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«13 1 Contents About this pack Fascinating facts about York Minster – a whistle-stop guide About York Minster The Building The Nave East End South ...»

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Forward features pack

January 2013



About this pack

Fascinating facts about York Minster – a whistle-stop guide

About York Minster

The Building

The Nave

East End

South Transept

North Transept

The Central Tower

The Chapter House

Plan of York Minster

New for 2013 – The Orb at York Minster

Music at York Minster

Advent and Christmas at York Minster

York Minster Revealed

The Great East Window

The Undercroft and Treasury

Exterior works

The people of York Minster

The Precentor

Director of Music

The Head Verger

Minster Police

Filming and photography in York Minster

Unique perspectives


Charges and fees

Calendar of events taking place at York Minster 2013 - Highlights

Photo gallery

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This pack has been compiled to give an idea of some of the stories yet to be told about York Minster and hopefully inspire you to visit and come to talk to us about how we can work together to share York Minster’s stories with a wider audience.

Although York Minster is a living church with a busy schedule of services and celebrations, we are usually able to fit in just about any kind of filming, recording or photography with an enthusiastic team working behind the scenes to make the Minster what you need it to be, from a church packed with enthusiastic singers for Songs of Praise to a cavernous space where good can battle evil, as recently seen on ITV1’s legal angel drama, Eternal Law.

If you would like to arrange a visit to York Minster, please contact:

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3 Fascinating facts about York Minster – a whistle-stop guide  York Minster holds 60% of England’s medieval stained glass.

 The Central Tower is large enough to fit the Tower of Pisa inside.

 The Minster is one of only seven cathedrals in the world to have its own police force.

 York Minster’s annual nativity service is the world’s largest unrehearsed nativity!

 The Central Tower collapsed in 1407 due to the soft soil beneath, and nearly collapsed again in the 1970s before major structural work reinforced its foundations.

 128 medieval windows grace the building.

 The Great East Window is the single largest medieval stained glass window in the country.

As an example of medieval art, it is of international significance, the artistic and English equivalent of the Sistine Chapel  Several bosses (wooden protrusions at the intersection of vaults) in York Minster’s South Transept were designed by young viewers of Blue Peter.

 The Kings Screen, which separates the Quire from the rest of the Minster, is unusually asymmetric – as it depicts kings on the throne during the construction of the Minster, it had to be extended when Henry V died.

 The Chapter House hosted Edward I’s parliament in 1297.

 16 miles of scaffolding is being used on the East End’s exterior works.

 The Minster Choir is the only mixed (boys and girls) choir in the country where students do not board, but share services and performances equally.

 Each panel of glass in the Great East Window takes a conservator around 600 hours to fully restore. There are 311 panels in total.

 York Minster Revealed is the largest conservation and restoration project of its kind in the UK 4 About York Minster York Minster is located in one of the most significant venues for Christianity in Europe. The Roman Emperor, Constantine, lived in the city – then known as Eboracum – and ruled the mighty Empire from York. Constantine the Great (272-337 AD) was credited with converting the Empire to Christianity, although he was not baptised himself until he lay on his death bed. Historians believe that this was because he knew that the sometimes brutal steps he would have had to take to make this change – sins for which he wanted to be forgiven before he left this mortal coil. A statue of Constantine was erected outside York Minster in 1998.

The York Minster that you see today is the second Minster to have stood on this plot, and was built over a 250 year period from 1220 to 1472, replacing a Norman Minster, the remains of which still lie underneath the floor. However, before it was established in its current location, York had at least two more Minsters, the locations of which are now unknown. This includeda Saxon Minster built specifically for the baptism of King Edwin of Northumbria in 627, supposedly on the site where Constantine had been proclaimed emperor.

With 128 medieval windows, York Minster has more historic stained glass than any other building in the UK, housing 60% of all surviving medieval stained glass in situ within its windows. Indeed, the Great East Window, currently undergoing restoration as part of the York Minster Revealed project, is the world’s largest medieval stained glass window.

The Building York Minster is cross-shaped, with the vertical part of the cross running from East to West.

The Nave The largest part of the Minster is the Nave, which is 100m long and 30m wide. Although usually filled with chairs, these can easily be removed to leave a large, open space – as seen in the final fight scene of ITV1’s Eternal Law. This gives amazing flexibility to the space, not only for filming, but also for services. For example, when Her Majesty The Queen visited on Maundy Thursday 2012, the chairs were arranged in blocks facing each other with a central aisle – very different from the more conventional forward-facing format usually seen.

East End In the East End of the Minster is the Quire, an area surrounded by elaborate partitions to create a more intimate space, which is used for daily Evensong. At the far East End of the building is the Great East Window – or, at the moment, the space where the Great East Window will be.

The window is currently undergoing a massive conservation project, with every individual panel removed to be carefully restored to its original glory. Currently, a huge actual-size print of the window hangs in its place – the largest of its kind in the world. In October 2012, a bold new interactive display space was revealed situated within the East End to showcase some of the panels as restoration is completed. For more information, please see the York Minster Revealed section later in this document.

5 South Transept From Spring 2013, the South Transept will be the main visitor entrance to York Minster. From here, you access the Camera Cantorum (the choir’s rehearsal spaces) and the shop. There is also the entrance to the Undercroft, which is currently being redeveloped as part of the York Minster Revealed project. The works have enabled archaeologists to dig beneath the Undercroft, with some fascinating finds covering the Norman and Anglo-Scandinavian periods and even back to Roman York.

