York Minster occupies the land between
Deangate and High Petergate in the centre of York. The minster
began as St Peter's Chapel, a small, wooden Anglo-Saxon
construction which was built especially for the baptism of King Edwin
of Bernicia & Deira on Easter Sunday in 627. Almost immediately
afterwards, Edwin ordered that the chapel should be rebuilt in stone
on the same site. This work was probably completed during the reign
of King (and Saint) Oswald (633-642).
Over time it was enlarged, surviving the Viking
occupation of the city in 867 and the subsequent Scandinavian kingdom
which held Yorkshire until 954. It was badly damaged by fire in 1069
when the Normans finally took control of the city from its Anglo-Saxon
defenders. Something is known of the early versions of York Minster,
but so far no archaeological evidence of them has been uncovered. The
Normans built a completely new minster, removing the old one entirely.
The Norman minster was built on a fresh site to
replace the old fire-damaged Saxon minster. Around 1080, Thomas of
Bayeux became archbishop of York and started building a cathedral
that would grow into the present minster. Work was completed around 1100, and the base of some of its distinctive columns
can be seen today in the Undercroft. There was a fire in 1137, after which the
church was enlarged at both ends, although perhaps not as a direct result of the fire.
In 1215 Walter Gray became archbishop of York. He began
transforming the Norman church into the present minster. The south and
north transepts were added, although not completed before his death. In
1291 work began on the nave (at the western end), completed by about 1360.
Then the Lady Chapel was added to the east end and the quire was completed
by about 1405. In 1407 the central tower collapsed and work on its replacement
was not finished until 1433.
Between 1433-1472 the western towers were added and the
work was finally completed. Between 1472-1829 the minster changed very little.
In February 1829, Jonathan Martin deliberately started a fire in the quire which
destroyed the entire east end roof and timber vault and all the wooden furniture.
Eleven years later a second, accidental, fire destroyed the nave roof and vault.
On 9 July 1984 fire broke out in the south transept after the minster had been
hit by lightning.
St Mary-ad-Valvas probably lay alongside the early
minster. Nothing is known of its foundation, and it is not mentioned until
1329, by which time the work on the modern minster was well underway and
parish churches were proliferating throughout York. Perhaps considered more
as a chapel at the minster doors (and hence perhaps the name, 'ad-Valvas'),
it was demolished in 1365 'to enlarge the walks about the minster', and
the benefice was united with St John-del-Pyke.
All photos on this page contributed by Colin Hinson.
Sound file from 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4, 2009.