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All Saints Church, North Street

Medieval punishment depicted in glass.

With one of the best stained glass displays in Britain, this is one of York’s historic gems.  Tucked away from the bustle of the city centre, it is a fine medieval church.

The church was first mentioned in a document of 1089, but it was probably built earlier still.  A re-used Roman column holds up the chancel roof and is a reminder that the church was built near the site of Roman public buildings.  In the 15th century it was extended westwards and a 36m spire was added.

The north aisle contains two famous windows.  The Corporal Acts of Mercy shows a wealthy man (possibly Nicholas Blackburn, a merchant and mayor of York) visiting the sick, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.

The Pricke of Conscience (1410) is a rare example of a popular poem depicted in picture form.  It shows the Doom - the horrors and pains of the last fifteen days of the world.

The stained glass provides a wonderful insight into the contemporary dress and objects of everyday life in the 15th century.  A man wearing mediaeval spectacles can be seen in one of the south aisle windows.

The chancel roof is decorated with brightly painted angels bearing emblems and musical instruments.  There is a 15th century oak stall with, rather bizarrely, a fine carving of a pelican feeding her young.

A small building was attached to the west end of the church during the 1400s to house Dame Emma Raughton, an anchoress, or hermit.  Emma’s house had openings called squints that allowed her to see into the church and hear mass.  The squints can still be seen and one was re-opened when Emma’s house was reconstructed in the early 20th century.

Worship is still offered in this church.


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