St Michael le Belfrey occupies a broad
plot on the southern side of Minster Yard, immediately alongside
the Minster itself. Saxon burials in Petergate suggest that a church
existed on this site as early as the eighth century. One certainly
existed by 1294 and was controlled by the Minster's Dean and Chapter
for several hundred years. The present church dates from 1525-1536,
and 'le Belfrey' refers either to the Minster belfry or to the older
church which probably had a bell tower.
The church was a rebuild, although how much of the
old fabric remained is uncertain, resulting mixed Gothic and Renaissance
styles. It remains the largest parish church in the city, originally
serving a wealthy community of merchants and craftsmen. Guy Fawkes was
baptised here in 1570. The 1848 bell tower is a replica of the earliest
known tower, first shown in 1705. The west front was fully restored in
1867 after houses attached to the church were demolished.
St Wilfrid's Catholic Church is on the
northern side of Duncombe Place, overlooking Blake Street within sight
of the Minster. Opened in 1864, it was dedicated with the name of the
former Anglican church in York which was closed in 1548. St Wilfrid's
parish was revived by Catholics in 1742 with the founding of the
Little Blake Street Mission. A public chapel opened in 1760 and
continued until 1802 when another chapel was built on the present site
and used until 1864.
St Mary's Abbey stood on the land between
Museum Street and Marygate, to the north-west of the Minster. The
abbey was founded in 1055 and initially dedicated to St Olave. William
II re-founded it in 1088, and began the construction of a Norman church.
Eventually the wealth of the abbey prompted the building of a much larger
abbey church in 1270, which was completed in 1294. The old church was
undermined by the foundation work and was demolished.
Following a dispute and a riot in 1132, a party of
reform-minded monks left to establish the Cistercian monastery of
Fountains Abbey. The surviving ruins of St Mary's date to the
rebuilding programme begun in 1271 and finished by 1294. In November 1538
the Gilbertine Priory in Fishergate surrendered to Henry VIII
during the Dissolution. The Benedictine Priory of Holy Trinity
followed a month later. St Mary's was closed in 1539, and was
quickly destroyed to a great extent.
St Martin-le-Grand is on the western
side of Coney Street, opposite New Street. Often known as St Martin
Coney Street and most famous for the clock overhanging York's main
shopping street, the church existed by the eleventh century. It was
largely destroyed by bombing on 29 April 1942, but in the 1960s the
surviving south aisle and tower were incorporated in a rebuilding on
a smaller scale under the direction of the leading church architect,
Four photos on this page contributed by Colin Hinson.