York Minster - a treasure trove of medieval glass


York Minster - a treasure trove of medieval glass

Towering over the city, the former monastery of York Minster can be seen from miles around. It is the largest medieval cathedral in the country, and is the seat of the Archbishop of York, who is number three in the Church of England hierarchy after the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Minster is also known as St Peter's, its full name being the 'Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York'.  In the past the church sat within its own walled precinct, known as the Liberty of St Peter.

The site of the magnificent medieval building has always been an important one for the city.  The remains of the Basilica, the ceremonial centre of the Roman fortress, have been found beneath the Minster building. The first Christian church on the site has been dated to 627 and the first Archbishop of York was recognised by the Pope in 732.

A stone Saxon church survived Viking invasion in 866 but was ransacked by William the Conqueror's forces in 1069.  William appointed his own Archbishop, Thomas, who by the end of the century, had built a great Norman cathedral on the site.

The present Gothic-style church was designed to be the greatest cathedral in the kingdom.  It was built over 250 years, between 1220 and 1472. York was probably the first English cathedral to have glass of any kind, installed in about AD 670, ‘to prevent the entry of birds and rain’. The building is known for its impressive great west window, a masterpiece of curvilinear tracery; and the even bigger great east window. This is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world, with over 1,680 square feet of glazing, signed with the monogram of the artist, John Thornton, in 1408.

A serious fire in 1984, thought to have been started by a lightning strike, damaged the south transept of the Cathedral. It was restored over the next four years, and included new roof bosses to designs which had won a competition put on by BBC Television's Blue Peter programme for children.

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