Church of St Helen

Detail on the front of the church.

This church is dedicated to St Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, the first Emperor to allow Christian worship in the Roman empire.  He was proclaimed emperor in York in 306 AD.  St Helen is depicted in the stained glass.

Little is known of its earliest beginnings, but from the 13th century St Helen’s was the church of the city’s glass-makers many of whom worked in nearby Stonegate.  The arms of ‘The Worshipful Company of Glaziers’ can also be seen in one of the windows.

There is a remarkable limestone font that dates from the 12th century, as does some of the stone in the church.  But the most of the present building dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The church was partially demolished in the 16th century but, by special royal decree, the parishioners were allowed to rebuild it and hold services again.

There was a large churchyard in front of the church until 1733, when it was bought by the Corporation of York and paved over to create St Helen’s Square.  The bones and tombstones were moved to their present position in Davygate.

In the south aisle there is a curious memorial commemorating two sisters who lived through the reigns of seven sovereigns.

The church is open to visitors and anyone is welcome to attend services.


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