The Undercroft will re-open in 2013 with brand new interactive displays, transforming the visitor experience so that visitors can learn about the building, its history and future.

The South Transept was ravaged by fire in 1984; any regular viewers of Blue Peter at the time will see the bosses in the roof that were designed by competition winners. It is also home to York Minster’s famous Rose Window.

North Transept The North Transept of the Minster is dominated by the Five Sisters window, filled with grisaille glass (from the French for ‘greyness’), hand-painted and set into intricate geometric designs. The central panel features one more colourful section, taken from the Norman Minster and inspired by the Crusades.

It also features the Astronomical Clock, a memorial to members of the armed forces who lost their lives in World War II, and is used as a temporary exhibition space.

The Central Tower At the intersection of the Minster’s wings is the Central Tower. Visitors can climb up to the top of the Tower in dedicated tours and enjoy the views from the highest point in York, or marvel at it from the inside. The scale of the Tower’s size and grandeur can be put into context when you consider that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would fit inside it, assuming of course, that it stood straight! The Tower was originally designed to have a spire on the top, like Salisbury Cathedral, but York’s soft ground made this impossible. The original tower collapsed in 1407, and it is only thanks to extensive works in the 1970s that the Tower remains stable today.

The Tower has a mechanised winch which hangs down from the central roof boss. This is used to suspend the Advent Wreath – probably the largest in the country – in December, and to hold a large wooden cross during Holy Week.

–  –  –

The Chapter House is one of York Minster’s hidden gems! An octagonal building with a soaring roof and, unusually, no central pillar to support the ceiling, the space has stunning stained glass in the windows, an elaborately painted ceiling, with some of the most amazing acoustics in York.

Built in the Decorated Gothic style, it was begun in 1260 and completed in 1286. Its walls contain some of the Minster's finest carvings, most dating from 1270 to 1280. These carvings include characters you might not expect to see within a building of this importance, from a lowly mouse, cats and dogs to a jester, and several characters pulling funny faces.

The Chapter House is still used as a meeting place by the Dean and Chapter today. The statutes which govern the organisation have changed very little since they were first established by Thomas of Bayeux in the late 11th century. Each wall contains six seats: to emphasise the equality of all members, no-one can sit centrally.

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8 New for 2013 – The Orb at York Minster A Dome of Discovery, revealing world-class masterpieces in stained glass Enter the Orb, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, at close range, some of the world’s most important medieval art. Within this elliptical treasure-house of stained glass you will discover a forgotten artist for the first time, John Thornton of Coventry – England’s lost Vermeer or Michelangelo. Explore new interactive galleries illustrating the epic stories and craftsmanship of the magnificent Great East End, all part of the York Minster Revealed project.

York Minster Revealed project is a five-year project generously supported by a £10.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It is the largest restoration and conservation project of its kind in the UK, and will transform the experience of visiting York Minster.

Brand New Festivals at York Minster 2013 is a great year for new festivals at York Minster. In February half-term, the Viking Festival will run in partnership with the Jovik Viking Centre. Festival events will celebrate the Viking Age at York Minster with dramatic historical re-enactments, expert demonstrations and fun family activities.

Also to be revealed during the festival are the latest archaeological insights from excavations in York Minster, which took place throughout 2012.

The Festival of the Passions, a new inspiring musical event for York Minster, will run from 9 to 24 March. Over two weeks, the dramatic story of the Passion of Christ will be told through a series of special musical concerts. The centrepiece will be York Minster Choir’s powerful performance of Bach’s sacred oratorio, St John’s Passion on 23 March, with a supporting programme from the region’s top musicians. The Festival will culminate in the Palm Sunday Procession through the city on Sunday 24 March, heralding the arrival of Holy Week, and celebrating York Minster’s 1000 yearold musical tradition.

The Festival of Organ Promenades, 17 May to 7 June, showcases the astonishing range and versatility of this giant instrument – if you thought you knew what an organ sounded like, think again! York Minster own musicians, featuring some of the country’s top young performers, and guests perform entertaining and popular tunes perfect for promenading. Performing within the Nave itself, you can see the organist in action and even ask questions.

Music connoisseurs can also hear the Organ in special evening recitals on Summer Saturdays in August, part of a tradition of musicianship at York Minster that spans a millennium.

Music at York Minster Music is a major part of life at York Minster. There has been a tradition of musical performance and composition at York Minster spanning a millennium.

York Minster has a very active choir made up of Choristers and Songmen; it is one of the leading UK choirs. The choristers are all students at the neighbouring Minster School. York Minster was one of the UK’s first cathedrals to introduce girl choristers alongside the boys. The girls and boys each 9 handle half of the sung services within York Minster, joining forces for major events, including the Christmas Carol Concert and Easter Day services.

York Minster is the only UK Cathedral with this even split of responsibilities that doesn’t require choristers to board at the school. As one of the top cathedral choirs in the country, competition for places in the choir is high, and indeed, some of the families of current choristers have relocated the whole family so that their children can be part of the choir.

Alongside the nationally-renowned choir, York Minster also has an excellent programme of visiting musicians, and concerts and performances from individuals and groups who use York Minster as their base. May 2013 will see the launch of a unique series of lunchtime promenade concerts on one of the Minster’s four organs, the first performed by York Minster’s own musicians as well as some of the country’s top young performers and guests.

The music performed within the Minster comes from a wide and varied repertoire, from performances of some of the earliest music recorded to modern popular, both secular and sacred.

In 2012, a performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Works took place, and top British folk band, The Unthanks performed on 17 August giving a powerful performance in collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band.

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