Tuesday, 9 July 2002

York Minster

We started today by walking from our hotel to York Minster ("minster" is an old word for "church"), the city's great Anglican cathedral. Yesterday I mentioned that the Durham cathedral was unusual in that it was built over a period of only forty years, and thus was all in one architectural style; York Minster was built and rebuilt from the early 13th to the 15th century, so the transepts (north and south "wings") are in the Early English style, the nave (part where the public gathered, the west "wing" or base of the cross-shape of the cathedral) is in the Decorated Gothic style, and the tower and east end are in the Perpendicular style. One characteristic of the Decorated Gothic style, visible in the west end here, is that by the late 13th century artisans had figured out how to make windows with traceries of stone, not just metal, so they could build much larger windows. The heart-shaped traceries at the top of the central window have caused that window to be called the "Heart of Yorkshire."

York Minster, inside

Unlike in Durham cathedral, photography was allowed in York Minster; here we are looking through the nave toward the start of the east end, with the great organ console above the arch, and the high altar and east window beyond. I got the same feeling of immense solidity and power from both of these cathedrals, though as I mentioned the Durham cathedral was less decorated than York Minster (which in turn was considerably less intensively ornamented than other cathedrals I've seen), so perhaps this photo can stand in for yesterday as well.

Concert in York Minster

Here we are performing a brief (fifteen minutes!) informal concert of a capella (without accompaniment) songs in the north transept. Despite the early hour of 9:30-9:45, we had a few dozen people listening to us. We started a little early and finished a little late, so we were interrupted twice by the chiming on the quarter hours of a large clock in the north transept! We are standing under the Five Sisters' Window, which dates to about 1260 and is the oldest complete window in York Minster. The geometric pattern of gray and green glass is called "grisaille"; in the bottom of the third window is a small picture that is even older, and was taken from a Norman cathedral that was replaced by York Minster. (Photo by Steve Campbell with our digital camera.)


"Lida Rose, I'm home again, Rose, ..." We had a couple of very familiar faces from the South Bay in the audience during our concert; here are Peter Neushel and Caroline MacLean, the husband-and-wife team who lead the South Bay Coastliners barbershop chorus and Southtowns Sweet Adelines respectively, with Bernie Barron, Jim Sellars, Carolyn Cheek, Lyle Stoltenberg, and George Jackson, who are in those groups. These two were visiting her family, who live near here, and so they dropped by for our concert! Small world...

Monk Bar

After the concert we had about 45 minutes to look around in York Minster, and then we divided into four groups for a guided walking tour of the city. Because it has been here since the Romans founded it under the name Eboracum, there are architectural and other legacies from the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings (who gave it the name Jorvik or Yorwik, later altered to its present name), and the Normans. There are some remnants of the walls of the Roman fortress, but the medieval city walls are extremely well preserved, and you can walk along on top of them for much of the way around the old city. Since gates serve to let people in but also keep people out, the city gates here are given the name "Bars"; here is the Monk Bar, near our hotel (which is named for it), which is the closest to the monks of York Minster.

The Shambles

This is the Shambles, the old street of the butchers, which has been here for at least a thousand years, though it was rebuilt in its present form around 1400. Note the medieval houses leaning towards each other as if sharing a secret... The name Shambles comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "shamel," which referred to the benches or stalls from which the butchers sold their products. Whether it has anything to do with the origin of the current phrase "in a shambles," I don't know. It is now mostly a street of shops. Besides the Shambles, other place names in York recall the various strands of its history; the street names Goodramgate and Aldwark are Scandinavian (Viking) in origin ("Goodram" being a corruption of the proper name "Gudrun"), for example.

Ruins of St. Mary's Abbey

Here are some of us in front of the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey. Like other Catholic churches and abbeys we've seen, this one was smashed up in Protestant riots during the Reformation, and later its stones were carted away for use in buildings elsewhere. York Minster was around during this period, but it was spared because it was not then a functioning church, but rather a place of learning. Later it was used as a stable by Cromwell during the Civil War; but it has come through this indignity in good shape.

York Minster from across town

York Minster is so vast that you have to go most of the way to the edge of the old town before you can fit it all into the field of a typical camera lens! We are looking from the north, with the west entrance (in the first photo above) to the right; the conical roof in the middle distance is the chapterhouse of the cathedral. Cheryl and I made a short day of it, in order to get enough rest before another long day tomorrow, so there are many other interesting things to see in York that we didn't have a chance to explore. Other members of our group visited a museum on the Vikings and their activities in this region, or the National Railway Museum (which houses "The Rocket," Stephenson's first locomotive that was put into revenue service), or the museum in the old Norman castle. Several people went to hear a combined boys' and men's choir at Evensong in York Minster. And of course there was a whole lotta shoppin' goin' on! Another busy, full day in another fascinating city; this has been the pattern for this whole tour!

To next day's adventuresTo Wednesday, 10 July 2002

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new 9 July 2002, revised 21 July 2002