The city of York is one of the most ancient in England, The medieval chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth, believed that its foundation dated from the time that "king David ruled in Judea." The Romans named the city Eburacum, fortifying it during the early second century; it became the chief military town of the British Isles. Two Roman emperors, Septimus Severus and Constantius Clorus, died there and it is probable that Constantine the Great was born in York. Christianity presumably had been early established. In 314, during the Council of Arles, three bishops were named from the British Isles; first from York, then London, and most probably Lincoln. After the Saxon defeat at Hastings in 1066, the archbishop of York swore allegiance to the invading ruler, William of Normandy, and crowned him at Westminster. After Norman retaliation for a series of rebellions by the local townspeople and nobility, the city began to rebuild and Thomas of Bayeux became the first Norman bishop. It was from this time that Canterbury gradually emerged as the more important archbishopric and York lost a great deal of its extensive sovereignty.
The cathedral as it stands today dates primarily from the 13th and 14th centuries, but with highly important stained glass and interior furnishings into the 15th century. Gothic renovation began in the south transept, 1230-41 and was followed by erection of the north transept 1241-1260. The nave, also in the Early English style, was built from 1291 to 1324 and the chapter house in 1290 as the nave was begun. The nave vaults, however, were finished in 1353 and the west facade 1338.
English cathedrals were invariably monasteries and cathedrals, that is, they housed monks who were headed by an abbot or prior, as well housing the office of the bishop who administered a diocese. York is called a Minster.
YK1 York Minster, west facade, 1338: photo courtesy of RADFORD
YK2 York Minster, from south, after A. Clutton-Brock, The Cathedral Church of York (London: George Bell & Sons, 1909)
YK3 York Minster, plan, after A. Clutton-Brock, The Cathedral Church of York (London: George Bell & Sons, 1909)
YK4 York Minster, view of choir, looking west from the high altar, 1360-1470.
YK5 York Minster, interior of choir enclosure, north side, c. 1470
YK6 York Minster, view of choir, looking east, 1360-1470, after Clutton-Brock, The Cathedral Church of York (London: George Bell & Sons, 1909)
YK7 York Minster, view of choir screen and north ambulatory arch, screen c. 1450
YK8 York Minster, north transept, with "five sisters" grisaille window, c. 1250
YK9 York Minster, north transept, detail of "five sisters" grisaille window, c. 1250
YK10 York Minster, north nave 1290-1350
YK11 York Minster, north nave window, 1310-20, detail of cleric and knight donors each holding his family cost of arms.
YK12 York Minster, north nave window honoring saints Denis, Lawrence & Virgin, detail of merchant donor holding image of the window.
YK13 York Minster, great west window, 1338, detail of tracery (heart of Yorkshire)
YK14 York Minster, St. William Window, 1422, detail of clerical donor
YK15 York Minster, angel Gabriel, south transept, c. 1430, neutral vitreous paint and silver stain on white glass
YK16 York Minster, view of from choir of high altar and east window, 1406
The great east window, 1406. Glazed by John Thornton of Coventry. Relatively good state of preservation . The subjects are divided between the Old Testament from the creation of the world to the death of David's son Absalom (Kings 18:9-15). The other segments contain the Book of Revelations (Apocalypse), portraying the end of the world. The lowest row shows kings and bishops, with the donor Bishop Skirlaw of Durham in the center. Skirlaw was hoping to be appointed the next archbishop of York.
YK17 York Minster, the east window, 1406. Glazed by John Thornton of Coventry. Highlighted section shows the donor Bishop Skirlaw of Durham, and legendary English kings. After A. Clutton-Brock, The Cathedral Church of York (London: George Bell & Sons, 1909)
YK18 York Minster, the east window, 1406, detail of lower central panels showing the donor Bishop Skirlaw of Durham, and legendary English kings
YK19a York Minster, chapter house, c. 1290, exterior from north.
YK19 York Minster, chapter house, c. 1290, canopied seats round the wall.
YK20 York Minster, chapter house, c. 1290, windows