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St George's Minster (Doncaster)
Member Name: micksheff
St George's Minster (Doncaster)
Advantages: Lots of history, free to visit
Disadvantages: Limited opening hours
Originally called the Parish Church of St George and now officially reclassified as a Minster, Doncaster Minster has the outward appearance of a Cathedral and dominates the centre of Doncaster town.
This is a landmark that I have been familiar with all of my life but I was actually surprised to learn that this current church dates only from 1854. It does however stand on a spot that has been occupied by a church since the 7th century and it is known that a church dedicated to St George has stood here since at least 1061. A fire destroyed this particular Norman church in 1204 but some of its stones were used to rebuild a new, more elaborate church. It seems however that Doncaster's parish church was to be cursed with fire and this new church was also completely destroyed by fire in 1853.
The present day church was designed by one of the most prominent architects of the time, Sir George Gilbert Scott. Following its opening in 1858 it was described by the famous English poet, Sir John Betjeman as "Victorian Gothic at its very best". Scott designed several other parish churches, including some others quite close to here, but of them all this is the most Cathedral like, with a square bell tower that rises to almost 40 metres above the ground.
The clock on the tower was designed by Dent, who is perhaps most famous for designing the clock of the Palace of Westminster in London that is now more commonly referred to as "Big Ben".
One of the main treasures from the interior of the church was an example of a Harris organ dating from 1740. This was the second largest example of its kind in England, second only to that at York Minster but it was sadly damaged by the fire of 1853. It was therefore decided that this new church should have an even grander organ and one of the world's most famous organ makers, German born Johann Friedrich Schulze was commissioned to build it. Today the Schulze organ at the Parish Church of St George in Doncaster is considered to be one of the finest organs in the world.
Throughout the year, but especially during the summer months there are a number of different programmes that involve organ recitals and it is not unusual for people to travel many miles to hear these. These recitals and other services are always free to attend but donations are always welcome to help maintain the upkeep of the church.
If you are planning to visit Doncaster's Minster then it worth checking out the list of programmes on their official website to establish when it is open. In addition to these services it is always also open to public on a Saturday from 11am until 1pm.
The Parish Church of St. George was granted the status of a Minster church on June 17th 2004 by the Bishop of Sheffield. It is now one of only a handful of churches in England that has been granted a Minster status.
The interior of the church is just as grand as its exterior. From the entrance the first things that you will notice are several tall supporting columns that line the aisle. As your eyes follow the natural path of this aisle you then see the altar directly in front, at the far end of the church. Immediately behind the altar there is a huge stained glass window, which is one of the largest in the building. Elsewhere within the church there are several other impressive stained glass windows and like many churches the roof of the church is very high, although it has to be said that the ceiling is somewhat plain and appears to have been simply whitewashed.
The pews are constructed of dark oak and those at the centre of the church are covered in plush, thick red velvet-like cushions. The pews down the edges of the building however are not nearly as posh so if you are coming here for a service then I suggest that you get here early and head straight for the centre ones.
I have been in more churches than I care to remember, not because I am a religious person but because I love the history of such places. I do often find solace in such places but I more often amuse myself looking for gargoyles. Gargoyles are little figures, often with rather odd-looking faces of mythical creatures. These are usually carved out of stone and can be found on both the exterior and interior of almost all English churches. Similar wooden figures can also often be found carved onto the pews and Doncaster Minster has several examples of both of these types. These gargoyles have many different religious connotations but their original purposes are not fully understood, it is however thought that they probably have their origins in pre-Christian Pagan times.
Overall I would certainly recommend a visit to the Parish Church of St George to anyone that has even the slightest bit of interest in such things. If you are planning a visit the contact details are as below:
The Parish Church of St George
Telephone - (01302)323748
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary: Declared a Minster church in 2004 this is Doncaster's largest parish church
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