This church is of notable exception.
I mean, I managed to spend more than 3hrs there- and it flew by! I got there as it opened, a little after 9am & had the place more or less to myself. As I said before, the ticket costs £15 if you want to climb the tower (which you do, trust me) as well as just visit the church, and includes a guided tour around the Minster. You can use the ticket to access the church for a year after you bought it, too. I also bought the £3 short guide that is sat in the booth's by the ticket stand.
I spent the first part of my visit in the Chapter House (as it closed at 11am that day). It was designed for the Canons of York to meet and discuss policy, there are 44 seats around the octagonal walls. Unlike most polygonal Chapter Houses the roof isn't held up by a central column instead an ingeniously deisnged wooden vault holds the roof up! The beautiful painted ceiling dates from 1798, although the ribs and wooden bosses are [mostly] original. The Minton tile floor dates from 1845. There is an inscription on the wall to the right of the door as you leave the chapter house in Latin, the translation is:
"As the rose is the flower of flowers, so this is house of houses"
Immediately to your left as you walk out of the Chapter House is the Astronomical Clock. I found it really strange to see one of these in a church- I didn't think astronomy and religion went together? The clock is a memorial to the air crews who flew from the airfields in North-East England during WWII.
Then I braced myself for the insane 275 step climb. Up in a skinny dark spiral staircase, you can't breathe by the time you're half way, though the view is equally as breathtaking when you realise you're stood on a platform half way up the church over looking the eastern towers and just below you the city stands peacefully.
Once you reach the top of the tower is when you really realise exactly how far you can see, and did I mention the sunshine? It was sunny and clear, and from the top they say you can see up to 200 miles north to Edinburgh! Whether or not I believe that, I'm not sure, but I have to tell you the view was second to none up there- and the satisfaction of getting up there and back again without dying is pretty high too.
I nearly bailed after getting to the bottom.
I downed my bottle of water sat in one of the pews. I spoke to one of the monks, who read prayers for the whole church not 10 minutes later, about how beautiful York is and how wonderful the Minster was. That was when I thought about skipping the guided tour. You see, in these places you expect the guides to be stuffy and boring. You think they're going to talk at you in monosyllabic voices, they'll know their stuff, but they'll be bored of telling it.
Not this guide.
His name was Geoff Green, and he looked exactly how you would imagine a guide of York Minster to look, he wore a tweed jacket with a shirt, had slightly greying ginger hair and a beard. He was supposed to guide the 11,30 tour, but ended up with us at 11am instead, and it turned out we were in for a treat. Geoff it appears really loves York Minster. He involved us, and made us interact (especially after he picked on me for being 4ft nothing and decided I would probably fit in one of the windows that looked much narrower). His tour took little over an hour, and was worth sticking around for.
It was only 200 years after the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that people started to gather at the spot that is now York Minster. Now the Minster is one of the largest of it's kind and the seat of the Archbishop of York, only second to the Archbishop of Canterbury- though that's not exactly official. The Minster is the cathedral for the Diocese of York. It is able to use both Minster and Cathedral as it has had missionary's work from this church.
The first church here was a wooden structure built quickly to baptise Edwin the King of Northumbria, and eventually a stone structure was built in 637. It was built by Oswald and dedicated to St. Peter. It was ever growing until William the Bastard damaged it in the harrying of the North. Thomas of Bayeaux soon organised repairs and the church was repaired in a more Norman style.
The Gothic style of the Cathedral arrived in 12th Century. Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered a structure comparative to that of Canterbury Cathedral. The North & South transepts were added, and both had markedly different elevations- which you will see on your tour of the Minster. It is interesting to notice, once pointed out to you that one side is a slightly different height and shape than the other side. As well as the new transepts, the Chapter House was added.
The Nave of the church is the widest of any purpose- built medieval Cathedral and is in the Decorated Gothic style. From the entrance of the Cathedral looking down you can see the Quire. It is not exactly central, though, owing to the different elevations. As you walk through the church you can see pink staining on the limestone columns, this was caused by the fires that have ripped through the church in the past. Limestone turns pink when it's burnt, though some of it has been saved, and you can still see the damage. It means, though, that the vault above is not original, as the ceiling came down during one of the fires.
The Quire is where the choir sings evensong, every evening. At York Minster it was begun in 1361 by Archbishop Thoresby. The Quire itself is built in a Perpendicular Gothic style. Aside from the cathedra, the throne belonging to the Archbishop of York, the rest of the Quire was destroyed in 1829 by a devastating fire. The present furnishings are a recreation dating from the 1830's. The organ has 4,000 pipes which laid end to end would stretch 4.5 miles. The bright colours displayed under the arch represent how the Minster would have looked before the Reformation. The Quire screen serves both to separate the Quire and to strengthen the tower columns. The fifteen Kings on the screen are those who reigned during the construction of the Norman and medieval cathedrals.
Have you visited York Minster? Were you as fascinated by it as I am?