The Medieval Abbey

The Medieval Abbey - an illustration

1294AD - 1539AD

It's a sign of the wealth of St Mary's Abbey that it was able to completely replace its main church building and to do so in quite spectacular style.

The new church was begun in 1270 and completed in 1294.

It was considerably larger than the old church, so much so that the plan was to continue to use the original building for as long as possible whilst the new one was built around it.  In practice the deep foundations - up to 8m in parts - undermined the existing church which soon had to be demolished.

At about 350m long, the new St Mary's Abbey church was a worthy rival for St Peter's - the York Minster building which was only partially completed at the time.  St Mary's church was on a similar scale and in a similar Gothic style - highly decorated, with sweeping arches and large stained glass windows.  Like the Minster, the abbey church would have been very colourful, with most of the stonework painted.

Together with the castle, the two massive church buildings dominated the city and surrounding countryside, making York a rare sight to behold for most visitors.

Even today the ruins of the church give sense of its scale and grandeur.