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York Minister
High Petergate, York, UK
York Minister
associated engineer
Not known
date  1220 - 1472
UK era  Medieval  |  category  Cathedral  |  reference  SE602522
ICE reference number  HEW 14, 748
photo  courtesy Arup
The present cathedral in York was built over a period of 250 years and therefore incorporates various styles of architecture — from Gothic to Palladian. The building’s full title is 'The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York'. Its Great East Window is the largest single expanse of Medieval stained glass in the world.
The original church on this site was a wooden structure built in 627 AD, for the baptism of King Edwin of Northumbria. It was soon replaced by a stone church, which was damaged by a fire in 1069. The Normans rebuilt this church on a new site circa 1100.
The present minster, which incorporates some of the Norman columns in the undercroft, was begun in 1220 by Archbishop Walter de Gray. The south transept was built first, followed by the north transept and central tower, all completed by 1255. The Chapter House — the administrative heart of the cathedral — was begun around 1260. It is octagonal and has no central supporting columns.
Work on the west end of the building began with the nave, constructed between 1291 and about 1360. This was twice as wide as the former Norman nave. The Lady Chapel and quire were added to the east end between 1395 and 1405. The pulpitum, or choir screen, has carvings of all 15 kings of England from William I to Henry VI.
The central tower collapsed in 1407, and reconstruction lasted from 1420 to 1433. There is a spiral staircase of 279 steps inside the tower. The west towers were built between 1433 and the completion of the minster in 1472.
The cathedral is mainly constructed in magnesian limestone, quarried 19km miles from York. There are 20,000 tonnes of stone in the central tower alone. The roof and main vaultings are all timber — mainly oak — plastered and painted white.
York Cathedral is famous for its stained glass windows. The Great East Window (1408) in the Lady Chapel depicts the beginning and end of the world and is 23.7m tall and 9.4m wide, with 117 panels. Above the south transept door is the circular Rose Window, which marks the end of the War of the Roses (1485). The north transept has the Five Sisters, a group of five lancet windows more than 16m tall, from the mid 1300s. The west transept has two windows — the Great West Window (1338) with a heart shape at the top, and the Pilgrimage Window.
The building has suffered several fires, including those of 1463 and 1753. In February 1829, an arson attack destroyed the Quire furniture and the roof and timber vault at the east end of the minster. An accidental fire in 1840 destroyed the nave roof and vaulting. A lightning strike on 9th July 1984 caused damage that took four years to repair.
The interior was looted several times as well, including during the English Reformation under Edward VI and in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was spared further damage in the Civil War.
In 1730, Lord Burlington designed a new marble floor — but it required the destruction of tombs in the nave, transepts and Quire. Major restoration began in 1802, although the cathedral experienced financial difficulties between about 1840 and 1858. Underpinning works to stop the central tower collapsing from differential settlement took place between 1967 and 1972. In August 2001, a miniature airship 2.2m in diameter, and weighing just 1kg, was used to relay video footage from the remote inspection of the stonework 30m above the Quire.
The present organ, a replacement for two previous instruments destroyed in fires, dates from 1829 and was restored in 1993.
Architect, central tower underpinning (1967-72): Bernard Fielden
Engineer, central tower underpinning (1967-72): Ove Arup & Partners
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH North

York Minister