The Cathedral Church of York - Bell's Cathedrals: A Description of Its Fabric and A Brief - History of the Archi-Episcopal See
by A. Clutton-Brock
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse








* * * * *


This series of monographs has been planned to supply visitors to the great English Cathedrals with accurate and well illustrated guide-books at a popular price. The aim of each writer has been to produce a work compiled with sufficient knowledge and scholarship to be of value to the student of Archaeology and History, and yet not too technical in language for the use of an ordinary visitor or tourist.

To specify all the authorities which have been made use of in each case would be difficult and tedious in this place. But amongst the general sources of information which have been almost invariably found useful are:—(1) the great county histories, the value of which, especially in questions of genealogy and local records, is generally recognised; (2) the numerous papers by experts which appear from time to time in the Transactions of the Antiquarian and Archaeological Societies; (3) the important documents made accessible in the series issued by the Master of the Rolls; (4) the well-known works of Britton and Willis on the English Cathedrals; and (5) the very excellent series of Handbooks to the Cathedrals originated by the late Mr John Murray; to which the reader may in most cases be referred for fuller detail, especially in reference to the histories of the respective sees.


* * * * *


I have usually followed Professor Willis in his account of the Minster, and my obligations to his excellent works are general and continuous.

Professor Willis made careful and extensive observations of the Crypt and other parts of the Minster during the restoration, which gave him opportunities for investigation now impossible. He also brought to these observations a learning and sagacity probably greater than those of any other writer on English Gothic Architecture, and his little book remains the standard work on the history of the Minster.

I regret that I have been unable to agree with several of the theories of that most enthusiastic and diligent writer, Mr John Browne, or even to discuss them as I should have liked; but his books must always be of great value to every one interested in the history of York. I am also indebted to Canon Raine's excellent works and compilations; to Mr Winston for his remarks on the glass in the Minster; and to Professor Freeman for his interesting criticisms of the fabric generally.

A. C.-B.

* * * * *


CHAPTER I.—History of the See and City 3

CHAPTER II.—History of the Building 30

CHAPTER III.—Description of the Exterior 47 The West Front 48 The North Transept 56 The Chapter-House 60 The Choir 61 The South Transept 63 The Central Tower 67

CHAPTER IV.—Description of the Interior 68 The Nave 68 The Transepts 80 The Chapter-House 93 The Choir 98 The Crypt 120 The Record Room 123 Monuments 125 Stained Glass 133

CHAPTER V.—The Archbishops 140


York Minster, the West Front and Nave Frontispiece Arms of the See Title Page The Minster and Bootham Bar, from Exhibition Square 2 St Mary's Abbey 9 Bootham Bar 15 Walmgate Bar 19, 24 Micklegate Bar 25 The Shambles 29 The Minster (from an Old Print) 35 The West Front (1810) 39 The East End (from Britton) 43 The West Front—Main Entrance 49 The Exterior, from the South-East 53 The Exterior, from the North 57 Bay of Choir—Exterior 62 South Transept—Porch 65 Seal of St Mary's Abbey 67 The Nave 69 The Nave—South Aisle 77 South Transept, Triforium, and Clerestory 91 Chapter-House—Entrance and Sedilia 97 The Choir Screen 100 The Choir, looking East 101 Bay of Choir—Interior 103 The Choir, looking West 107 Compartment of Ancient Choir Stalls 110 Compartment of Altar Screen 111 The Choir in 1810 115 The Virgin and Child (a Carving behind the Altar) 119 The Crypt 121 Capitals in Crypt 122, 123 Effigy of Manley 125 Effigy of Archbishop de Grey 128 Monument of William of Hatfield 129 Monument of Archbishop Bowet 132 The East Window 138 Effigy of Archbishop Savage 151 Tomb of Archbishop Savage 152


* * * * *



At York the city did not grow up round the cathedral as at Ely or Lincoln, for York, like Rome or Athens, is an immemorial—a prehistoric—city; though like them it has legends of its foundation. Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose knowledge of Britain before the Roman occupation is not shared by our modern historians, gives the following account of its beginning:—"Ebraucus, son of Mempricius, the third king from Brute, did build a city north of Humber, which from his own name, he called Kaer Ebrauc—that is, the City of Ebraucus—about the time that David ruled in Judea." Thus, by tradition, as both Romulus and Ebraucus were descended from Priam, Rome and York are sister cities; and York is the older of the two. One can understand the eagerness of Drake, the historian of York, to believe the story. According to him the verity of Geoffrey's history has been excellently well vindicated, but in Drake's time romance was preferred to evidence almost as easily as in Geoffrey's, and he gives us no facts to support his belief, for the very good reason that he has none to give.

Abandoning, therefore, the account of Geoffrey of Monmouth, we are reduced to these facts and surmises. Before the Roman invasion the valley of the Ouse was in the hands of a tribe called the Brigantes, who probably had a settlement on or near the site of the present city of York. Tools of flint and bronze and vessels of clay have been found in the neighbourhood. The Brigantes, no doubt, waged intermittent war upon the neighbouring tribes, and on the wolds surrounding the city are to be found barrows and traces of fortifications to which they retired from time to time for safety. The position of York would make it a favourable one for a settlement. It stands at the head of a fertile and pleasant valley and on the banks of a tidal river. Possibly there were tribal settlements on the eastern wolds in the neighbourhood in earlier and still more barbarous times, before the Brigantes found it safe to make a permanent home in the valley, but this is all conjecture. It is not until the Roman conquest of Britain that York enters into history. The Brigantes were subdued between the years 70 and 80 A.D. by Patilius Cerealis and Agricola. The Romans called the city by the name of Eburacum. The derivation is not known. It has been suggested that it was taken from the river Ure, a tributary of the Ouse, but variations of the word are common in the Roman Empire, as, for example, Eburobriga, Eburodunum, and the Eburovices. These are probably all derived from some common Celtic word. In process of time, perhaps in the reign of the Emperor Severus—that is to say, about the beginning of the third century A.D.—the name was changed to Eboracum: from this was derived the later British name Caer Eabhroig or Ebrauc. The Anglo-Saxon name was Eoferwic, corrupted by the Danes into Jorvik or Yorvik, which by an easy change was developed into the modern name of York. In the York Museum is preserved a monument to a standard-bearer of the 9th legion, which is probably of the period of Agricola, and it is likely that Eburacum became the headquarters of the Roman army in the north soon after the conquest. It became the chief military town in the island; for, whereas the southern tribes were soon subdued, those in the north were long rebellious, and it was natural that the chief centre for troops should be established in the more disturbed parts of Britain. Close to York was the town of Isurium (Aldborough), where remains of pavements have been discovered, and where it is probable that the wealthier citizens of York had their homes. Eburacum was fortified in or before the reign of Trajan, and was connected by a system of roads with other important Roman towns. The Roman Camp lay on the east side of the river, on or near the site of the present minster. One of its corner towers and fragments of the wall still remain, and parts of the city gates have been discovered. The camp at first covered about seventy acres of ground; it was afterwards enlarged on the south. The modern streets of Petergate and Stonegate represent the roads which passed through this camp, and Bootham Bar is on the site of one of the gates. Remains of Roman pavement have been discovered below Stonegate. The city itself spread westward over the river, and fragments of houses and tesselated pavements have been discovered. In 1841 remains of public baths were found; and there are many signs that there was a large population on this side of the river. In 1854 there was found near the southern gate of the camp a tablet dedicated to Trajan, and commemorating the conclusion of some work done by the 9th legion in the year 108-9. This work was perhaps the palace of the emperors.

Near the south gate also was a Christian Church of St. Crux. The road to Tadcaster was lined with tombs, and remains of cemeteries have been discovered all round the city.

As in London, there are few remains of Roman masonry above ground, and this is but natural, for the city has been burnt and destroyed, wholly or partially, many times; and there is no doubt that Roman buildings were used, as in Rome and other cities, as a quarry for later erections.

York is historically connected with several of the emperors. Two of them, Severus and Constantius Chlorus, died there, and Constantine the Great, the son of the latter, was hailed emperor at York, if it was not the scene of his birth. At York also were the headquarters of two of the legions, the 9th and the 6th; and there is little doubt that in course of time it came to be regarded as the capital of the island. In fact, according to Professor Freeman (Macmillan's Magazine, Sept. 1876), "Eburacum holds a place which is unique in the history of Britain, which is shared by only one other city in the lands north of the Alps (Trier, Augusta Trevirorum)." We learn little of the history of York from Roman historians, and next to nothing of the early Christian Church. There is mention of York at rare intervals, when it became connected with the general history of the empire. For instance, in 208, Severus was in York, and it became for a time the headquarters of the court.

