York Minster in York, North Yorkshire, is a prime example of people’s confusion regarding the difference between abbeys, cathedrals and minsters, but technically York Minster manages to be both minster and cathedral at the same time!
The word ‘Minster’ derived from ‘monastery’, indicating that minsters are monastic churches led by an Abbot or Abbess, and this was the case with York Minster throughout it’s long and eventful history. However, in more recent times York Minster later became the seat of the Bishop of York, and as such also gained Cathedral status. So whilst this great church at York is undoubtedly now a cathedral, you are unlikely to hear it called so by anyone from the UK – York has a minster first and foremost!
From it’s humble beginnings in the 7th Century, York Minster has borne witness to both the Norman and Viking invasions of the 11th Century, to eventually be transformed 200 years later into the Gothic masterpiece this epic building definitely is.
===Visiting the Minster===
If you are in central York, chances are high will be able to see the famous York Minster, or at the very least it’s towers, right from where you’re standing. Being the largest Gothic style cathedral in the UK and Northern Europe, this magnificent building dominates the skyline in York and surrounding villages. Due to it’s size, and the fact that there is a wide cobbled open area around the Minster, this large cathedral is very easy to find. In fact, given York is a well mapped out and signposted, tourists will find it difficult to miss!
With several areas of York being no-go zones for cars, York has plenty of car parks for tourists wishing to visit York Minster, plus good public transport links via bus and train. Tourists driving to the Minster should make sure they have plenty of change for the car parks – in York car parking is not cheap. Many residents of York forgo a car whilst living in this beautiful historic city, due to the obscene parking fees, and a Park & Ride scheme is in operation throughout York to ensure that traffic levels are kept to a minimum on it’s many narrow roads.
==Admission & Other Visitor Information==
Currently tourists pay £8 to enter the Minster, which in the past has been slightly controversial, seeing as this is charging admission to what is fundamentally a place of religious worship. The £8 covers admission to the Minster, the Crypt underneath, and the Undercroft. If you are coming for purely religious reasons, e.g. to pray, if you speak to staff they may let you enter for free.
To climb the Tower at the Minster (275 steps, so not for the unfit!), it’s an extra £5, but is worth it, as the views over York are spectacular.
Most of the information and historical details about the Minster can be seen in the Undercroft, and this is the main source of information about the Minster. There is little information in the Minster itself, ensuring it remains looking like a cathedral and not a museum!
In terms of the Minster, the cathedral itself is beautiful, with gorgeous stained glass windows, beautiful gothic carvings and high domed ceilings. The sheer scale and ornate beauty of the building is the main attraction. The Rose Window is particular is a beautiful example of late medieval stained glass workmanship, and the amount of light it emits into the Minster ensures that the interior is bathed in sunshine – on days where the sun is out of course!
Visitors should keep their admission ticket if a return visit is planned; for 12 months after purchasing, tourists can return and be admitted into the Minster for free. This is particularly handy for tourists on a strict time schedule, who may feel like more time is needed to explore the wonderful place. The grounds of the Minster are also very pretty, and in warm weather tourists and locals alike can take advantage of the benches and lawns to sit on.
Please note, children visiting with their families might not find this the most interesting of places, and if they are particularly ‘vocal’ this may not be appreciated in a building intended to be a place of quiet refuge. For bored children though, there are plenty of other activities a few minutes walk away from York Minsters with which they can be entertained!
The beautiful, historical, magnificently built structure of York Minster is well worth a visit. York in general is a beautiful little city, and the amenities and entertainments around the Minster are plentiful, and enough to keep any visitor occupied.