There is more to York Minister than impressive architecture (although this is reason enough to merit a visit.) This historic landmark is revered for its rich and varied history around the globe and what a history it has. The York Minister has more lives than a cat or perhaps I should say more resurrections than Jesus.

York Minster

As you can see the inside isn’t that terrible and the exterior could be considered impressive in some circumstances but it wasn’t always like this.

York-Minster Exterior

Back in the day, (or the year 627 to be precise) the first, original York Minster was built out of wood and there was none of this intricate stain glass window wizardry going on. (Which quite frankly was a crying shame because who doesn’t love a good stained window?)

The church was constructed especially for the wedding of Christian princess Ethelburga of Kent (yes Ethelburga is a real name) and Edwin of Northumbria. Nowadays, people tend to marry at the current York Minster as opposed to commissioning an entirely new one but each to their own.

Ethelburga & Edwin

Princess Ethelburga of Kent & Edwin of Northumbria

Unfortunately, none of the original wooden structure remains as it was rebuilt a few years later in stone in about 670 which is considered York Minister 2.0. alas York Minster 2.0 didn’t stick around for long and was burnt down in 741.

York Minster

Damage from the 1984 Fire

It was promptly replaced with an upgraded reincarnation with no less than 30 alters. (One can never have enough alters).

The next few years of history consisted of a lot of squabbling between the Danes, Saxons, and Norse respectively, over the occupation of England and because they couldn’t share and play nicely, York Minster no.3 was badly damaged. Well done everybody.

Why we can't have nice things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the third time unlucky you might sensibly assume that now was a good time to accept defeat however Thomas of Bayeux, Archbishop of York decided the time was ripe for the fourth York Minster and rebuilt it starting in 1080. However, ill fortune struck the Minster AGAIN and the new structure suffered from fire damage in 1137.

The Minister then went through a period of expansion with the choir and crypt rebuilt in 1154 and work on the North and South transept began after 1220. Various other additions were also added to the Minster during this period. A huge central tower was also erected at the same time as the North & South transepts but it caved in, in 1407. Not one to waste time in rebuilding where the Minister is concerned, the central tower was rebuilt in 1420. However, this grandeur wasn’t to last for long as young King Edward VI clearly exercising a bit of teenage hooliganism tore down the alters and chantry chapels before dying at the tender age of 15. King Edward however was nothing in comparison to Elizabeth I who had the Minster stripped bare of its memorials, stained glass portraits, tombs and more.

Throughout the Victorian era the York Minster yet again suffered more fire damage and has undergone constant improvements and repairs right through to the 21st century however, the build me up/knock me down (or burn me down) architectural history of the building is what makes York Minister such a fascinating building and perhaps one of the most interesting in the UK.