The Emperor Constantius died at York in 306, and there is a tradition that hundreds of years afterwards his body was found under the Church of St. Helen-on-the-Walls, with a lamp still burning over it. Many churches in the neighbourhood of Eburacum were dedicated to his wife Helena, the legendary finder of the True Cross. It has been supposed that Constantine the Great was born at York, but this is probably untrue, though he was proclaimed emperor there. In the middle of the fourth century the Picts and Scots began to make inroads, and it is probable that they captured York about 367 A.D. They were shortly afterwards driven northwards by Theodosius the Elder. At the beginning of the fifth century there were further invasions repelled by Stilicho, but in 409 the Emperor Honorius withdrew the Roman troops from Britain, and the Roman period in the history of York came to an end.

Of the early ecclesiastical history of York less even is known than of the civil. There are few relics of Roman Christianity in the city.

A stone coffin, with an apparently Christian inscription, and several Roman ornaments bearing crosses have been found and placed in the York Museum, but this is all. There is no evidence, documentary or other, of the manner in which Christianity reached York. The Christian historians give us only the most meagre references to the history of the faith in Britain. Tertullian, for example, mentions that parts of the island as yet unvisited by the Romans had been evangelised by British missionaries, and, if this were so, it would seem to prove that the Church in Britain was early active and flourishing. It is not until 314 A.D. that we come upon a definite historical fact. This was the date of the Council of Arles, convened by Constantine, to consider the Donatist Heresy, and among the bishops there assembled were three from Britain—"Eborus, Episcopus de Civitate Eboracensi; Restitutus, Episcopus de Civitate Londinensi; Adelfius, Episcopus de Civitate Col. Londinensium" (perhaps Lincoln). These bishops are mentioned in the order of precedence, and it would appear that the See of York at that time was the most important, or perhaps the oldest, in Britain. Bishops of York were also present at the Councils of Nicaea, Sardica, and Arminium. With these facts our knowledge of the Roman see of Eburacum begins and ends. The Episcopal succession probably continued for some time after the Roman evacuation, and the legendary names of Sampson, Pyramus or Pyrannus, and Theodicus have been handed down as bishops of York during the struggle with the Anglo-Saxon invaders. For a long time after the Roman evacuation jewels and plate were discovered in the neighbourhood; and in the Pontificate of Egbert, an archbishop in the eighth century, there is a special form of prayer for hallowing vessels discovered on the sites of heathen temples and houses. The great Wilfrid also, in the seventh century, speaks of recovering the sacred places from which the British clergy had been forced to flee. It is unknown when or how York was finally captured, but in the seventh century it was certainly in the hands of the English; though there still remained an independent British kingdom of Elmete, only a few miles to the west of the city. Close to York has been discovered a large burying-place of heathen Angles, in which the ashes were deposited in urns; the date of this is probably the beginning of the sixth century, and at that time the invaders must have been settled in the country, and perhaps in the city itself. The conquest marks a change in the position of York. Under the Roman occupation it had been an important city for military purposes, and for that reason it was the seat of an important bishopric. After the second conversion of England it becomes important more and more for ecclesiastical reasons, and when it plays a part in the history of England it is because of the action of its bishops; from this time, therefore, it becomes necessary to say less about the city itself and more about the see.

After the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the North of England the country between the Tweed and the Humber was divided into two kingdoms, Bernicia to the north of the Tees, and Deira to the south. In the reign of Ethelfrith these two kingdoms were united, under the name of Northumbria. Edwin, his successor, was the most powerful king in England, and every state except Kent acknowledged his supremacy.

In the troubles after the Roman evacuation, it is probable that York lost some of its importance, which it regained under Edwin, and became again the capital of England. It is at this period that the authentic ecclesiastical history of the see, and indeed of England, really begins. In 601 Gregory the Great, in a letter to Augustine, gave him authority to appoint twelve bishops in England, and among them a bishop of York, who, if his mission was prosperous, was to ordain further bishops in the North of England, remaining himself the chief of them, and being invested with the pall, the mark of a metropolitan bishop. Provision was made that the first bishop of York should be subordinate to Augustine, but that subsequently the question of seniority was to be decided by priority of consecration. Thus early did the question of precedence between York and Canterbury arise.

We may take it that the early Christian church had entirely died out in Northumbria, and that prior to the mission sent by Gregory there had been no effort in the southern part of the kingdom, at least, to reclaim the inhabitants from heathendom. York was chosen as the seat of the metropolitan bishop in the north, entirely because of its importance as a city. It is after this event that it becomes chiefly remarkable for its ecclesiastical importance. Augustine died before he had followed Gregory's instructions, and they were not carried out till 625. In that year, Justus, the fourth bishop of Canterbury, was led by unusually favourable circumstances to consecrate a bishop of York and to send him to Northumbria. Edwin the king was over-lord of England, and he wished to be allied with Kent, the only other independent kingdom in the country. He therefore proposed to marry Ethelburga, the daughter of the King of Kent. She and her father were Christians, and Edwin, though still a heathen, agreed that she should be allowed to take with her a Christian chaplain to Northumberland. Paulinus, perhaps a Briton by birth, was chosen for this office, and was consecrated Bishop of York before he set out. He has been identified with a certain Rum the son of Urien. This enterprise met with great and immediate success, in which political reasons probably played a considerable part; and on Easterday 627, the most important date in the ecclesiastical history of York, the king Edwin, his family, and many of his court were baptised there in a wooden chapel temporarily erected on the site of the present minster. Immediately afterwards Edwin begun to build a church of stone, dedicated to St. Peter, on the same site. The baptism of the king was followed by a wholesale conversion of thousands of his subjects, and it is stated that Paulinus was forced to stay over a month in one place to baptise the crowds who flocked to him. Paulinus was confirmed in his appointment to the see by the king, and immediately after received the pall, together with Honorius of Canterbury, which authorised him to assemble councils and to consecrate bishops. The pall was not given to any of his successors until Egbert (732 A.D.). In view of the subsequent struggles for precedence between the sees of Canterbury and York, the following passage in a letter from the Pope to Edwin is of interest:—"We have ordered," the Pope says, "two palls, one for each of the metropolitans, that is for Honorius and Paulinus, that in case one of them is called from this life, the other may, in virtue of this our authority, appoint a bishop in his place." (Bede, "Eccl. Hist.," Smith edit., book ii., cap. 17, p. 98.)

This early prosperity of the northern Church did not last long. In 633 Edwin was defeated and killed at a battle near Hatfield, and a period of anarchy and persecution followed. Thereupon Paulinus, with Ethelburga, the queen, fled to Kent, leaving behind him only one evangelist, by name James the Deacon. It is probable that the greater part of Northumbria thereupon fell back into paganism, and by the flight of Paulinus the Catholic Church, or that part of it immediately under the influence and control of the bishops of Rome, lost its hold on the north, which it was not to regain without a struggle. The anarchy came to an end with the accession of Oswald, a Christian, who had been converted, not by Paulinus, but by the Celtic Church of Iona. It was this circumstance which led to the establishment of the influence of that Church in Northumbria. Oswald did not look to Rome or Canterbury for evangelists when he set to work to establish Christianity in his kingdom, but to Iona, whence, in 635 A.D., was dispatched a bishop, Aidan, who settled at Lindisfarne (Holy Island). From this time there were two influences at work among the Christians in Northumbria—that of the older and more national British Church which had survived the flood of heathen invasion; and that of the later Catholic Church, which originated with the mission of Augustine.

