It would be hard to find many towns in England with more historical and cultural heritage than the city of York, located in northern England, halfway between London and Edinburgh. It was a perfect getaway weekend destination, and after arriving by train, we hopped off and walked towards the town and the many surprises that awaited us.
Crossing the River Ouse,
we headed towards the center of town, which had its beginnings as a Roman fortress in 71 AD.
Our walking tour started with the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey. Founded around 1080, the abbey was an important Benedictine monastery, one of the largest and richest in northern England,
whose abbots were known to be worldly, and the abbey was mentioned often in the stories of Robin Hood.
One of the city's most fascinating features is its medieval city walls which date from the 14th century, and are the longest and best preserved city walls in the country. The gates or bars, as they are called allow access into the city.
Monk Bar is the tallest of the four main gates, and still has a working portcullis. You can enter the walls here to begin a stroll around town that follows the line of the original Roman walls.
The full circuit of walls is 4. 5 miles around, but even if you take a short tour of the walls like we did,
you'll take in beautiful views of gardens and get a peek of York Minster.
York Minster, the jewel of York, is an architectural masterpiece, and the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps, truly a sight not to be missed.
The first church at this site was a wooden chapel built in 627, followed by several other churches built in succession through the ages, but the current minster was built between 1220 and 1480,
and encompasses all the major developments of Gothic architecture. I learned that the word "minster" was an Anglo-Saxon term attributed to missionary teaching churches, and is now a title of honor. Westminster is another example.
The interior is stunning-- lofty, airy, full of light flowing through the colors of stained glass on the sunny day we were there.
The entrance to the choir, or quire, is a 15th century screen, towered over by the organ console.
The screen is decorated with statues of 15 kings of England from William I to Henry VI.
Inside the late 14th century quire, we were fortunate to hear a visiting young boys' choir rehearsing. Angelic sweet voices of young boys--nothing more beautiful.
Most fascinating of all to me was the variety of medieval stained glass found inside. Some of the stained glass in the church dates back to the 12th century. A statistic that amazed me is that 2 million pieces of glass make up the 128 stained glass windows in the church, most of which were removed at the times of World Wars I and II to save them from any bomb damage. That part of 20th century history has always intrigued me--how through the will and hard work of the British people, so many works of art, statuary, and in this case, glass were moved to safety during these two explosive times in history, only to be completely restored after the danger had passed.
This window is my favorite of all the windows. It's called The Heart of Yorkshire. Can you see why?
So much more to share about York than one blog post can handle, so stay tuned to hear more about this delightful town and its treasures.