Last week I mentioned that two events caused major restoration projects to be carried out on York Minster during the latter part of the 20th century. The second one was a fire in 1984 that destroyed the south transept roof. Lightning started the fire in the old roof timbers. If it wasn’t for firemen pulling away the affected timbers, with the risk that the whole section of the ancient building might collapse, then the whole lot could have gone up in flames. Smoke damage and rubble meant that major repairs had to be undertaken.
One result is the new ceiling in that section of the Minster. School children were invited to create the decorations now used on the bosses Six designs won the competition and craftsmen made the copies which we now see.
Like all, or at least most old cathedrals, important people have been buried inside the building and fancy tombs, generally including effigies of themselves, created above or around them. Church hierarchy and royalty, or at least local lords, are the usual suspects, but in York Minster I didn’t recognise any of the names. Worldly goods and earthly status appear to hold more sway here than in most of the great religious buildings I’ve visited, but as the religious institutions around York were frequently allowed to fall into disrepair, I suppose wealthy citizens had to be called upon to pay for the necessary repairs and maintenance. One could theoretically buy one’s way into heaven back then.
I can never understand why the choir in an Anglican church is at the front, in a section that is separated from the participating congregation. Choir stalls, up stairs, at the rear of the church, seem to me to make a lot more sense. Everyone can see the action on the altar, and at the same time, enjoy the music and singing. In the York Minster this separation, called a pulpitum, consists of a wall, decorated in the upper half, with statues of the kings of England, from William the Conqueror to Henry v1. No chance of the plebs getting near the action.
Two other things I find puzzling, are the inclusion of a clock (we saw this in Italy too) and a display of flags. The flags are colourful, and I presume they are meant to represent particular families or groups who give lots of support to the church. A definite mixing of church and lay people, if not state.
Perhaps some of my English friends can explain these two inclusions in what is supposed to be a religious building.
As with all great old churches the stained glass windows in York Minster are quite stunning, but without being there on a day when the sun shone through them (it was a wet, dreary day, so no such luck there) we couldn’t really capture them at their best. And I’ve shown you loads of other stained glass, which I think is far more impressive. (See Notre Dame in Paris for one of my favourites – under the blog called Paris in Two Days, as part of our 2014 holiday.)
After all that history, culture and spiritual food, we were in need of some earthly nourishment. Walk out the front of the Minster, wander over the road and you’ll come to this very English cafe.
You might notice that I’m wearing ear muffs and under the coat, several layers of warm clothes. June in York that week was very cold but the scones with jam and cream were delicious.