The conflict between these two influences reached its height in the time of Alfred. Oswald completed the church began by Edwin: it remained under the rule of Aidan, as no evangelists were sent from the south to take the place of Paulinus, though it is said that James the Deacon continued his missionary work in the North Riding. In 642 Oswald was killed in battle, and Deira and Bernicia were again split up into two kingdoms. With this division came also religious difficulties between the Church of Iona and the Catholic Church of the south. These difficulties culminated in the Synod of Whitby, 664, at which the Catholic party, led by the great Wilfrid, perhaps the greatest of all bishops of York, defeated their opponents. After the council, Colman, then Bishop of Lindisfarne, resigned, and his successor, Tuda by name, was killed with many of his monks, by a pestilence at Lindisfarne. The ground therefore seemed to be cleared for Wilfrid. At this time Oswy was king of Bernicia, and Alchfrid his son governed Deira, probably as an independent province. Alchfrid induced Wilfrid to accept the see of York. Wilfrid at once set to work to strengthen the position of the Catholic Church and to destroy the influence of the Church of Iona in his diocese. He refused to be consecrated by a bishop of the Church of Iona, sent for that purpose to Gaul. He probably was determined not to acknowledge the supremacy of any other English see over his own. He was absent for three years, and Oswy, who favoured the Church of Iona, took advantage of his absence to appoint Ceadda (Chad) to the see of York. On his return, after being duly consecrated, Wilfrid retired without a struggle to his own monastery at Ripon. In 669, Theodore, the Archbishop of Canterbury, intervened to make peace between the two factions, and at his instigation Ceadda resigned the see in favour of Wilfrid, who at once began his great period of activity in the diocese. Whatever may be our sentimental liking for the older and more national Church of Iona, there can be no doubt that the Catholic Church was the chief support of culture, learning, and civilisation in Europe, and Wilfrid was a worthy representative of it. During his episcopate the see of York probably played the most important part it has ever taken in the history of England. At that time, more than any other, the future of learning, civilisation, and humanity was in the hands of the priests, and the English toto divisi ab orbe were kept in touch with the slowly reviving culture of Europe by the cosmopolitan Church of Rome. Wilfrid was undoubtedly the best representative of that culture in England. It was his object not only to Catholicise the north of England, but to educate it. He travelled continually through his vast diocese with a train of builders, artists, and teachers. His architectural activity in particular was very great. He repaired the minster at York, which had fallen almost into ruins, and built large churches at Hexham and Ripon. But he was not allowed to continue his work unopposed. Egfrith had become king of the whole of Northumbria, and a quarrel arose between him and Wilfrid. At last the king induced Theodore, who had formerly interfered in Wilfrid's favour, but who was now perhaps jealous of his great activity and fame, to assert his supremacy over the north and to divide the great diocese of Northumbria into four bishoprics, York, Lindisfarne, Hexham, and Witherne. Theodore had received the pall; Wilfrid had not. It was therefore contended that Theodore had authority over him. Wilfrid retired to Rome to claim the support of the Pope. It was given to him, but when he returned to York, in 680, he was imprisoned and afterwards banished. Soon after Egfrith died, and Theodore, again intervening, obtained a reconciliation between Wilfrid and the new king Alchfrid. Wilfrid again became Bishop of York, but another quarrel caused him again to resign his see, and this time for good. During all this period there is no doubt that the Bishops of York were subordinate to those of Canterbury. The constant disorders to which the kingdom of Northumbria was subjected for a century, and the quarrels between bishop and king, lessened the power, both civil and ecclesiastical, of the kingdom. It was not till 734 that a bishop of York, Egbert, received the pall, which had been granted only to Paulinus, and from that time the northern archbishops seem to have been independent of Canterbury, especially after York fell into the hands of the Danes in 867. It is possible that Gregory, who directed that York and Canterbury should each appoint twelve suffragan bishops, intended to make the sees equal in every respect. The anarchy and divisions of the northern kingdom prevented this plan from being carried out. The kings of Northumbria themselves, from time to time, acknowledged the authority of Canterbury, and during the hundred years between Paulinus and Egbert that York was without a metropolitan archbishop, the Primate of Canterbury, without a rival, increased his power. With the advent of the Danes, however, Northumbria was naturally much isolated from the south, and the diocese of York, though smaller and poorer than that of Canterbury, was a rival power. In fact, until the year 1072 the archbishops of York either held themselves or appointed others to the diocese of Worcester. It was not until the Conquest that the independence of the northern bishops was seriously questioned. Under the Danish rule two of the archbishops were probably of that race—Wolfstan, appointed in 928, and Oskytel, his successor. The Danish supremacy was put an end to in 954, when Eadred incorporated Northumbria into the kingdom of England. From 867 to 1000, or after, York was ruled by an earl, either under the Danes or the kings of England. The city was important, not only as a strongly fortified place, but as a centre of commerce, and it had a large population. It had as many as 30,000 inhabitants in the tenth century. There are traces of the Danish supremacy in the language and faces of the people; in York itself Danish beads, glass, jet and amber, and carved horns have been found.

At the time of the Conquest, Aeldred was archbishop of York. After Hastings he swore allegiance to William. For this act he was bitterly reproached. It is said that he exacted a promise from William that he would treat his English and his Norman subjects alike. He crowned William at Westminster. In 1068 Edwin and Morcar, Earls of Mercia and Yorkshire, broke into rebellion. They soon submitted, but the people of York had been roused, and remained in rebellion. On the approach of the Conqueror, however, they also submitted. William built a castle in York, at the junction of the Ouse and the Foss, and garrisoned it with Normans. He then returned southwards. So soon as his back was turned, the city revolted again and besieged the castle. But William was soon upon them. He took and plundered the city, and erected another fortress on Beacon Hill. In 1069 occurred the final rebellion. A Danish fleet sailed up the Humber under Edgar, Gospatric, and Waltheof. This last calamity is said to have killed Ealdred, the archbishop. He had endeavoured to make peace between conquerors and conquered, and he saw that now a desperate struggle was inevitable. The whole of Northumbria rose as the Danes made their way up the Ouse. The Norman garrisons in York set fire to the houses near them, and the whole city was burnt down. The minster was either wholly or partially destroyed. On the site of William's fort at Beacon Hill there have lately been discovered several deposits of silver pennies of the earliest coinage of William. These were probably hidden there by the Norman garrison. After a desperate sortie, these forts were taken. Thereupon the Danes sailed away with their plunder, and the revolt suddenly came to an end. But William swore an oath of vengeance. He caught and destroyed a number of the Danes in Lincolnshire. When he reached York he found it deserted. He repaired his castles, and then proceeded to make an example of the country round. His vengeance was so thorough that for nine years afterwards the land between York and Durham was untilled. He returned to York to keep Christmas. It is not too much to say that the north of England took centuries to recover from his vengeance. The famous library of York, which was destroyed in the fire, deserves a few words of mention. It was a fine example of the educational work of the Saxon Church. Under Egbert, and at the instigation of Bede, was founded the University of York, which soon grew to great importance. Alcuin was its chief ornament, and gave lessons there in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The library was formed in connection with this university, and a list of the books in it, made by Alcuin himself, has come down to us. They consist chiefly of the Fathers and of the later Latin poets, with a few books on philosophy and grammar.

Thomas of Bayeux, the first Norman archbishop, found everything at York in ruin and confusion. The minster and its outlying buildings, the library, and the university were destroyed, and only one of three canons remained in residence. He increased the number of these, and appointed a dean—there had not been one at York before—and otherwise changed the constitution of the minster. He further appointed a chancellor, or magister scholarum, in charge of all schools within ten miles of York. Among these was the Grammar School in the city, which still survives and flourishes, under the name of St. Peter's School. In the nave of the minster there is a window known as the Chancellor's Window, and containing a representation of Robert Riplingham, a chancellor of the fourteenth century, lecturing to his pupils. The library was never fully replaced. The books at the time of the Reformation were few, and were kept in a building close to the entrance to the south transept of the minster, and now used as the archbishop's registry. This building was erected in 1415. Most of these books are still preserved. In due course Thomas rebuilt the minster, or part of it, on a modest scale. In his episcopate the struggle for supremacy with Canterbury really began. Thomas refused to make submission to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury; but Lanfranc represented to the king that the supremacy of Canterbury was necessary as a bond of union between the south and the north. Thomas was at last compelled to submit to Lanfranc himself, though he made reservations with regard to his successors. In 1072 Worcester, and soon after Lindsey and Lincoln, were taken from the see of York. The abbeys of Selby and St. Oswald in Gloucester were given to the archbishop by way of some return. Meanwhile the archbishops of York also claimed supremacy over the northern bishops of the Isles and Scotland. They certainly visited and consecrated in these dioceses. After many quarrels, these pretensions were finally disposed of at Rome. In 1154 the sees of Man and Orkney were placed under the Archbishop of Drontheim, and in 1188 the whole Scottish Church was released from any subjection to York and placed under the direct control of the Pope. Only one Scottish prelate, the Bishop of Whithorn, remained a suffragan to York, but in the fourteenth century Whithorn also was lost to the archbishops, and became a part of the Scottish Church.

The Bishop of Durham remained nominally in subjection to the see of York, but in reality he was often a greater man than his superior. In 1134 the Bishopric of Carlisle was founded and placed under the authority of the archbishops. Sodor and Man afterwards fell again under his jurisdiction, and in 1542 the diocese of Chester was founded. The archbishop has now authority over nine bishoprics. But to return to Thomas. In 1071 he went with Lanfranc to Rome to receive the pall. The question of precedence was there argued, and the Pope decided in favour of Canterbury. Afterwards, at a synod held by William, it was decided that the Archbishop of York should swear allegiance to Canterbury, and must be consecrated in Canterbury Cathedral, that the diocese of York from that time should not extend south of the Humber, and that the archbishop should lose his authority over the see of Worcester. On the death of Lanfranc, however, the dispute broke out again. For four years there was a vacancy to the see of Canterbury; Anselm, the new archbishop, was consecrated by Thomas, who took the opportunity to insist that Anselm should not be styled Primate of all England. The quarrel with Canterbury remained in abeyance until Thurstan was appointed Archbishop of York (1114 A.D.). He refused to make submission to Canterbury, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was determined not to consecrate him until he submitted. There was, therefore, a deadlock. Thurstan had the support of the Pope, but he was not consecrated until 1119, when the Pope Calixtus himself performed the ceremony at Rheims. Thurstan obtained a Bull from the Pope releasing him and his successors for ever from supremacy of Canterbury, and for a time York was triumphant.

