Saturday, 28 May 2011

York Minster - III

The arches of the York Minster don’t all line up owing to them having measured wrong and being about six feet out; also they changed their minds a bit here and there. We were asked to notice that there were seven statues on one side of the (I would call it entrance to, but they refer to it as the screen) the Choir (pardon me, that's Quire at York Minster), but eight on the other. You only think you speak English, see.

This unbalance was one of the results of the mismeasurement. Fortunately there were 15 kings to date, from William to Henry VI, so they could cover themselves after all.

Jan noticed one was wearing a skirt. Barry said it was Stephen and he reckoned it was commentary of the fact that Stephen fought for the throne for years and years – against a woman, Empress Matilda. (Reference Ellis Peter’s mysteries involving Brother Cadfael, if you like that period).

York Minster is referred to as the "heart" of York; see the heart shape at the top of this window?

The choir quire is all 19th century replicate following on from an arsonist’s work in the mid 1800s.

We were told about the saint  William FitzHerbert and the bridge:  it collapsed under the weight of all the people who gathered to see him when he came to York, but no one was killed; that's how they knew he was destined for sainthood). This window tells his life story.

We were asked to notice the shape of the arches in this part of the church; very Moorish they are.

Much of the work on this part of the church was just following the time of the Crusades and architects brought back ideas based on what they saw in the holy lands. 

Each of those five lancets is over 16 metres (~48 feet) tall.
This window, made from grey Grisaille glass, has been nicknamed the Five Sisters, by the author Charles Dickens when he wrote about it in his book Nicholas Nickleby. It's not one I've read but I may look out for it now.

I well remember the story about this cardboard replica of the East facing window. It tells the story of the whole Bible, which is pretty daunting. The cost was £46, plus another £10 that the master artist negotiated to receive as a bonus for finishing it in three years. I think Barry said it had over 10,000 pieces of glass in it.

The cardboard is there because the actual window is undergoing renovation. The cost of that renovation is £23 million. I think they should just buy another one for £56, don't you?

This is a box for a processional gown, from about 1290.

The iron band work is similar to that found on the door to the Chapter House. If the box that holds it is this ornamental, one can only begin to imagine what the gown itself, folded up inside, would have looked like.

I don’t remember who this indolent looking man was.

He was a member of the clergy and he wanted this memorial sculpture done. The sculptors again had quite a bit of voice about things. See that decoration on the wall just above his feet? It’s a pea pod. If you didn’t pay your sculptor his fee, that peapod would be depicted as shut (like your pocketbook, I suppose) and all the viewers of your memorial throughout time would know you hadn’t paid your bill.

This guy paid up; the peapod is open.

The Minster has had several architectural crises, one of which was a lightening strike in 1984 – act of God. One of the windows that was damaged was the Rose window: it symbolizes the end of the War of the Roses.

In rebuilding this part of the roof, they decided to survey school children to find out what was on their mind and get a bit of contemporary art involved. The three things I remember of all that Barry showed us was a starved African child (this was about the time of the Bob Geldorf Band Aid concert, remember that?).

Also children were thinking about space exploration and worried about the extinction of whales.

Lest you be worried about the spiritual aspect being lost, there were two loudspeaker announcements whilst we were there – one every hour. We were led in prayers. Barry said it was to remind people that the Minster is after all a church – it gets a bit rowdy there sometimes – and to keep everyone a bit more respectful and quiet. Fine by me. 

The sound of the prayers and the accompanying bell tolling the hour both echoing through the vast and beautiful space is one of the best memories I will take away from this visit to the York Minster.

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