Our 3rd day in York began with a very lazy breakfast in the hotel. I like the Hilton Hotel breakfasts. They do a full breakfast, and when on holiday, I find that it gives me a great start. And it is great value when you’re booked as a family into the hotel as the little one eats for free.
We were slow getting out the door because we got caught up watching Hornblower on telly. Well, hubby’s into the books, which I’ve not read before, but have been told that they are very exciting. Anyway, I must say that Hornblower the TV series quite exciting and Ioan Gruffold is rather nice looking. Still it seems crazy to be watching telly, when we were in a fantastic place like York.
I have to say that Yorkminster has to be my favourite church in England so far. It is really huge and long, so long in fact that I couldn’t get a picture of the entire length of the church – not unless I was standing really far away. Interestingly, the front half of the church and the back half don’t exactly meet, and this is why the screen to the choir, or quoire, has 7 statue carvings on the left and 8 statue carvings on the right. Something like that. To my mind, I think it’s amazing that the church builders of old even managed to complete a church of this size with the knowledge and tools that they had for their time. Just mind boggling.
For those movie buffs, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) in Elizabeth was filmed in front of the screen. Saw it in the movie and recognised it.
Once you pay for your entrance fee, you can access a free guided tour around the church. The guides were very informative and told us a lot about the restoration process, particularly for the stained glass windows and the difficulty in restoring them. Gosh, did I learn all about stained glass windows. A lot of restored stained glass look very dark. This is because that glass has cracked and glaziers of old use thin strips of lead to seal it. Over time, there are lots of tiny strips of black lead throughout. During the restoration process using the latest technology, they clean up the glass, removing the thin strips of lead, leaving the original lead outlines, and then seal it in some kind of heavy duty plastic on the front and back. This means that the glass itself is not protected for the next 150 years, and what you’re left is the original view of the stained glass window as when it was first made. The contrast was remarkable, between windows that had used old techniques and windows that had been restored using modern techniques.
We also learned that glaziers of old also got it wrong when putting the window back together again after cleaning it. Sometimes, glaziers have removed the glass to restore it without taking a tracing of the window. Then when it came to putting it all back together, they either couldn’t remember the placement, or had extra pieces left over. So during the restoration, glaziers are also trying to figure out how it should have been originally. Guess these glaziers must be really talented. Not only do they know how to glaze, they probably also majored in Medieval history as well. Still it’s pretty cool that a history graduate can get a job in this country, and that archaeology does not mean being sent out to a remote part of the country like it does in Australia.
Yorkminster once had decorated ceilings and walls, but this was all removed during the reformation. Everything was whitewashed, and statutes of Mary and the saints were all removed or decapitated. During the Reformation, much medieval glass (stonework, lead tiles and everything else) was stolen from abbeys and churches all over the country. Because Yorkminster belonged to the City of York (don’t ask me how), and not the Catholic Church, Yorkminster was spared, with the result that York Minster now owns 25% of all medieval glass in all of Great Britain. With so many windows to care for, the windows are on a restoration cycle of approximately 150 years. Quite mind boggling really.
The current window to be restored is the East Window which sits just behind the altar. Not only is the window being restored but all the stonework has to be replaced as it is eroding due to stone cancer. When we arrived, the East Window had just been closed off. In its place is a large canvass of a life size East Window which will be the view for the next 15 years. The entire restoration for the next 15 years will cost around GBP 300 million. So if you are looking for a job as a historian glazier …
The weather was very cold and in the end, we gave the climb to the bell tower a miss. But I am sure the view would have been quite stunning.