York Minster - History and Facts | History Hit

York Minster

York, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

26 Jan 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About York Minster

York Minster – officially known as The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York – is a vast gothic cathedral that has towered over the historic city for hundreds of years, inspiring awe in its onlookers. One of the largest of its kind in northern Europe, York Minster is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore York’s medieval past, or simply take in one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the country.

York Minster history

The first church built on the site of York Minster was a small wooden structure completed in the 7th century for the baptism of the Anglo-Saxon monarch, King Edwin of Northumbria. From this era came the name ‘Minster’, a word used for ecclesiastic schooling institutions in the Anglo-Saxon period. A stone replacement soon followed, yet this was destroyed in a fire in 1069.

It was the Normans who began building the basis of the York Minster that exists today. Begun in 1080 and completed in 1100, a vast cathedral building was constructed, the remnants of which can still be viewed below the Minster today.

Over the following centuries York Minster was enlarged and renovated, with much of the work instigated by Archbishop Walter Gray. By 1472 the striking Minster was complete, with the addition of the north and south transepts, the nave, the Lady Chapel, the Quire and the western towers. The collapsed central tower was also rebuilt, yet had to be supported once again in the 20th century!

Since these major works, York Minster has remained largely the same, making it an authentic example of stunning medieval architecture.

The Minster today

Today York Minster is the crown jewel of historic York. In addition to admiring its beautiful architecture and imposing proportions, guests can visit the undercroft to see ancient Roman and Norman ruins, and climb the 275 steps of the central tower for great views of the city.

The Minster’s stained glass windows are also a marvel, with work dating from the 12th century, and a stunning collection of carved stone statues dating from the 15th century depict England’s monarchs from William the Conqueror to Henry VI. Crypts of long-passed warriors, priests and noblemen provide an atmospheric walk around the cathedral, in if you’re lucky you may hear the Minster choir at practice!

As well as individual passes, there are various types of guided tours available (mostly for group booking) including a free guided tour of up to 1.5 hours which details the history of York Minster.

Getting to the Minster

York Minster is located in the centre of York, and is a 10-minute walk from the train station. Bus services run to nearby Museum Street, a 5-minute walk away, and there are on-street parking bays in the vicinity. Due to visitor numbers however, other carparks in the city may be advisable, such as the nearby Bootham Row. York also operates various Park and Ride services into the centre.

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Historic Sites in York

Discover some of York's best historic sites, from the breathtaking York Minster to the meandering medieval City Walls. As one of the oldest cities in the UK, York's history spans everything from the Romans to the Cold War, leaving history fans of any era spoilt for choice!