The Medieval Minster

The Quire - looking West

1220AD - 1472AD

From 1215 until 1255, Walter de Gray held the office of Archbishop of York.  Walter de Gray persuaded the Dean and Chapter of York that the Minster should be rebuilt in the new Gothic style.  The Gothic style was about soaring to the sky, and therefore Heaven, with pointed arches, lots of light and ornamentation.  Walter de Gray wanted to rebuild York Minster as the greatest cathedral in the kingdom, and helped to find the funding for this.  However, the changes occurred over a long timescale and didn't include the demolition of the Norman cathedral.  As a consequence the Medieval Minster is acknowledged to have taken its form from c.1220, but it was built on and sometimes around the Norman incarnation.  So there still areas of the cathedral that are much older visible today.

Both the South and North Transepts are in the Early English Gothic style.  The work began with the South Transept in approximately 1220, and was completed by 1244.  Work on the North Transept was completed by c.1260 and was overseen by John le Romeyn, who paid personally for much of the work.  At the same time as the North Transept was being completed, John le Romeyn set about creating a central tower with a wooden spire on top of it.

On completion of the Transepts, work moved to the creation of the Chapter House in 1260.  The Chapter House is where the Dean and Chapter of York administer the cathedral, and as such is the only area not consecrated within the Minster.  It is still used today for this purpose.  Its design means that no-one is seated in a central position, and so everyone is equal and no-one can assume authority.  The Chapter House is in the Decorated Gothic style and is unique as it does not have a central column to support the roof vaulting.  The structure was complete by 1286. 

On 6 April 1291, the foundation stone of the Nave was laid by Archbishop Romeyn.  It was a slow process, interrupted by major events such as the Black Death, and it was 1360 before it was complete.  The new nave included the addition of nave aisles, doubling the original size, and creating the widest nave in England at the time.  It is also in the Decorated Gothic style.  The Great West Window was glazed in 1338, under the patronage of Archbishop Melton (1317 to 1340). 

By 1350 work had moved to the creation of the Zouche Chapel, and preparations were being made to alter the East End.  This began on 29 July 1361, when Archbishop Thoresby laid the foundation stone of the new Quire.  The East End took the form of the Perpendicular Gothic and work was completed around 1405. 

The Great East Window is now the largest expanse of medieval glass to survive in England, and is the earliest piece of English visual art to be produced by a named artist.  The window was glazed between 1405 and 1408 by John Thornton of Coventry.  It depicts scenes from the books of Genesis and Revelations.  The East End forms the focus of the current restoration project, York Minster Revealed.

While work continued on the East End, the central tower collapsed in 1407 after a storm.  Work was undertaken to strengthen the piers it rested on, and the new tower, minus its spire, was completed by 1465.  The Medieval York Minster was deemed complete in 1472 and was consecrated on 3 July of that year.