Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Wilfrid's in York

There's been a lot of talk recently (here and here) about keeping the Sabbath a holy day. These fine ladies talk about unplugging from electronic media for the day in order to be more focused on important things. This discussion has inspired me to make a small change in the blog. I'm not unplugging it on Sundays but I will be focusing on churches or theological/religious stories on Sundays. No machete/rulers or movie reviews on the Lord's Day here. Our first church is from our visit yesterday to York.

Only a short walk away from the more famous York Minster is St. Wilfrid's Catholic Church. Our visit was quite interesting.

St. Wilfrid's Catholic Church, York

The current church was built in the 1860s in the Gothic Revival style, imitating churches from the 1200s and 1300s. It was completed in 1864 at the cost of about £10,000 and was the Catholic cathedral for its diocese until the diocese was split up. It is still considered the finest Catholic church in York.

The interior decorations are quite ornate. The main altar features a line of busts starting with Adam on the left and proceeding through various biblical figures.


Main Altar

Sculptures and statues abound in the church, celebrating angels and saints dear to the parish.

Stone Guardian and wooden musician angels

Ever popular St. Anthony (caressed by baby Jesus!)

Of course there's a Madonna and Child

In the back is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady, which is simple and quiet.

Chapel to Our Lady

There's also a statue of St. Margaret Clitherow, who is a fairly significant saint for York. She was born in York in 1556 as Margaret Middleton. Brought up as a Protestant, in 1571 (at age 15) she married John Clitherow, a widower with two sons and a prosperous butchery. John's brother William was a Catholic who later became a priest. It is assumed he influenced her to convert to Catholicism in 1574. Her marriage remained happy. Under the English law at the time, Catholic priests and those who harbored them could be executed as traitors. She helped hide priests regardless of the danger, though she was pretty canny about not getting caught. In 1586 their home was raided. The priest in hiding escaped but she wound up in prison. At her trial, when asked if she was guilty, she replied, "I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty." She was found guilty and sentenced to die. A sharp stone was put in her back; a door laid on her and heavy stones put on top of the door. So she was crushed to death with the sharp stone breaking her back. It took her 15 minutes to die. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

St. Margaret Clitherow with Stations of the Cross

You may ask, "who was Saint Wilfrid?"

Born in 634, Wilfrid was educated at the monastery in Lindisfarne (now called Holy Island). He traveled to France and Rome, returning to northern England to become Abbott in Ripon, founding the church that eventually grew into Ripon Cathedral.  He became a priest and later bishop of Lindisfarne (which meant he was bishop for most of northern England). He became involved in some theological disputes, forcing him to live in various areas of England and France as the disputes were resolved. He continued missionary efforts wherever he went. He finally returned to Northumbria, becoming bishop of Hexham and reforming the Ripon monastery according to the rule of St. Benedict. He died in 709.

Side view of the church


  1. I am honored, dear sir, to be part of the inspiration that lets me travel vicariously to other churches! :-)

    I love your photos!

  2. Gorgeous, lovely, and what a nice way to take time to look--and let us look--at something new.
    Thank you!