by William the Conqueror. It was destroyed completely by the Danes and rebuilt yet again in 1080.
Gothic style cathedrals came about in the mid 12th century and it was not until 1215 that after Walter de Gary ordered the construction of a cathedral after he was made Arch Bishop. The Chapter House was not built until the 1260’s. The wide nave was constructed in the 1280’s so the minster was constructed progressively over a period of time.
In 1984, the south transept was hit by lightening in which a fire broke out and £2.5 million was spent on repairs that were completed by 1988.
Close to the south transept you will notice a statue of the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine who in AD306 was the proclaimed emperor in York. Philip Jackson was the sculpture of the statue along with the sword that was unimaginably stolen in 2016. It now appears in many guide books since it was commissioned in 1998.