The Crossed Keys Symbol

Along with the city arms, the crossed keys is one of the most common symbols to be found on the streets of York.

The keys in question represent the keys to heaven, as held by St Peter, its traditional gatekeeper.  The York connection is that York Minster is dedicated to St Peter, its official name being the 'Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York'.  St Peter's keys are the main feature of York Minster's logo.

But that doesn't explain how widely the symbol is used on buildings in the city centre.  The answer appears to be the Liberty of St Peter -  the area of the city within the walls that, in medieval times, was legally controlled and administered by the Dean and Chapter of the Minster rather than by the Lord Mayor.

To this day the keys appear on all sorts of buildings in the city, and especially those in the Minster district.