In the reign of Henry II. the quarrel again broke out. This time the Archbishop of York, Roger Pont L'Eveque, the builder of the Norman choir of the minster, had the support of the king, who was engaged in the struggle with Becket. Roger, indeed, has been bitterly reviled as an accessory to the murder of Becket. He carried on the quarrel with Richard of Canterbury, Becket's successor, and at the Council of Westminster (1176 A.D.) the rivalries of the two prelates came to a head in a ridiculous scene. The papal legate was present at the council, and the Archbishop of Canterbury seated himself at his right hand. Shortly afterwards entered the Archbishop of York, who, refusing to take a lower place, sat down in the lap of Canterbury. He was seized, beaten, and kicked for his pains.

In 1190 the people of York, incited by the priests, rose and massacred the Jews, killing nearly 500. For this they were fined by the king. The minster contributed to the ransom of Richard I., pawning a golden cross which Roger had given. The cross was afterwards redeemed.

Roger was succeeded, after an interval of ten years, by Geoffrey, the bastard son of Henry II. He quarrelled continually with John, who on one occasion fined the city of York L100 for omitting to meet him when he visited the city.

In the war between Henry III. and the barons, the archbishops Gray and Gifford took the part of the king, and owing to their efforts their diocese was little affected by the struggle.

In 1265 a quarrel broke out between the Abbey of St. Mary and the townspeople, owing to the abuse of the privilege of sanctuary possessed by the convent. Much blood was shed, and the suburb of Bootham was burnt down.

In the reign of Edward I. York played a great part in the history of England, as the king made it his capital during the war with Scotland. He was present at the installation of St. William's relics in the choir, and in 1297 he held a great Parliament there. The archbishops and clergy contributed one-fifth of their income to the expenses of the war. The Courts of the Exchequer and King's Bench were also removed from London to York, and remained there for seven years.

At this time York was a more important city than it has been at any period since the Roman occupation. It was both the civil and military capital of England, and its archbishops and prebendaries had great power. It was also, naturally, a period of great building activity. In a hundred and fifty years the whole fabric of the minster, as it now is, was erected.

Edward II. also spent much of his time at York, and in 1318 another Parliament met there. After Bannockburn the Scots made continual inroads into Yorkshire. In 1319 an army of Scots, 15,000 in number, advanced to the very gates of York. Melton, the archbishop, hastily got together 10,000 men and fell in with the Scots at Myton, on the Swale, where he was utterly routed, and narrowly escaped with his life. This battle was known in derision as the Chapter of Myton.

The quarrel between York and Canterbury was not finally settled until the time of John of Thoresby. He was one of the most remarkable of the archbishops of York. When he was made archbishop (1352) the diocese, owing to the Scottish inroads, the black death, and other causes, stood in great need of reform. Anarchy and brigandage were rife. The people were ignorant and poor, and the chief posts about the cathedral, including even the deanery, were held by Italian absentees appointed by the Pope. The ecclesiastical discipline was naturally very lax. Thoresby drew up his famous Catechism, which was translated into English verse, in 1357, and set to work to abolish the abuses caused by pluralism and immorality among the clergy. The question of precedence was settled by Innocent VI., who determined that the Archbishop of Canterbury should be styled Primate of All England, and the Archbishop of York Primate of England.

"Thus," says the sardonic Fuller, "when two children cry for the same apple, the indulgent father divides it betwixt them; yet so that he giveth the bigger and better part to the child that is his darling."

It was also settled that each archbishop should carry his cross erect in the diocese of the other, but that the Archbishop of York should send a golden image to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Edward III. had been married in York Minster, and there his little son, William of Hatfield, was buried. His is the only royal tomb in the minster.

In 1392 the Court of the King's Bench again sat at York. Richard II. visited the city several times. The archbishops Neville and Arundel played a great part in politics at this period. After the deposition of Richard II. a prebendary, by name Mandelyn, who bore a great resemblance to the king, personated him and headed a revolt, but he was captured and put to death. The chapter in general were strongly in favour of Richard, and three other prebendaries were imprisoned.

In 1405 occurred the rebellion, headed by Scrope, the archbishop. After he had been trapped and captured, the king had great difficulty in bringing him to trial, as the Chief Justice, Gascoyne, refused to try him. He was finally condemned in his own palace, at Bishopthorpe, and executed near to the walls of the city. Henry IV. withdrew also the liberties and privileges of the city, and the citizens had to beg for pardon on their knees with ropes round their necks. The archbishop was buried in the minster, and his tomb was much frequented by pilgrims in the north.

In 1407 the rebellion broke out again, and the citizens of York were again severely punished. In the fifteenth century the importance of York began to decline, and from that time it owes the position it still holds chiefly to its ecclesiastical eminence. Richard III. visited York several times, and gave a great cross to the minster, standing on six steps, each of which was ornamented with the figure of an angel. The figures were all of silver, and the whole was decorated with precious stones. Richard also planned the establishment of a college of 100 chaplains, and in 1485 six altars were erected for their use. But the scheme came to an end on the death of the king. York had been greatly devoted to Richard, but it submitted to Henry VII. when he made a state entry into the city in 1486, and it remained loyal in the rebellion of Lambert Simnel, when the rebels besieged the city, but were repulsed.

In the reign of Henry VIII. the importance of York was steadily declining. He only visited the city once. The whole of Yorkshire, which was no doubt poorer and more ignorant than most other counties, was much disturbed by the abolition of the monasteries and the spoiling of the churches, especially by the seizing of the head of St. William, the chief treasure of the minster. In 1536 the insurrection known as the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out, and the city willingly received the rebels. Aske, their leader, made a proclamation that all the "religions" should be reinstated in their old places: and the friars sang matins the same night. In 1557 Aske was hanged on a gallows set upon one of the bars of York. Henry entered York, and the citizens sued for pardon, which was not granted to them until 1560. Henry ordered the removal of such shrines as had not already been destroyed, and fragments of these have been found buried near the minster. Henry determined to establish his authority firmly in the north, and established the famous council which appointed the Duke of Norfolk their president. The council was held in the house of the Abbot of St. Mary's. It took away most of the powers of the Mayor and Corporation, but gave renewed importance to the city.

The diocese was much neglected during the episcopacy of Wolsey and his successor Lee. Both were statesmen rather than ecclesiastics. Indeed, it is said that Wolsey never set foot in York itself, though he was arrested at Cawood, where was one of the bishop's palaces. Lee was employed continually on missions and embassies. He happened to be in York, however, at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and was seized by the rebels, carried to Pontefract, and compelled to swear support to the rebellion. The see was much impoverished in the time of Holgate, Lee's successor (1545-1554), who supported Henry in his quarrel with the Pope.

Much of the property taken by Henry was restored by Mary to Heath, the next archbishop, who was the last appointed by a papal bull with the acknowledgment of the Government. Heath was deposed by Elizabeth in 1559.

In 1569 occurred another rising in the north in favour of the old religion and of Mary Queen of Scots, under the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland.

In Richmondshire and the Cleveland district the new prayer-books were destroyed, and the old service restored. York itself favoured the rebels, but before it could be entered a force arrived from the south and the rebellion sank to nothing. The queen's army exacted a loan of L500 from the citizens of York. Eleven persons also in the city were sentenced to death. The Earl of Northumberland also was afterwards executed and buried in York. After the rebellion the Roman Catholics in the diocese were much persecuted. They were forced to attend the reformed services and the Holy Communion, and their priests were hunted down. Attempts also were made to abolish the Christmas mummeries and the miracle plays. The archbishop of this period, Thomas Young, is accused of plundering the estates of the church in the interests of his own family.

Charles I. had a great affection for the city and minster of York, and enriched the latter with many gifts. For instance, he gave L1000 to the chapter for the building of a new organ, and out of the same the chapter also bought some Communion plate, and a Bible and prayer-book richly bound in purple velvet and ornamented with silver-gilt plates. These latter are still preserved. He further removed certain houses and offices which had been built close to the west and south doors. He also destroyed a building which had been erected inside one of the transepts, and ordered certain seats in the choir, which hid the stalls and woodwork, to be taken away.

