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York Minster - an inspirational building
York Minster Cathedral (York)
Member Name: julwhite
York Minster Cathedral (York)
Advantages: Lots to see, museum underneath the Minster is well laid out
Disadvantages: None - might prove a little expensive for some visitors
This review is of the historic York Minster, a cathedral situated in the heart of York. The present building dates primarily from around 1200-1400, but there has been a religious building on this site since around 650AD.
The Minster is easily accessible and easy to find given its size. Parking is available near the Minster, but as it is in the heart of York, there are many other parking locations. Buses stop nearby, and it is no more than a ten minute walk from York railway station. The building has the facilities that you would expect, a small restaurant, shop, toilets and volunteers are at hand if you have any queries.
There is a charge to enter the Minster, which is eight pounds. This includes admission to the Minster itself, the crypt and the undercroft. It doesn't include admission to the Tower, which is five pounds, and you can climb the Tower without paying to enter the Minster itself. You can however go back at any time during the twelve months following the date of your ticket if you keep the receipt which is issued to you.
It could be argued that Cathedrals should be free to go in and visit, but with buildings with such an impressive size and with such costs, this isn't always possible. Given the tourist interest that this building generates, it seems sensible to charge and the costs aren't too onerous. On my visit however, there was one rather objectionable gentleman who stormed in with his wife and said loudly "you have to pay to go in a Church, no wonder they're so quiet". His wife ushered him out embarrassed, with the volunteers and staff looking quite unimpressed! Personally however, although I agree that Cathedrals should be free where possible, I didn't object to paying for entry.
If money is an problem however, you are allowed to enter the building without charge if you wish to pray or have a quiet moment inside the Minster. It just seems to be a matter of asking the volunteers or staff to be allowed in.
One thing that I noticed when walking around the Minster was that there wasn't much history explained, it wasn't clear what to look out for beyond the basic guide which you receive and the building was hard to put into context. However, if you visit the undercroft (which is included in the admission) there is a superb exhibition which corrects this.
What I didn't know until I visited the undercroft is that the Minster is situated on Roman, Viking and Norman buildings, which are still visible as the walls of these form part of the foundations of the present day building. It was a fascinating exhibition which was bigger than I had expected, and you stand right underneath the Tower and see just what is underneath the structure. It's always fascinating to see areas like this, and a lot of effort had been put into this display.
Whilst walking through the undercroft, you can also see the treasury where valuables from the Minster and surrounding churches are kept, with descriptions of each of the items. You can then also walk through the Crypt, which has some exhibitions about the building and the people who work at the Minster. There are marks on the floor, and original pillars, of where the original churches used to be, as the building has been much extended over its lifetime.
If you wish, you can also climb to the top of the Tower. You will need to be reasonably fit to do this, as there are 275 steps to climb, which will take you some time, especially if you need to take a few breaks. The view from the top however is staggering, and well worth it as you can see the various roofs on the minster itself and most of York.
The building generally is suitable for the disabled and those who may have difficulty with mobility. The minster itself is all one level, but you are likely to struggle to access parts of the undercroft and crypt, and the Tower would be inaccessible. The staff and volunteers on the site were very helpful though, and would no doubt assist with whatever they could.
One very minor criticism is of the staff in the building itself, who although clearly do a superb job, do seem to intrude unnecessarily into the prayers and contemplation of some visitors. It may have been a coincidence when I visited, but two members of staff were having a loud and irrelevant conversation in a quiet area whilst an individual was in prayer and two others continually shouted to each other, which in a building like this does rather echo around when it is quiet.
There are lots of things to see in the building, and there are small displays which explain what is going on. Two examples are the stained glass window sections which they have put into cases while the Great East Window is being repaired, explaining the conservation work and how they replace and mark the new pieces of glass. Another example are some partially burnt wooden beams from the fire of 1984, with an explanation of how the fire happened and what damage was done.
Before visiting, I was a little confused as to why York Minster was called this, and not called a cathedral. It was however explained that a a cathedral is the mother church of a diocese and a minster is a church built to be a centre for Christian worship. York Minster is both a cathedral and a minster, but not all cathedrals are minsters and not all minsters are cathedrals.
In summary, this is a beautiful building with a wonderful history. You are likely to be impressed just sitting and taking in the enormity of the building, but there is lots of details about the history available in the museum underneath the Minster. It is definitely a place that should be visited, and if you can, go at a quiet period so that you can contemplate on the beauty of the building more easily.
Summary: Wonderful building which is well worth visiting
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