York Minster Gothic Cathedral in York
Situated in the heart of the city, York Minster is the largest Gothic Cathedral in northern Europe. As is the way with many christian buildings, it was built in the shape of a cross, and faces East, towards Jerusalem. The name "Minster" is derived from the Latin Monastarium, which means "Place of Learning".
Other Buildings That Graced This Location
The first building to grace the site on which the present Minster now stands were military headquarters during Roman occupation. A building of that type during those times is known as a Principia. Constantine the Great was proclaimed as Emperor in 306AD. This happened close to where his bronze statue stands, outside the South Transept. He introduced Christianity to the Roman Empire and was baptised on his deathbed in 337. At least two more stone buildings were here before the present Minster was first commissioned in 1220.
Other Churches Here Before the Minster
Before the Minster the first church here was a wooden structure, built in 627 for the baptism of the King Edwin of Northumbria, following his marriage to a Christian. This was replaced after his death by a stone Minster, in 633, and was dedicated to St Peter. St Peter was a disciple of Christ and was entrusted with the job of keeper of the keys (to heaven). This is why the Cross Keys are very often to be seen incorporated into decorative work around the City and in the Minster.
Huge and Detailed Stained Glass Windows
The stained glass windows of the Minster are huge, it would be a good idea to take binoculars if you want to see the finer detail, the stonework and tracery; and to examine the historical events and biblical stories contained and preserved in this building for hundreds of years. If you are visiting with children a pen and notepad might also help to make it more interesting for them especially when in the East End.
Enter Through the South Transept
As you enter the building through the door of the South Transept, you will be facing the North Transept, the East end is to your right, the West to your left. A ramp is in place outside the door to allow wheelchair access. Most of the Minster is accessable to all. As you go in you will be given a map to help you find your way around.
The North and South Transepts are separated by the Lantern Tower where you can look up, or use the mirror, to see the incredible workmanship of the interior of the central tower.
The North Transept is slightly different from the south. The doecoration is more elaborate. Also most notable is the Five Sisters Window here. A memorial to women this is the largest lancet window on earth. Henry Hindley's clock in also housed here. Both of these are worth having a look at.
The Minster's West End is divided into a south and north aisle with the Nave in the middle. The West Window is also known as the Heart of Yorkshire because the tracery in the upper part of the window forms the shape of a heart. Worth seeing in the west wing, especially for those who have been searching for animals, is the monkeys funeral. Situated in the North aisle, three windows back from the North Transept, it is formally known as the Pilgrimage window. Bottom left in the border can be seen the procession of monkeys carrying a coffin, also in the border is a fox stealing a chicken, a dog chasing a stag, a cockerel reading a lesson and various other animals. I have only scrapped the surface of the history and contents of the Minster of York, but I hope I have given you enough of interest to get you started! York Minster is a joy to see, inside and out, in summer with the sun on the windows, or illuminated on a winters evening.