Charles also wrote to the Corporation in 1639, ordering them not to bring the official sword and mace into the minster, and to receive the Holy Communion there on certain fixed occasions. The Mayor and Corporation evaded the order by entering the church with sword and mace "abased." They have never yet officially attended Holy Communion. They also had a quarrel with the dean and corporation owing to their practice of using the north aisle of the nave, known as the Lord Mayor's Walk, as a common promenade. The dean and chapter endeavoured to put a stop to this in 1632, but it continued until the end of the century.

During the Civil War York suffered less than many cathedral cities. In 1644 it was besieged by the Parliamentary troops and the Scots under Fairfax and Leslie. During the siege the minster seems to have been spared as far as possible, mainly, perhaps, through the influence of Fairfax, but it did not escape entirely scatheless. Thomas Mace, the author of "Musick's Monument," was in the city during the siege, and he thus describes the way in which the minster suffered:—"The enemy was very near and fierce upon them, especially on that side the city where the church stood; and had planted their great guns mischievously against the church; with which constantly in prayer's time, they would not fail to make their hellish disturbance by shooting against and battering the church; insomuch that sometimes a cannon bullet has come in at the windows and bounced about from pillar to pillar (even like some furious fiend or evil spirit) backwards and forwards and all manner of sideways, as it has happened to meet with square or round opposition amongst the pillars."

During the siege the citizens suffered much from the presence of the soldiery who were billeted upon them. Each citizen, in addition to giving free quarters to as many soldiers as possible, had to pay L2 a month for their support. The siege lasted for six weeks, and in the course of it the Marygate Tower, which was used as a record office for the whole of the north, was attacked and spoiled, all the records in it, an irreparable loss, being destroyed. The city was captured soon after Marston Moor, and the defenders obtained very good terms, marching out with all the honours of war. The citizens also were well treated. They were to enjoy all their old privileges and were to be preserved from plundering. All churches and public buildings were to be treated with respect. A Presbyterian service was at once held in the minster by the conquerors. The Corporation presented to Fairfax a butt of sack and a tun of French wine in gratitude for the good offices he had rendered them. There can be little doubt that the great amount of stained glass still remaining in the minster is owing to the control he exercised over the Parliamentarians. On October the 24th of the same year the Corporation ordered that the Solemn League and Covenant should be tendered to the aldermen and citizens. Then all the Royalist members of the Corporation were removed, and both the bishop, Williams, and the dean, Scott, were deprived of their offices. They left the country, and the dean died in a debtor's prison in 1646. Fairfax, however, who remained as governor of the city, maintained the minster in scrupulous repair, and paid all the salaries of the necessary officials. A short time before the Restoration a large sum of money was spent on the bells. It has been said, indeed, that the Puritans wished to pull down the chapter-house, but there is no authority for the statement. But the control of the minster was taken out of the hands of the chapter and given to the Corporation, and this transference was only effected by the interference of the troops. The organ given by Charles was also taken down, and silver candlesticks and other ornaments, including the brass about the shrine, perhaps, of St. William, and also the lectern in the choir, were sold for the repair of the fabric and bells. In 1646 the organ loft, the canopies over the altar in the side choir, and the font were removed. In 1647 a cushion was made of the dossal. The library was left untouched and thrown open to the public, and the keys of the minster placed in charge of the Mayor and Corporation. In place of the dean and chapter, the precentor, and chancellor—all removed—four city preachers were chosen by the Assembly of Divines, and paid out of the revenues of the minster. Meanwhile the churches in the city suffered far more than the minster itself. In 1646 all "superstitious pictures in glass" and images were ordered to be broken, and the fonts were removed. In 1648 twenty-four churches in the city were without incumbents.

After the Restoration the Corporation did everything in their power to resist a return to the old order of things, and in 1663 there was a small rebellion, as a result of which twenty-one persons were executed at York. Discontent, however, continued, and in 1682 it became necessary to appoint Sir John Reresby governor of York, with a garrison of 500 men. The governor said that York was one of the most factious towns in the kingdom. About this time, also, the dean and chapter caused a riot by issuing a proclamation forbidding the nave to be used as a promenade. They succeeded, however, in finally putting an end to the practice.

In 1686 Lady Strafford, daughter-in-law of the great Strafford, was buried in the minster. Party spirit still ran very high, and the mob rushed at the hearse and endeavoured to tear the coats of arms from it. The military was called out, and there was a sharp struggle in the minster itself.

The Catholic designs of James II. were ill received in York. His proclamation for liberty of conscience was read in hardly any of the York churches, and an attempt to stock the Corporation with Roman Catholics was resisted. At last there came a crisis. The king appointed James Smith, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Callipolis, one of his four vicars-apostolic, and in August 1688 he appeared at York. The archbishopric had been vacant for two years, and it was rumoured that the king intended to appoint Smith to the see.

York, therefore, was ripe for the revolution, and it broke out there on November 22. Lamplough of Exeter, a discreet and timely supporter of both James and William, was appointed archbishop, and Smith was attacked by the mob as he was passing through the streets in procession. His silver-gilt crozier, which had been given to him by Catharine of Braganza, was torn from him and sent to the vestry of the minster, where it still remains. It is seven feet in length. Smith fled to Wycliffe-on-Tees, where he spent the rest of his life.

Since the reign of James II., and the last serious attempt to establish the Roman Catholic religion in the country, the history of both the city and the see of York has been uneventful. The city itself has declined in importance, and is now hardly even one of the larger towns in Yorkshire. It is known and visited chiefly for its historic interest and its minster. The see has experienced only peaceful changes, and its archbishops are concerned more with questions of Church discipline than with politics. The minster has suffered two serious fires, and a restoration, carried out on the whole moderately and judiciously.



The architectural history of the minster is somewhat vague and uncertain, and has been the subject of several disputes. It will be as well, perhaps, before entering into details, to give a table of approximate dates, both of the different parts of the minster as it now stands and of the buildings which preceded it. These dates are mostly sanctioned by the authority of Professor Willis.

Edwin's Wooden Chapel 627 A.D. Edwin's Minster begun (circ.) 628 " " finished by Oswald (circ.) 635 " " repaired by Wilfrid (circ.) 699 " " burnt down (?) 741 Albert rebuilds Minster (?) 767-780 Minster wholly or partially burnt 1069 Nave, Transepts, and perhaps Choir, built by Thomas (circ.) 1080 Choir and Crypt rebuilt by Roger 1154-1181 Present South Transept built 1230-1241 (circ.) " North Transept " 1241-1260 " Nave built 1291-1324 " Chapter-House built 1320 (?) " West Front of Nave built 1338 Vault of Nave built (circ.) 1354 Presbytery (or eastern part of Choir) built 1361-1370 (circ.) Choir (west of High Altar) built 1380-1400 (circ.) Central Tower built 1400-1423 (circ.) South-West Bell Tower built 1433-1447 North-West Bell Tower built 1470-1474 Choir injured by fire 1829 Choir repaired (circ.) 1832 Nave injured by fire 1840 Nave repaired 1841 South Transept restored 1875

It will be seen that it is doubtful whether the fire of 741 and the rebuilding of 767-780 mentioned by historians refer to the minster at all. The fact that a wooden chapel was erected for the baptism of Edwin in 627 seems to show that no Christian church had remained at York from Roman days, as at Canterbury; this chapel, therefore, is the first Christian building in York of which we have any definite record. The church of stone with which it was immediately replaced was finished by Oswald, after the death of Edwin in battle; whose head was carried thither and placed in the Chapel of St. Gregory. It has been supposed that there are remains of this original stone church in the crypt.

In sixty years Edwin's church had fallen into great disrepair. It was restored by Archbishop Wilfrid about 669. The following account of the dilapidated condition of the building as he found it is taken from a versified life of Wilfrid, ascribed to Frithegode, a monk of the tenth century:—

Ecclesiae vero fundamina cassa vetustae, Culmina dissuto violabant trabe palambes, Humida contrito stillabant assere tecta; Livida nudato suggrundia pariete passa Imbricibus nullis, pluriae quacunque vagantur, Pendula discissis fluitant laquearia tignis, Fornice marcebant cataractae dilapidato.

Wilfrid glazed the windows, repaired the holes, painted and decorated, and, strange to say, whitewashed the building.

We now come to the first disputed point in the history of the minster. In the chronicle of Richard Hovenden it is stated that Monasterium in Eboraca Civitate Succensum est nono Kalendas Maii Feria prima—that is to say, that a church was burnt down in the city of York on Sunday the 23rd of April 741 A.D. It has been contended that the word monasterium need not of necessity mean the minster, that the word civitas may perhaps mean the diocese, the ecclesiastical state, and not the city of York, and that, therefore, the church mentioned may be not the minster, but some other large church in the city or diocese of York. Professor Willis is of opinion that this is probably the case.

