U.K. 2013


Day 7 Monday September 9


We ate our last breakfast in the Waldorf-Astoria early so we could check out at 9:00.  We took our last taxi ride in Edinburgh to the train station for the 10:00 train to York which took 2 ˝ hours. 

We knew that the hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the train station, so upon arriving, we asked directions -it was only several blocks away - We checked in our hotel, the Cedar Court Grand Hotel, but our room wasn’t ready, so they stored our luggage. 


 It was another short walk to the old town and the York Minster.  We decided to eat lunch, and restaurant, Thomas’s of York naturally caught our attention.  It was a pub –very attractive. We had to go to the bar to place our food order.  I had a delicious shrimp wrap and Kathleen had a chicken sandwich.  They did bring the food to the table.




We walked up the street to York Minister.  Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England, most famously York Minster, Westminster in London and Southwell Minster in Southwell. York is also called a Cathedral as it is the seat of the Archbishop of York.

 York Minster's history began in 627 when King Edwin of Northumbria was baptized in a simple wooden church at York within the site of the old Roman fort.  The wooden church was rebuilt in stone and completed by King Oswald but the Bishop seat was transferred for a time to Lindisfarne.  The minster was rebuilt again in 664 and again after a fire in 741. It was eventually destroyed during the Norman siege of the city in 1069.

The present York minster is built in the Gothic style of architecture but it was once a Norman cathedral.  The Norman Cathedral at York was started in 1070 by Archbishop of York ,Thomas of Bayeux, and a Norman choir was added towards the end of the following century.  The only remains of the Norman Cathedral at York are below ground level in the minster crypt.

The Minster represents almost every stage of Gothic style of architecture from 1230 to 1475. The present York minster was built from 1220 and the old Norman cathedral was dismantled in stages as Gothic additions were made.


The central tower was added in 1405 – 1417 and the western towers were added in 1433 - 1479.  The minister was finally complete and consecrated on July 3, 1472.  The minister is built of Oolitic limestone from the Tadcaster area and gives the Minster its white appearance.



 We didn’t have an appointment for a tour as the person in charge had written that we would have no problem getting a good tour, and the Dean would be out of town so we could not meet him.  We stood in line and paid the admission fee, then  in about 10 minutes (2:30) we met our guide and the rest of the tour group of about 20. Our docent/guide was about my age and quite charming with a great sense of humor.  She gave the history and pointed out many unusual features. 

 Length of the nave is 264 feet, the with is 100 feet, and the height from floor to vaulting is 94 feet.  It is one of the longest churches in England.  The pillars in the nave marked the line of the outside walls of the Norman church.  Many of the statues in the nave have no heads as a result of damage during the Reformation.

The stained glass is wonderful. York has more medieval stained glass than any other English church.  


The stone work around the East window is being repaired as is the huge window itself.  The window has been replaced by a photographic copy while they are repairing the glass.  The glass panels of this window are over 600 years old and many are in dire need of restoration.  From a distance the photographs make the window look real. 

The East end of York Minster, which is now three chapels, was completed in 1472 in the perpendicular style of Gothic.  The window contains the largest area of medieval stained-glass in a single window.  In the window is the work of glass by painter John Thorton from Coventry between 1405 and 1408. Many of John Thornton's stained glass panel depicts the beginning and end of the world according to Genesis, scenes from the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation.

A temporary structure, called the orb, has been built in front of the East window.  From a distance the backside looks like large ball, but from the front part of it is removed so you can walk inside.  Inside this structure can be seen at close range some of the world's most important medieval stained-glass.  You can stand right in front of the panel and examine every detail.  The panels are rotated monthly so the visitor can see the marvelous work of restoration.  Below are two examples that I photographed.

The beast makes war with the saints- Revelation 13 In this scene John Thorton as a group of figures on the right of the panel being attacked by the seven hooded beast.  One figure is caught in the creatures claws, and others are bitten by two of the small heads.

The next panel is called the seven churches from Revelation 1:20.  What John Thornton portrays in this scene is St. John being told by an angel to write to the seven churches of Asia about his vision.  John Thorton's design is unique as it combines all seven churches in one image.  Each church is represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine – like canopied building.  



 Another unique set of stained-glass windows cover the entire wall of the north transept.  The window called, The Five Sisters, is made of “grisaille” glass fashionable in the thirteenth century England. Grisaille or Cistercian glass was typically formed by painting complex foliage patterns on pieces of white or silvery grey glass. The pieces were then formed into strong geometric patterns with the skilful use of the lead cames that hold the pieces together, the lead being as integral a part of the design as the glass. Each of the magnificent lancets stands 53 feet tall and is 5 feet wide. In total the window contains over 100,000 individual pieces of glass.

Why is it called The Five Sisters? There are numerous theories as to how the window became known as The Five Sisters. The earliest reference to this name appears in Francis Drake’s “Eboracum” published in 1736. Charles Dickens, in Nicholas Nickleby, tells an elaborate tale of five sisters, who on the death of one sister contracted a window to be made in the Minster as a memorial.

