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Fantastic Facts About York Minster

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What is a Minster? York Minster's 2000 Years of History
York Minster, West Front, Seen from York's Medieval Walls

York Minster, West Front, seen from York's Medieval walls. The Lantern Tower, is just visible to the left of one of the twin west towers. The angle of this photo conceals its height - the tallest part of York Minster.

© Ferne Arfin
Besides York Minster,only Westminster Abbey still retains the title of England's oldest type of ecclesiastical center. A minster was a collegial church, established as a community, to spread Christianity and Christian learning.

York Minster is, at the same time:

  • A church where worship services are regularly held
  • A cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of York
  • A minster.

The Original Minster

Before construction even began on the current cathedral, around 1215, York was already a minster. It was built for the baptism of Anglo Saxon King, Edwin of Northumbria, on Easter Sunday in 627. In order to marry the sister of the Christian King of Kent, Edwin, a Druid worshipper, agreed to convert. A wooden church, the first York Minster, was built for the occasion, and later replaced by a stone church.

About 1100, the Normans replaced that with a much larger church, which forms part of the foundation of the current York Minster.

An Earlier, Roman History

Constantine was proclaimed Emperor of the Western Roman Empire while in York - then called Eboracum. York had been an important Roman stronghold from about 70 A.D. and, between 208 and 211 A.D., the Emperor Septimus Severus ruled the entire Roman Empire from York.

In 313 A.D., Constantine proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire, later becoming the first Christian Emperor.

The proclamation of Constantine as Emperor may well have taken place in a Roman basilica that lies beneath York Minster. The basilica, part of the long established Roman settlement, was only discovered, along with the foundations of the Norman church, in 1967 during works to shore up the foundations of York Minster's Lantern Tower. These early finds are exhibited in the Undercroft.

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