A Medieval Masterpiece – My Trip to York Minster

I’m so sorry that it’s been a bit quiet recently at The Past Presents… The half-term week has made work rather hectic, so I’ve found myself often too exhausted to pick up the pen during the evenings!

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York Minster

My second confession, is that last weekend I found myself exploring the grand ol’ city of York. Quite shocking, a self-proclaimed ‘History Nerd’ such as myself has never travelled to York before! (I’m obviously still a ‘History Nerd’ amateur…)

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Statue to Emperor Constantine outside York Minster

I don’t think I’ve every travelled to a place which is so crammed full of history. No matter where you go; whether it be down the narrowest streets or within the tiniest buildings, you will undoubtedly uncover a fascinating insight into York’s amazing past. Many well-known historical characters have walked within the city walls, including Emperor Constantine, Richard III and – for those of you who have been watching BBC One’s ‘Gunpowder’, – the Catholic martyr Margaret Clitherow.

Yet the hub for all things history at York, is undoubtedly the impressively awe-inspiring York Minster. Now, no one can fail to miss York Minister. This towering Gothic mountain dominates the city skyline. This jumble of creamy stone is so vast, that tourists always find themselves closer to the Minster than what they initially believed – (that admittedly did happen to me on numerous occasions)!

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The Archbishop’s Palace, where Richard III proclaimed his son Prince of Wales.

For 1000s of years, the site where the Minster now stands has witnessed several momentous transformations. It was here where Constantine was proclaimed Emperor in 306. During the 1960s, the Roman Principia building’s foundations were unearthed. It was those walls which Emperor Constantine would have known and lived in. Brilliantly, visitors to York Minister can still delve deep underground, to view these fragments of York’s Roman world for themselves.

York Minister is an absolutely outstanding example of Medieval Gothic architecture. The building was officially completed by 1472, but hundreds of years of construction had passed before it could reach that point.

Yet the architecture is not the sole surviving aspect of York Minster’s Medieval past. Beautiful tombs belonging to York’s Medieval archbishops and deans are dotted all around the building. Despite – or many because of – the 800-year gap, those memorials to York’s historic community still succeeds in grabbing your imagination. It’s astonishing really that those tombs are still standing, after they have endured centuries of Reformation, religious conflict, fires and war.

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Tomb of Walter de Grey (1215-1255), Archbishop of York

The tombs also act as reminders of York Minister’s human story, where society centred around the workings of the Church. On a daily basis, crowds of people would have sought inspiration, comfort and aid within York Minister walls. Even though the role of York Minster has adapted to modern times, (to the point where it’s sometimes unrecognisable when compared to its Medieval role), the tombs and beautiful architecture highlight the similarities between the Medieval and the modern York Minster. People still gather there to marvel at its might; people still seek comfort and relief within its walls, and a religious community still protects the Minister, centuries after the deaths of those Medieval archbishops.

Tower Tours are offered to visitors at York Minister on a regular basis. Unfortunately, due to my frustrating fear of heights I was unable to take part in the Tower Tours. The views of this great city from the Central Tower however, are sure to be spellbinding! If you have – or ever get a chance – to climb the many steps to the top of the Tower, please fill me in on what it was like up there!

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Towers at York Minster – (not the Central Tower though)!

Keep an eye out as well for any Hidden Tours on offer! Again, I was unable to take part in a Hidden Tour due to my busy tourist schedule, but the tours which they advertise on their website do look extremely interesting. I encourage you all to take a look if ever you are planning a trip to York Minster.

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Amazing architecture at York Minster

If like me however, you don’t think that you’ll be able to participate in the many tours on offer – never fear! Simply wandering around the magnificent York Minster is satisfying enough. The beauty of its design alongside its impressive history, constantly gave me goosebumps. You are walking within the footsteps of many great individuals, as well as sharing a pilgrimage to a renowned religious site, which has attracted people for hundreds of years! After visiting the wonder that is York Minister, you would not only be enlightened by York’s amazing past, but you would have also followed in the footsteps of those who transformed England’s history.

(Check out more photos from my adventure to York Minster at ‘The Past Presents’ Facebook page)!

Last visited: October 2017.

YORK MINSTER’S WEBSITE: https://yorkminster.org/home.html

YORK MINSTER ON TRIPADVISOR: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186346-d212104-Reviews-York_Minster-York_North_Yorkshire_England.html

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