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York Minster



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  • The original place of worship on this site was founded in about 627 to baptise Edwin King of Northumbria in. A stone structure was soon built to replace it but this fell into disrepair.
  • By the early 8th century the church had been rebuilt by Saint Wilfred complete with the most substantial library and school complex in the whole of Europe however this was destroyed by fire in 841 but the church was once again rebuilt with no less than 30 altars.
  • The 10th century saw the church pass through so many hands thanks to the constant wars fought in the area between Wessex and the Danes that records of what happened were lost.
  • In 1069 the first Norman Archbishop arrived and the minster which had once again fallen into disrepair was fixed, an unusual action for a Norman given their history of destroying and rebuilding english churches in their own style. This didn't last long as it was completely burned down in 1075 and work started on the basis of what we see today.
  • Built in Norman style the new minster was 118 m long with the choir and crypt added in 1154.
  • By the early 13th century Gothic style had arrived in England and the Archbishop Walter de Gray decided to built a church to rival Canterbury. The north and south transepts were the first new structures; completed in the 1250s, both were built in the Early English Gothic style but had markedly different walls starting what was to be a 300 year long building period.
  • A substantial central tower was completed with a wooden spire atop. The Chapter House was completed in the 1260s whilst the widened nave was constructed from the 1280s on the 200 year old Norman foundations. The outer roof was completed in the 1330s, but the vaulting was not finished until 1360. Construction then moved on to the eastern arm and chapels, with the last Norman structure, the choir, being demolished in the 1390s.
  • It was during this time that many of the impressive features of the minster were built including the Five Sisters Window, each lancet being over 16 metres high.
  • In 1407 disaster struck with the central tower collapsing. The piers were then reinforced, and a new tower was built from 1420 with an internal height of 55 metres but lacking the previous spire. The cathedral was declared complete in 1472 and was externally 99% of what we see today.
  • The Reformation and early Protestantism wasn't kind to York Minster. Under Elizabeth I there was a concerted effort to remove all traces of Catholicism from the cathedral with the destruction of tombs, windows, and altars. In the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to the forces of Cromwell in 1644, but Thomas Fairfax prevented any further damage to the cathedral sparing it from many of the Roundheads destructive excesses.
  • As religious tensions died down work again started on fixing the minster. From 1730 to 1736 the whole floor of the Minster was relaid in patterned marble, and from 1802 there was a major restoration. An arson attack in 1829 inflicted heavy damage on the east arm undoing much of the newly finished work, and an accidental fire in 1840 left the nave, south west tower, and south aisle roofless, blackened shells. The cathedral slumped deeply into debt, and in the 1850s services were suspended, but from 1858 Augustus Duncome worked successfully to revive the cathedral.
  • In the 20th century there was more concerted preservation work as the importance of the site became clear, especially following a 1967 survey that revealed the building was close to collapse. 2,000,000 was raised and spent by 1972 to reinforce and strengthen the building foundations and roof. This included inserting massive metal supports under the church foundations, something tourists can walk amongst today.
  • A fire caused by lightning in 1984 destroyed the roof in the south transept, and around 2.5 million was spent on repairs. Restoration work was completed in 1988, and included new roof bosses to designs which had won a competition organised by BBC Television's Blue Peter programme.
  • York Minster is part of a world heritage site and remains the largest medieval gothic structure north of the alps.


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Archdiocese of York

Reference Data

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Building Location

Chapter House, York. YO1 7JN
York City Council
North Yorkshire
Yorkshire and Humber
United Kingdom

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Building Specification

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Heritage Status
World Heritage Site

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Market Data

Primary Use
Place of Worship

Metres > Feet