An explanation with some validity is that the name the Five Sisters is a corruption of "Five Cistercians". The grisaille glass used in the window was very popular with the Cistercian Order. The Cistercians decorated their monasteries in a somewhat austere and non-figurative style, and grisaille glass is sometimes referred to as Cistercian glass. Although popular with the Cistercians, grisaille glass was not exclusive to them and York Minster was never a Cistercian monastery. The window may have become known as the Five Cistercians Window which by the time of Drake writing in the eighteenth century had been corrupted to the Five Sisters.



The Great West Window, known as "the heart of Yorkshire" due to the shape formed by the stonework of the tracery, was built in 1338.  It illustrates the authority and purpose of the church in the form of a hierarchy moving from the bottom to the top.  The bottom row shows eight archbishops of York, above which are the apostles, and above the apostles are four pairs of panels of the life of Christ and Mary.  Above it all is a scene set in heaven showing Mary crowned as Queen sitting beside Christ.

At the west end of the nave, under the great West Window are twelve headless saints holding haloes and, they are signaling in semaphore. Using two flags, or in this  case haloes, each letter of the alphabet has its own signal. The Semaphore Saints were originally made for a large art exhibition held in York Minster in 2004. They are the work of artist Terry Hammill who since the exhibition has donated them to the Minster. Although these saints are anonymous, they use their haloes to spell out the message which is central to the purpose of the building, CHRIST IS HERE.



The choir screen, also known as the Kings screen or the pulpitum which forms the West entrance to the choir is one of the most famous parts of the Minster.  It is carved with 15 large statues of the kings of England from William the Conqueror to Henry VI.  The screen is unusual because it is asymmetrical, with the doorway off center.  Seven statues are on the north and eight on the south side of the entrance.  The last statue on the right is Henry VI, who was murdered and his statue was removed and replaced several times before finally being replaced with the present statue in 1810.  The statue is smaller than the others and in a notably different style.

On the east wall next to the Five Sisters Window is an astronomical clock – a Memorial to the Allied aircrews, based in Yorkshire area and and the Northeast, who lost their lives in World War II.  On one face of the clock is shown the precise position of the sun in relation to the Minster at any time, on the other the position of the northern stars, by which aircrews navigated at night.



One of the Minster's architectural jewels is the Chapter House built between 1260 and 1286 in the decorated Gothic style. 


 The diameter of the chapter house is 63 feet and the height to the top of the fault 66 feet and does not have a central column to support the great vaulted ceiling.  Instead the weight of the ceiling is suspended from the roof above.  This was unique at the time of its construction, and there is a model of the chapter house roof in the vestibule to show the complex engineering used to hold up the ceiling and to spread the load created by the timber in the roof.  It is still used as a meeting place for the College of Canons. 



Around the wall are 44 seats.  Some of the Minster's finest carvings are to be found around the canopies of these seats. 

 (The fellow laying on the floor in the photo is taking a picture of the ceiling). 


The photo on the right is of the north side of York Minster.  Note the pointed roof at the extreme left side.  This is what the roof of the Chapter House looks like because of the design in the model above.

 Our visit to York Minster lasted several hours and was a wonderful and moving experience -so many beautiful things.  I have a model kit for York Minster but have not made it yet.  It will be coming soon.

Our ticket is good for a year so we want to go back on Wednesday.

We walked back to our hotel.  Our room was ready.  This is a lovely hotel which had once been the offices of the East Coast Railroad.   We have a very nice large room.  We unpacked, rested for 10 minutes, then off to the hotel bar for some liquid refreshments. 

Being fortified for another walk, we went back up the street towards the Minster to a pub/restaurant called the Lamb and Lion Inn.  Kathleen had made reservations some months ago.  The restaurant which dates back to the 17th century is next to gate to the city called, Bootham Bar which was one of the four main entrances to the Roman Fortress.

The Lamb and Lion was very quaint with a lot of small dining rooms.  Our starter was chicken liver pate with red onion marmalade.  For the main course I had a stir-fry dish with breaded pork pieces with a delicious ginger/lime favored pasta.  Kathleen had an open top fish pie.  For dessert we had a wonderful sticky toffee pudding.

We walked back home.  Tomorrow we get up and catch the train (same train) and go north two stops to Durham.  We passed through Durham this morning.  We will have the same type of schedule several times because we don’t want to spend every night in a different town.  We had checked train stations but they had no place for us to store our luggage,  so we decided using a central city and taking day trips would be the easiest.




Day 1 -Arrival in Edinburgh

Day 2 - Edinburgh

Day 3- Edinburgh to Inchcolm Abbey

Day 4 - Edinburgh to Melrose & Rosslyn

DAY 5 - Edinburgh   

DAY 6 - Edinburgh

DAY 7 - York  

DAY 8 - Durham

DAY 9 -York 

DAY 10 - Lincoln

DAY 11 -Ely  

DAY 12 - Peterborough

DAY 13 - Cambridge 

DAY 14 - Ely to Worchester  

DAY 15 - Tewkesbury and Gloucester

DAY 16 - Hereford         

DAY l7 - London   

DAY 18 - London  

DAY 19 - London   

DAY 20 - London to Guildford, Chichester, Midhurst

DAY 21 - London      OUR LAST DAY