In the poem of Alcuin or Flaccus Albinus, there is a passage speaking of a church built by Albert (767-780), in the following terms:—

Ast nova Basilicae mirae structura diebus Praesulis hujus erat jam caepta, peracta, sacrata, Haec nimis alta domus solidis suffulta columnis Suppositae quae slant curvatis arcubus, intus Emicat egregiis laquearibus atque fenestris Pulchraque porticibus fulget circumdata multis, Plurima diversis retinens solaria tectis, Quae triginta tenet variis ornatibus aras.

It is plain that this church, wherever it was, and the poem does not mention its locality, was a very important one. It was very lofty, and had many porches, or apses (porticus may mean either), and thirty altars.

Just before this passage in the poem there is an account of altars set up by the archbishop, probably in the cathedral. Professor Willis thinks that if the church referred to immediately after were the cathedral, an account of altars set up in it would not be given before an account of the building of the church itself. But, as Professor Freeman points out, it is most improbable that two writers, the chronicler and Flaccus Albinus, should allude to a church other than the minster without giving its name. It is, of course, just possible that Albert set up his altars before rebuilding the cathedral, in which case Professor Willis' contention would lose its force. It is curious that no other chronicler mentions either the fire or the rebuilding of the church, but this omission would be almost equally strange whether the building in question were the minster or some important church in the diocese.

On the whole, therefore, it is perhaps most probable that the church referred to by Flaccus Albinus was the minster. If that is so, this church remained until it was ruined by the Danes in 1069. Then it was certainly either wholly or partially burnt down. Thomas, the first Norman archbishop, appointed in 1070, found the minster, the city, and the diocese, all waste and desolate. At first he was satisfied with roofing in what remained of the cathedral and otherwise restoring it as best he could. Afterwards, before 1080, he began to rebuild it. It is uncertain whether he rebuilt the whole church, or merely the nave and transepts.

Stubbs on this point seems to give two different accounts.

"Thomas," he states, "restored the canons of the church after he had rebuilt it as well as he could." Afterwards he says, "He built the church as it now is from its foundations."

Probably, this first passage refers to the immediate repairs which Thomas found necessary in 1070, and the second to his ultimate rebuilding of the church.

William of Malmesbury says that he began the church from its foundations and finished it. In the face of this positive testimony it is probable that Thomas built not only the nave but the choir. That he did so has been doubted, because the choir of his day was undoubtedly a very small one, and was afterwards demolished by Roger. It must, however, be remembered that Lanfranc rebuilt Anselm's Norman choir at Canterbury in the same way. It is very likely that Thomas was forced by necessity to plan his work on as modest a scale as possible, and that the pride of Roger would not allow the choir of his minster to remain one of the smallest in the cathedrals of England.

The minster, as Thomas left it, was utterly unlike the present church. The nave was probably shorter than the present one, and was certainly twenty feet narrower. This was discovered after the fire of 1840, when remains of the side aisle walls of Thomas's nave were discovered. There are no data for the number of piers in this nave or for the position of the west front.

The tower certainly stood on the site of the present tower, as Roman ashlaring has been discovered on the north-west side of the north-west tower pier, above the vault of the side aisle, and also portions of a shaft with a base, which probably belonged to the Norman clerestory. It will be seen that the present piers supporting the central tower contain cores of Norman work recased in Perpendicular times.

The transepts of Thomas's church appear to have been without aisles. The remains in the crypt show that there were two eastern apses to these transepts close to the central tower, and Professor Willis deduces from the position of these apses that they left no room for eastern aisles. There is no instance in existence of a transept having western without eastern aisles. One may therefore conclude that aisles were entirely wanting. Professor Willis thinks it possible that an additional pair of apses may have existed on the east side of these transepts, to the north and south respectively of these already discovered. This was certainly the case in St. Mary's Abbey.

As has been mentioned, considerable doubts still exist as to the size and character of the choir of Thomas's church.

On the one hand we have positive testimony that Thomas rebuilt the whole church; on the other, the walls of the crypt, as they existed up to the time of Roger's choir, are a part of the Saxon church. Their masonry is Saxon, and they mark the lines of a chancel far too narrow to have been that of Thomas, even if we suppose that his choir was necessarily small, from the want of funds at his command, and the wasted condition of the diocese.

This would seem to support the theory that Thomas left the Saxon choir as it was, and contented himself with rebuilding the ruined nave and transepts. In that case, of course, the Saxon choir remained until the time of Roger.

The alternate theory is that Thomas rebuilt an enlarged, but still a small, choir, leaving the Saxon crypt as it remains to this day; and that even this choir proved too small for the magnificent ideas of Roger, who utterly demolished it to make room for his own great building, leaving no trace of it above ground. This is the more probable supposition, and it is supported by the fact that the inner wall of the crypt is composed of fragments of masonry, buildings, etc., of early Norman date, which might well be parts of Thomas's choir, if it was destroyed, as we suppose. Some of the stones are covered with white plaster, showing they are parts of the interior of a building, and they are of the same red sandstone as the remains of the transept apse, which was undoubtedly built by Thomas.

As has been said, the choir of the minster remained unusually small for so important a church. The eleventh and twelfth centuries were periods of great activity in church building, and many of the Norman architects planned their works on a vast scale. With the examples of Durham, Winchester, and St. Albans before them, it was natural that the archbishops of the Metropolitan Church of York should be dissatisfied with the size of their own choir. It fell to the lot of Roger, the rival of Thomas a Becket, to rebuild it. The date of his nave is approximately 1154-1181. The remains of his work in the crypt show that it was in the latest style of Norman architecture and considerably influenced by Flambard's work at Durham, with channeled and fluted pillars. The detail appears to have been richer and later in character even than Flambard's. The outer wall of the crypt shows the dimensions of this choir. It was square at the end, and had flanking towers—two bays from the east—which served as transepts inside. The eastern transepts of the present choir still keep the position and tradition of these towers. The aisle probably ran round the east end as at Romsey and Byland. The two bays east of the tower were wider than the others. Roger, it should be said, had been Archdeacon of Canterbury, and he was therefore well acquainted with the "glorious Choir of Conrad" built by Anselm. There is much in the planning of his work to show that he was influenced by the example of Conrad's choir.

At the end of the twelfth century the minster was utterly unlike the present building. Except in the crypt, and in certain parts of the nave and tower not visible to the casual observer, there are no vestiges of the work of the earlier builders. There is now no Norman work to be seen in the minster itself, and in 1200, nave, choir, transepts, and towers were all Norman. Of these the transepts appear to have been the poorest part. They were probably short, and had no aisles. The nave also was of rude Early Norman character. The Early English architects having determined, probably, to rebuild the nave and transepts, made a beginning with the transepts about 1230. Roger's choir, only finished about fifty years before, no doubt seemed to them grand enough. The transepts were built on a totally different scale to the rest of the church as it then stood. They were both longer and broader, and they had aisles on each side of them. No doubt the object of this was to get a standard for the ultimate rebuilding of the nave. The greater width of these transepts made it difficult to join their aisles with those of the nave and choir, and were the cause of a curious and daring expedient, which will be described in the architectural account of the building. The south transept was the first to be rebuilt. It is the work of Walter de Gray, archbishop from 1216 to 1265, who was buried under an arch of his own building, in a tomb which still remains the most beautiful, perhaps, in the minster. The north transept seems to have been begun as soon as the south was finished; it is said to have been the work of John Romeyn, or the Roman, an Italian, and the treasurer of York. Walter de Gray probably also had a large part in the building of them. These transepts are the earliest part of the existing minster. John Romeyn also built an Early English central tower in place of Thomas's Early Norman tower. It remained for John Romeyn the younger, son of the treasurer, and archbishop from 1286 to 1296, to begin the rebuilding of the nave. It was planned on a far larger scale than the old nave, and was wider even than the Early English transepts. The old nave had been 83 feet wide, the transepts were 95, and the new nave 103. The difference in width between the transepts and the new nave is in the aisles. The plan of the transepts had no influence on the plan of the nave. The large triforium, small clerestory, and moderate-sized main arches give way to a large clerestory, large main arches, and practically non-existent triforium. These are unusual proportions in English Churches of that period. At Ely, Westminster, Beverley, and many other places, the proportions of Norman or Early English work influenced those of the later Decorated and Perpendicular.

The records of the building of the nave are somewhat scanty. Stubbs tells us that the foundation stone was laid on April 6, 1291, and that it was begun on the south side towards the east. It has been supposed that the chief object of making the new nave so much wider and loftier than its predecessor, was that it might be built round the old work without interfering with its utility.

