UK Best Places to Visit
United Kingdom Travel Guide
York and the York Minster
York is regarded by many as one of the most interesting medieval sites in Europe.
The city was founded by the Romans in the 1st century and served as an outpost for staging the Empire's expansion in the British Isles. Known as Eboracum to the Romans, the city quickly became an important military base. When the Roman Emperor Constantius died in Eboracum in the 4th century, his son Constantine I, who would later move the capital of the Roman Empire east to Byzantium, was proclaimed the new ruler of the Empire by his father's troops.
When the Roman Empire declined, York was captured by the Saxons. In turn, the Saxons were succeeded by the Vikings, who named the city Jorvik, which became the basis for its modern name of York.
The city's culture and leadership changed once again after the Norman victory at the Battle of Hasting in 1066. In Medieval times York became an important regional center for government and trading. Today's city reflects the mix of conquerors and aspects of each of these cultures can be seen within the city's walls.
During Medieval times, the city prospered and defensive wall were built to protect its citizens and their wealth. The wall included several gates, known as the "Bars", which were used to controlled access to the city in times of danger. The medieval walls are still intact and are one of the many highlights of a visit. They extend approximately three miles, but do not form a complete ring around the city. Walking these walls is a wonderful way to see the many historic buildings of York.
If you are looking for a place straight out of medieval England, the streets within the walled town are just the place for you. Be sure to walk the Stonegate (one of the oldest streets in the city) and the Shambles (the old meat market of the city that features narrow streets faced with medieval structures). Pubs and restaurants are common, so rest assured, there will be a place to plop when you are tired of touring.
The most notable attraction in York is the York Minster, the city's venerable cathedral that is the largest Gothic church in England. Construction started in the early 13th century and continued for over two hundred years. York has taken great care of the Minster and it is an attraction that should not be missed.
The cathedral was built on a Roman ruin (the crypt contains Roman columns), as well as on the foundation of an church dating from the 8th century.
The building consists of two large towers on the west end and a massive tower in the center. An octagonal Chapter House attached to the north transept is exceptionally beautiful.
The pulpitum, which separates the choir from the nave and the east end of the Minster, is highly decorative. Located behind the altar in the nave, it is a showy piece that includes statues of the kings of ancient England facing the worshippers.
The Minster contains some very fine stained glass (photos to the right), some old, some recent, but all beautiful. The glass in most of the windows was removed during World War I and World War II, stored during these conflicts to avoid any damage.
The Minster is a large and detailed cathedral. A tour that does it justice takes some time. Be sure to purchase one of the brochures describing the interior of the Minster, as there are many important details in this cathedral.
Information for visiting
For more information on the York Minster, visit the website of the Dean & Chapter of York. The site contains a detailed information and is located here.
Visit York, the city's official tourism website has information on additional attractions this city of discoveries.
On the Lighter Side
Those with a little extra time might consider the shows playing at the commercial York Dungeon located at 12 Clifford Street. The venue provides humorous, horror-themed, seventy minute presentations that document the "gory-side" of the city's history. The shows feature live actors and interesting special effects to wow you. This is not an attraction for everyone, so be sure to browse their website for details that might be of interest to you.
If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling the web.
This window in the north transept of the Minster is known as the Five Sisters. It is glazed with "grisaille" glass from the 13th century
The Rose window in the south transept of the Minster was added at the end of the War of the Roses, commemorating the Tudors
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