York Minster | Attraction Guides | History Hit

About York Minster

York Minster is a vast gothic cathedral – one of the largest in Northern Europe – officially known as The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York. The term “Minster” is attributed to the cathedral as it was a teaching church founded by the Anglo Saxons.

In fact, the first church built on the site of York Minster was a small wooden one constructed in the seventh century for the baptism of the Anglo Saxon monarch, King Edwin of Northumbria. This was soon replaced by a stone church, however this was destroyed in a fire in 1069.

It was the Normans who began building the basis of the York Minster which exists today. Begun in 1080 and completed in 1100, the Normans built a vast cathedral, the remnants of which can be viewed in the undercroft of the current cathedral together with the remains of ancient buildings from the Roman era.

Over the next centuries, York Minster was enlarged and renovated, much of the work being instigated by Archbishop Walter Gray. By 1472, the structure of York Minster was complete with the addition of the north and south transepts, the nave, the Lady Chapel, the Quire, rebuilding the collapsed central tower (this had to be supported once again in the twentieth century) and the western towers.

Since these major works, York Minster has changed little. Some reconstruction works had to be undertaken due to outbreaks of fire at the cathedral (one such fire being set deliberately in 1829).

There is much to see at York Minster. In addition to admiring its beautiful architecture and imposing proportions, one 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.

Exhibitions within York Minster focus on the long and vibrant history of the site. Of particular interest is the section dedicated to Roman history, from the Roman barracks first establishment here to the life of Constantine the Great, who was declared Emperor in York. In addition to these displays, under foot are glass floors which reveal the ruins of the original Roman buildings.

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.