But a petition, dated 1298, states that the old nave had long since fallen (diu est corruita). If this were so there was no object in refraining from disturbing the old work. It is uncertain whether the nave had been purposely destroyed, or had fallen of its own weight. It may be, though we have no record of the fact, that Thomas's Norman tower fell down, as did so many Norman central towers, destroying with it some part of the nave, and so made the rebuilding of that part of the church necessary.

The nave is fully developed geometrical Decorated work. It is loftier than the transepts, and its roof is low pitched. The main part of the rebuilding seems to have been done between 1298 and 1320. The indenture for glazing the great west window is still extant, and is dated 1338. The nave must have been roofed before this.

The vault was probably intended to be stone, but the great width of the building seems to have made the builders afraid, and they erected a vault of wood, but shaped and ribbed to look like stone. The outer walls of the clerestory, and the pinnacles of the south side of the nave show vestiges of flying buttresses. It is uncertain whether these were merely intended when a stone vault was projected, or whether they were actually erected, and afterwards, being unnecessary for the support of a wooden vault, were allowed to fall into disrepair. There are no flying buttresses on the north side, and the pinnacles are much smaller.

The west front was undoubtedly the latest part of the work to be finished, except the vault. The lowest stages, though geometrical in style, are later in character than the nave itself. The great west window, and the upper stages are of florid curvilinear Gothic. The west front is said to have been finished, and the great west window glazed by Archbishop Melton, who gave 500 or 600 marks to the fabric in 1338. The church was vaulted in 1354; Archbishop Thoresby is said to have given the wood. Before the beginning of the nave, the relics of St. William had been carried into the choir, and installed there with great pomp. The offerings of the faithful at his shrine helped to defray the expense of the building. Further funds were gained by means of indulgences granted by successive archbishops. The houses of Vavasour and Percy gave wood and stone, and statues of their representatives were placed over the main porch of the west front.

The date of the chapter-house, and the passage connecting it with the north transept is disputed. Browne thinks it was begun about 1280, and finished about 1340. He partly bases his contention on the fact that the Acts of the Chapter from 1223 to 1300 are given in Capitulo Eborum. After 1300 in Capitulo Ecclesiae, or in loco Capitulari ipsius Ecclesiae. After 1342 in domo Capitulari. From this he argues that up to 1342 the chapter-house was not in existence, or unfinished, but that it was in use from that date. The geometrical character of the tracery, and the Purbeck marble shafts used in the chapter-house might seem to support that view. Professor Willis, however, considers there is little significance in the difference in the phrases used. In capitulo simply means "in chapter," and in loco capitulari and in domo capitulari are vague phrases which may either mean a chapter-house, or a place used for the sittings of the chapter. At any rate, he thinks the chapter-house was not begun until after 1320, and the passage leading to it is still later. If this is the case, however, there is no reason why the chapter-house should not have been finished in 1342, and that would account for the change of phrase in the Acts. Though, at first sight, the building appears to be Early Decorated in style, on a closer examination it will be seen that the slender mouldings, the character of the carvings, and the details, especially on the outside, all point to a later date. It is curious, however, that if the building was not begun until after 1320, the tracery was not curvilinear, as in the great west windows, and the middle windows of the towers built about the same time. Perhaps, however, the geometrical forms were found to give the greater support, necessary owing to the absence of a central pillar. On the whole, the evidence of details, particularly of the foliage in the beautiful arcading inside the chapter-house, seem to point to its not having been begun until 1320 or later.

In 1362 John of Thoresby became archbishop. The times were unpropitious for building. Yorkshire was suffering much from the black death, there was great poverty among the peasantry, and the diocese was in great need of discipline and reform. Thoresby gave himself up for nine years to this work, and in 1361 he thought the time had come for the rebuilding of the choir. We have already seen how at York, one great work led to another. The transepts were rebuilt that they might be in harmony with the grandeur of Roger's choir, the nave that it might not be eclipsed by the transepts; and now it was contended that the choir must not be inferior to the rest of the church. Therefore, on the 20th of July 1361, it was resolved by the archbishop and chapter that "It was right that every church whatsoever should agree in the fitting decoration of each particular part, and that the choir in particular, where the holy sacrifice of the mass took place, should be especially rich in ornament." Thereupon they decided to rebuild the choir. The foundation stone was laid on the 30th July 1361, and the work was begun at the extreme east end. There was a very good reason for this procedure. The design of the new choir, both as to size and the planning of the bays, was modelled on that of the nave. It was Thoresby's object to build the largest and most magnificent choir in England. It was therefore both wider, loftier, and longer than that of Roger's, and beginning at the east end it was possible to complete almost the whole of the portion east of the altar as it now stands—that is to say, the presbytery, without interfering with Roger's choir. While, therefore, the presbytery was being built, the service of the church was still carried on in Roger's choir, and only the aisles behind Roger's east end were destroyed. Even when the four bays of the presbytery were completed, say about 1370, it was possible to continue the aisles of the new choir proper without interfering with Roger's work, except to pull down the towers flanking it, so much wider was the new building than the old. Even Roger's transepts did not extend beyond the aisle walls of the new choir, and their place was taken by the present eastern transepts, which are each merely a bay of the aisle, raised to the same height as the vault of the choir itself, and open to the choir from top to bottom.

There has been a dispute whether or no this presbytery was completed in Thoresby's lifetime. According to Stubbs, Thoresby provided tombs for six of his predecessors, and placed them in the choir in front of the lady chapel—that is to say, in the presbytery.

He also says that Idem Archiepiscopus ... Capellam ... Virginis Mariae Mirabili arte Sculpturae atque notabili pictura peregit.

The building must certainly have been roofed before it was decorated, and if Stubbs is accurate, and there is no reason to suppose that he is not, the work was completed by Thoresby. Thoresby died in 1373, and if he finished the presbytery, there was a gap of seven or eight years between its completion and the beginning of the choir. There is internal evidence to support this presumption. The presbytery, though Perpendicular in its main features, shows many traces of the transition from the curvilinear Decorated to the Perpendicular style, especially in the tracery of the great east window and the clerestory windows. In the choir proper these traces have vanished, and the work, though apparently of the same character as that in the presbytery, is altogether Perpendicular. A lapse of ten years in the continuity of the work would account for this change, and becomes still more probable when we consider that the circumstances of the time were not favourable for great expenditure on building. The presbytery had been completed unusually quickly. Indeed, we know that L627 were spent upon it in one year, and this was an unusual amount. The average expenditure, for instance, on the choir of Ely was L318. It was natural, therefore, that there should be a halt to collect further funds. The work of the choir itself proceeded much more slowly. There was a complaint in 1390 on the archbishop's visitation—quod fabrica ecclesiae negligenter tardatur—and it was not roofed in until 1400.

The contract for the glazing of the great east window is December 10, 1405—that is to say, thirty years and more from the date of its construction. But there is nothing unusual in this. It was customary before filling windows with stained glass to cover them with linen cloth which admitted a sufficient amount of light, or to glaze them with plain glass; and it was only natural that a long time should elapse before stained glass could be supplied to the largest window in the world. Burying was begun at the east end soon after 1400, and Scrope was buried there in 1405. Bowet's monument also was erected there in 1415, while he was still alive.

A new high altar was projected in 1418, and the new crypt was fitted with iron work and paved in the same year. The building of the choir had caused a subsidence in the crypt, so the work of Roger and others was broken into fragments and patched together, older capitals being placed on Roger's pillars, in the condition in which we now see it. Nothing is known of the history of the vaults of the choir and eastern transepts. Like those of the nave and transepts, they are of wood, though of the same shape and design as a stone vault.

The great central tower was erected between 1400 and 1423. Hitherto there had been the Early English tower of the elder John Romeyn, supported by Norman piers which, perhaps, had received a partial casing of Early English stonework. These piers were afterwards recased, not simultaneously, but as the arches between them were erected, in the following manner:—

Taking the south-western pier for an example: when the present nave was begun, the western face of the pier was cased with masonry, so that three parts still remained Norman; when the Decorated arch[1] in the transept was erected south of it, it received a further Decorated casing on its south side; when the central tower was built, its northern and eastern faces were cased with Perpendicular masonry: so, in the case of the north and south-eastern piers, their eastern faces were completely cased when the choir was built, their western only when the tower was in course of erection. To this day it may be seen that there is no bond between the different periods of masonry, and that the courses are at different levels.

[1] For the explanation of the erection of this Decorated arch, see the architectural account of the transepts.

The piers were probably completely recased by 1409.

Nothing is known of the elder Romeyn's tower, or the manner in which the present one replaced it. A great part of the new work has been attributed to Walter Skirlawe, Bishop of Durham. It will be seen it is of the same character as the lower part of the central tower at Durham. It has never been finished, as the corners and the condition of the masonry at the top still show, but it is impossible to say whether it was intended to receive another storey, and if so, of what character that other storey was to be. At one time, as may be seen in old engravings, it had a turret in one corner, 24 feet high; this was probably destroyed in the last century.

