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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.
Five photos on this page kindly contributed by
Colin Hinson, and one by Stuart Smith via the 'History Files:
Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group. Sound file from
'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4, 2009.