St Michael-Le-Belfrey Church

St Michael-Le-Belfrey Church by Henry Cave, York Art Gallery

1525AD - 1536AD

". . . the most spacious and the most elegant of the York parochial churches. "  The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, 1868

St Michael-le-Belfrey is the only church in York to have been built in the 16th century and is the largest pre-Reformation parish church in the city.

It was built under the direction of the master mason to the Minster, John Forman, between 1525 and 1536.  It replaced an earlier mediaeval church that was so badly maintained that parishioners were afraid to enter the building for services.

The church takes its name from the Minster Belfrey which stood on the site before the church was built.

Guy Fawkes, the infamous Gunpowder Plot conspirator, lived in nearby Petergate and was baptized in this church.  An enlarged page from the church register recording his baptism is displayed inside the church.

There is a depiction of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in the east window.  This is a rare
survival as Henry VIII ordered all images of St Thomas to be destroyed in 1538, and Thomas’ name to be removed from the English church calendar.

The magnificent reredos (decorations behind the altar) and altar rails were designed by John Etty and completed by his son, William, in 1712.  The gallery was added in 1785 and the west front was rebuilt in 1867.

The church is still regularly used for worship and has a lively community.