The south-west bell tower was built probably between 1433 and 1447, the north-west between 1470 and 1474. They are thus both Perpendicular in style.

At the end of the fifteenth century, therefore, the minster as we now see it was fully built. Since that date it has suffered no changes of importance, and the record is only one of occasional damage from fires or fanaticism, and of necessary restorations.

The minster suffered to a certain extent at the restoration, and in a less degree at the hands of the Puritans. In 1734 the nave was repaved. Several tombs were found when the old pavement was removed, and relics taken from them and deposited with the other treasures of the minster.

On the 2nd February 1829, Jonathan Martin, a brother of the apocalyptic painter, John Martin, and a religious maniac, hid himself during evening service behind the tomb of Archbishop Greenfield in the north transept, and when the church was shut up for the night set fire to the choir. The flames were not extinguished until the stalls, the organ, and the vault had been entirely destroyed. The actual stonework and carving of the choir were considerably injured, and the glass of the great east window itself only just avoided destruction. Martin escaped through a window of the transept, but was quickly captured, and discovered to be insane. The restoration, carried on by Smirke, was begun in 1832, and on the whole was fairly done. At any rate, the authorities of the minster may console themselves with the knowledge that it was absolutely necessary. The stalls were a reproduction, as exact as possible, of the old woodwork, but the design of the throne and pulpit are original, and not successful. The cost of the restoration was L65,000, most of which was contributed by subscription. Timber, to the value of L5000, was given by the State, and Sir Edward Vavasour, following the example of his ancestor of the fourteenth century, supplied the stone.

Another fire broke out on the 30th May 1840. It began in the south-west tower, and is said to have been caused by some workmen who were repairing the clock. The whole tower, excepting its shell, including the bells, was destroyed, and the fire was not extinguished until the wooden vault of the nave had been burnt. The restoration on this occasion cost L23,000, and was finished in a year, under the superintendence of Sydney Smirke, son of the former restorer.

In 1871 the south transept was discovered to be in a dilapidated, and, indeed, a dangerous condition, and the advice of Street was asked on the question of restoring it. In his report he stated that the design of the clerestory, constructed as it was of two thin walls, was not strong enough for the weight it had to support, even though the vault was of wood. The whole wall of the transept had given way, and the clerestory, in particular, was in a very bad condition. It became necessary, therefore, to rebuild the side walls of the clerestory and the flying buttresses under the steep roofs of the aisles, to remove the heavy slates from the roof, and to renew the pinnacles.

On investigation, it was discovered that the inside portion of the walls had been made up of stone chippings without cement. It is curious that builders in the thirteenth century, whose system of ornament was most profuse and thorough, often scamped the more important details of structure. At Peterborough, no less than at York, instances have been discovered of what would, in these days, be called jerry-building.

The walls were rebuilt with solid masonry, held together by Portland cement, and strengthened by wrought-iron bars; the Purbeck marble shafts were in places renewed; the groining of the vault was stripped of the whitewash which concealed its material; the lath and plaster work of the vault between the groins was removed, and replaced by oak boarding; the bosses were gilded, and picked out with vermilion paint.

The cost in all of this restoration was about L20,000. In the course of it it was discovered that there were many remains of tombs and coffins under the pavement, but they have not yet been thoroughly explored.

The reredos, made of terra-cotta and wood, was designed by Street, the figures by Tinworth.

Modern stained glass windows have from time to time been placed in the minster. In the last century a certain Pickett patched and rearranged much of the older glass.



York Minster consists of a nave of eight bays and a choir of nine. It has a large central tower and two western towers. The main transepts project three bays from the nave and choir. There are also two eastern transepts four bays west of the east end, which do not project beyond the aisles of the choir. The chapter-house lies to the east of the northern transept, and is connected with it by a lofty passage projecting three bays from the transept. The east end of the cathedral is square, as in most English Gothic churches. The best views are to be obtained from the north, especially from the walls, which will be most conveniently ascended at Bootham Bar, or from the extreme northern corner of the close. From the walls the whole of the vast bulk of the minster may be seen, broken by the great central tower and the lofty cap of the chapter-house. Other English cathedrals are more finely placed, several are richer in ornament, one or two have a more delicately varied outline. None are so stately and so magnificent; and there is hardly a church in Europe that appears so vast as the minster viewed from the north. Compared with it the great French cathedrals, with their stilted roofs so often unbroken, except by a small fleche and with their outlines concealed in a crowd of flying buttresses, are apt to look short and huddled when seen from a distance.

The low-pitched roof of the minster, the absence of flying buttresses, and the simple and tranquil front of the north transept, give the building an air of masculine and stately repose, and of perfect finish seldom to be found in foreign churches; while the apparent uniformity of style, though the architecture is of three different periods, frees it from the picturesque inconsequence of many English cathedrals. Yet neither inside nor outside does the minster appear to be the expression of the spiritual aspirations of a people. It represents rather the secular magnificence, the temporal power of a Church, that has played a great part in the history of the nation. The archbishops of York have been forced by circumstances to be militant prelates, contending with Canterbury for precedence, leading armies against the Scotch, sometimes even heading rebellions against the king; and in their cathedral they have expressed their ambition and their pride.

The West Front.—The west front of York Minster is free from the two faults most common to the facades of most English cathedrals. It is not a mere undistinguished ending to the church, like those at Norwich and Winchester, and it is not a magnificent misrepresentation of the height or width of the building itself, like the west fronts at Peterborough and Lincoln. Most of the English cathedrals are not lofty or wide enough to give opportunities for an impressive facade, unless they are fronted with a mere screen of masonry; but this is not the case at York. No other Gothic church in England is so wide, and only Westminster Abbey is as lofty. The builder, therefore, was not tempted to any expedient to conceal the dimensions of his church, and so the front consists of the natural end of the nave, of which a great part is filled by the west window, with a gable above it representing the space between the vault and the roof, and with the porch below it. It is flanked by two towers built in front of the aisles, with two smaller porches at the base of each. The three divisions of the west front are marked by buttresses, prominent and richly ornamented, one on each side of the west window and two at the external corners of the towers. The buttresses, covered with niches and panelling, grow narrower and less prominent as they rise, until they are cut short with three cornered caps some feet below the battlements of the towers. The central window and the principal entrance are surrounded with niches, and there is an elaborate gable above each of them. The west front exhibits three different styles; the lowest part, containing the porches and the west windows of the aisle, being of the geometrical Decorated style; the middle portion, including the great west window, the gables above it, and the middle windows of the towers of the later or curvilinear Decorated; and the towers above the roof, Perpendicular of the fifteenth century. The central gable and the great west window are almost flamboyant in their decoration. A battlement immediately above the central window runs right across the front. The niches on the buttresses are in four storeys, and those on the central part of the front in six, of varying heights. There is also a row of niches on the towers immediately above the ornamental gable of the aisle windows, and the upper part of each tower is covered with niches. The greater part of these niches above the two lowest rows do not appear to have ever contained sculpture. The bases of the lowest row of niches are richly ornamented with foliage. The main entrance, though small, is extraordinarily beautiful. It consists of a single arch, divided into two smaller cusped arches by a central pillar with a circular opening above it, glazed and filled with six divisions of cusped tracery. Above the main arch is a gable, in which are five niches, the central one containing the figure of an archbishop. It is uncertain whether this is Archbishop John Romeyn, who began the nave, or Archbishop Melton, who finished the west front and glazed the central window. On either side of the gable are statues of the Percy and Vavasour, who gave the wood and stone necessary for the building of the nave. These statues, and the greater, part of the porch, have been restored. But even after restoration the fine proportions and delicate workmanship of the porch are evident. The slender shafts supporting the arches are well grouped and contrasted. The capitals, though characteristically small, are most delicate, and the mouldings are admirably varied with foliage, figures, canopies, and brackets for statues, formal decoration, and courses of plain stone. These mouldings contain the history of Adam and Eve. Even the porches at Sienna and Orvieto, though made of far more costly materials, can hardly be more beautiful than was this porch at the time of its completion. There is but little other statuary remaining on the west front. A few figures of saints remain in the upper niches of the buttresses, and there are fragments of sculpture on some of the lowest. The towers are 201 feet high, and are uniform in design. The front of each contains three large windows; the highest, Perpendicular in style, containing three lights; the middle, curvilinear Decorated, containing four; and the lowest, the west windows of the aisle, being geometrical Decorated, and containing three lights. The middle windows to the north and south are of very curious half geometrical, half curvilinear tracery. The highest and lowest windows of the towers have ornamented gables above them, the lowest being triangular, the upper ogee-shaped. The towers are topped with large battlements and pinnacles.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse