Over two thousand years ago, York was an important administrative base for the Roman Army, and has long been a central hub for the north of England. Documented records survive to confirm there was a Bishop of York in AD314, but little else is known throughout the 'Dark Ages'. Early in the 7th century, during the time of Bishop Paulinus, the first 'church' was probably erected - this would have been no more than a small, wooden building subsequently replaced by a more robust stone building. However, following the Norman invasion, all evidence of the early building was lost, although some remains of the later Normal cathedral have survived beneath the present York Minster.
Today's impressive cathedral was begun during the time of Archbishop Walter de Gray, in 1220, and was an ambitious building programme that took some 250 years to complete. As the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe, you would expect York Minster to be synonymous with some amazing statistics - and you would not be disappointed. The cathedral can accommodate more than 4,000 people for a service; it's wide, Gothic nave is one of the largest of any English cathedral; it boasts the largest area of surviving 'grisaille' glass in the world in the Five Sisters' Window (which contains over 100,000 pieces of glass); the Great East Window is one of the largest areas of medieval stained glass anywhere in the world; and the York Minster library is the largest cathedral library in the country.
The diversity of treasures within this huge Christian house should be thoroughly investigated - the quality, skill and craftsmanship employed in creating such a spectacle is simply breathtaking. Archbishop Walter de Gray could only have imagined how grand York Minster would become when complete - unfortunately, at the time of his death, only the transepts would have been close to completion, and his tomb is located in the South Transept.
The octagonal Chapter House is remarkable, not only for its innovative design, but also for the fact that some 80% of the exquisite carvings are original 13th century. No less eye-catching is the 15th century Screen decorated with statues of 15 kings of England from William I to Henry VI - which, effectively, separates the Nave from the Choir.
Architecturally, York Minster is a splendid vision of Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles, highlighting the elegant, sharp, classic lines of every feature. It is a truly wondrous structure, the overall proportions of which are difficult to imagine without a physical visit to the cathedral.