York. The Minster and a Song

York is a great city to visit. Vibrant, with many ancient and modern attractions, it is easy to while away a week within the city walls, as well as walking on top of them too. The Romans spent some time here after CE 71, naming the town Eboracum. Then the Vikings, who invaded in CE 866, left a strong impression: they named the place Yorvik and left a street plan that still survives today.¹ The Christians left their beautiful small churches and a notable cathedral, the York Minster, which dominates the townscape, its ethereal steeples, like medieval skyscrapers, are markers for the lost.

The York Minster in sepia.

The interior of the Minster is vast and requires a few return visits. Fortunately, the entrance ticket lasts for one year. You may need binoculars to look at the detail in the stained glass windows, most of which have stories to tell, such as the famous Rose Window, with its combination of red and white roses alluding to the union of the Houses of Lancaster and York by the marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York. ²

The Minster and stained glass

Attending Evensong at the Minster, which is held most evenings at 5.15, makes this vast space more meaningful. During August and school holidays, visiting choirs take the place of the regular choir to sing at Evensong. The ritual during Evensong is quite formal and follows the Anglo-Catholic service. During our visit, while trying to stay unaffected by the religious elements that were stark reminders of a discarded childhood indoctrination, I was, nevertheless, anticipating a musical thrill, that quintessential shiver when a piece of performed music enters the soul. During the performance of  ‘And I Saw a New Heaven’ ³, just as the conductor, a black caped Harry Potter figure with a shock of grey hair, swayed ecstatically as the choir and pipe organ consummated in heavenly sound, I briefly went to that new heaven. This piece of music is not your typical earworm for a fun holiday abroad, but nevertheless, it’s a moving one and will now always be associated with York. The piece is included below.

The chancel, York Minster
York Minster

¹ http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/timeline

²https://yorkminster.org/geisha/assets/files/fact-sheet-the-principal-windows.pdf

³ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Bainton

And I Saw a New Heaven, by Edgar Bainton

21 thoughts on “York. The Minster and a Song”

  1. Absolutely stunning images and story allowing us to be caught up in the moment. Choirs, pipe organs and Cathedrals are just awe-inspiring, provocative and can be very soothing for the soul. What a treat! Loved the vid. Watched it as I was enjoying my SSB sundowner.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d go back to York in a heartbeat. Magnificent place, kind people. Not sure if they still have guided tours from the city tourist bureau, but the one I took in ’97 was a fantastic and very enlightening experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is quite expensive though, I was shocked, taking in my family was something like 50 pound i recall. Fabulous city though, thoroughly enjoyed the church, the shambles and the walk around the city walls. Lovely photos and Roman history tidbits!

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    1. yes, it would have been expensive for a family. I think it was around 10 pound a ticket. But then, some things are quite costly in Britain, from an Australian perspective, except for food, and fresh vegetables.

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    1. So many of us atheists love that ritual side of churches- the music the architecture, the showiness of it all. It’s as if being removed from the darker side of it, you can step back and appreciate all that wonder.

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