Wednesday, November 9, 2011

York Minster, Visit the First

With my sister in town, we've been visiting a few more historical sites. Today we drove into York to see the famous Minster, the main northern English cathedral built in the 1200s and still functioning today as the seat of the Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu. We came as curious pilgrims to Northern Europe's largest gothic cathedral.

The ride there was rather long, so the first thing Jacob wanted to see on arrival was the toilet, to which we were directed by the nice lady at the ticket booth (£9 per adult to get in, but the ticket lasts a whole year, hence the title of the blog post; we will definitely be coming back, especially since the "two adults" ticket has no names!). Jacob was excited that the hand dryer was out of order, though it took me a while to explain its disfunctionality to him. After that, we wandered around the cavernous church, admiring stained glass, carvings, and furnishings.

The west window is quite famous though it is difficult to photograph. Completed in the 1300s, it was restored during the 20th century and stands 54 feet tall and 25 feet wide. The stonework at the top has been nicknamed "The Heart of Yorkshire" though the original artist was probably thinking of Christ's heart when he designed it. It is breathtaking to see.

Why don't digital cameras come with a "stained-glass window" setting?

Also at the west end was a small chapel dedicated in 1982 (quite recent, practically brand new) to St. Cuthbert, Prior of Linisfarne and major religious figure of 7th century England. Jacob and Lucy liked it as it had an interesting baptismal font and a depiction of Cuthbert's vision of Heaven overhead. The chapel was interesting to me because it is not enclosed or on the wall. It's freestanding in the back of the church.

Jacob and Lucy in St. Cuthbert's Chapel (baptismal font behind Lucy)

Christ in His glory over the Cuthbert Chapel; seems a little modern for a 7th century vision

Another photographic snafu is the picture of the seat that gives the cathedral its name. Catherdrals are the "home base," if you will, of a bishop, often called the "seat" of the bishop. That's where his cathedra or throne is. The lighting in this picture of the bishop's seat did not work out well. And I couldn't get Lucy to turn around either!

Maybe Lucy didn't want to turn her back on the bishop?

Another famous feature of the Minster is the quire (or choir) screen. Like Ripon Cathedral, it is decorated with statues. These are more ornate and, in the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, they are brought to life by magic. They are amazing sculptures.

They do look like they could step off their pedestals, though an alarming number have swords!

Lucy showed her piety at the high altar in the quire by using the communion rail as a kneeler, just as it is intended. I hope she prayed for all you fine readers.

This was just too cute

Jacob had lots of questions about the various lecterns, pulpits, and other spots from which people could speak. He is quite adept at spotting microphones and was constantly asking if people would read the gospel or say a sermon or what would they do from the various locations. I did my best to answer and must now embark on new studies of the topic.

Jacob with Auntie Rosemary by the main pulpit

Cool eagle pulpit near the high altar

Jacob also spotted a window into the crypt and asked to go down there. The undercroft, treasury, and crypt below the main church were an education adventure in themselves. Most of the undercroft is dedicated to historical and archeological information about the original Roman fort and the Norman minster that existed on the site before the current medieval cathedral. The foundation stones of the Norman cathedral are laid bare for the curious to see. The treasury has many sacred and profane articles donated to the Minster or found during excavations. We almost went into the treasury, but that was the point where Jacob decided he was too tired to continue.

So we headed for the exit and back to the car, leaving Auntie Rosemary in York to have further fun adventures while we returned home for lunch and nap time. But we will definitely come back in the future to see more of the Minster and more of York.

According to Jacob's guide to churches, York Minster is an "old" church. I confirmed this by asking Jacob directly.

1 comment:

  1. Joseph, it's a pleasure to read your journal. Thanks for putting in all the work.