Building record MYO1127 - Cathedral Church of St Peter, York Minster


Founded on the site of a Roman fortress in 627. Present building is the fifth rebuilding dating from the 11th century. It may be reasoned that York had a cathedral in 314 from the fact that Bishop Eborius of York was a representative of the English church at a convocation in Arles in that year. King Edwin of Northumbria was baptised in the Ouse in 627, after which he ordered an oratory to be constructed on the site. He later instructed Bishop Paulinus to build a stone church, square in plan with at least one porticus, on the same site as the oratory. This was repaired and extended by Bishop Wilfrid from 669. This was destroyed by fire in 1069. Rebuilt after 1070 on a cruciform plan with apsidal chancel, and apsidal chapels East of the transepts. That church was in turn burnt down in 1137. Rebuilding was undertaken from 1171 by Bishop Roger of which the choir and crypt remain. The nave and transepts were begun under Archbishop Thomas after 1181. The transepts were completed between 1225-55, the Chapter House between 1260-90, the nave was remodelled between 1290-1320, the West towers built 1320-50, and the choir and Lady Chapel remodelled between 1385-1410. The Old Library, to the South of the nave was built between 1410-25. The South transept was badly damaged by fire in 1984 and repaired 1984-8. Excavations in the cathedral have shown that although there was continuance of occupation in the vicinity of the site from the 5th-11th centuries, the present minster does not stand on the site of the Saxon minster. The latter may have stood a little to the North of the present site. Furthermore, it is probable that the Roman `cathedral' of Bishop Eborius stood within the colonia on the North bank of the Ouse, rather than on the South bank.


Grid reference Centred SE 6032 5219 (158m by 105m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (47)

Full Description

Cathedral and Chapter House. Transepts 1220-1255; aisled nave 1291-1360, Chapter House 1275-90. Lady Chapel 1361-71; Choir and integral transepts c1380-1418; east end 1360-c1408; Zouche Chapel and Vestry late C14. West front and towers c1290-c1470; crossing tower 1410-70; Library 1418-20; Choir screen c1460. Rededication 3 July 1472. Floor paved to designs of Lord Burlington 1730-6. Chapter House vault renewed in plaster by John Carr 1798. Restored 1802-28 by William Shout. Fire 1829. Choir roof rebuilt 1829-32 by Sir Robert Smirke. Fire 1840. Nave roof rebuilt 1840-44 by Sydney Smirke. South transept restored 1871 by GE Street. Flying buttresses added to nave 1905-7 by GF Bodley. Extensive restoration 1966-72 by Bernard Fielden. Fire 1984. South transept roof rebuilt 1984-88.

MATERIALS: oolitic limestone ashlar from Tadcaster and lead roofs with wood and plaster vaults: Chapter House has octo-pyramidal roof.

STYLE: Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles. PLAN: aisled nave with western towers; crossing tower and aisled transepts, with chapter house to north and former library to south. Eastern arm consisting of aisled choir and Lady Chapel with integral transepts; Zouche Chapel and vestry to south of choir. 2 bells in store date to c1150 and c1340 are on the list of historic interest. Located in the Store. CARE NO. 43/001

EXTERIOR: west end is flanked by 4-stage buttressed towers encircled by tiers of gabled niches. West door in centre in single-arched doorway with gable hood, flanked by 3 rows of niches, some containing restored statuary of 1802-16. West window is of 8 lights with elaborate flowing tracery in the head and gable hood which rises into nave gable: both gables are filled with blind tracery. Nave gable capped by parapet of pierced stepped battlements and central openwork pinnacle. Towers have traceried double doors in arched doorways of 5 orders of filleted shafts with foliate capitals and octagonal bases. Above are 3-light windows with geometrical tracery and gable hoods to second stage; to third stage, 4-light reticulated windows over row of niches. Bell openings are of 3 lights with perpendicular tracery and ogee hoods. Tower parapets are of pierced battlements with corner and intermediate pinnacles. Nave aisles divided into 6 bays by deep buttresses with gargoyles and crocketed pinnacles, each bay having a 3-light window; clerestories have seven 5-light windows, separated by flying buttresses.

Windows all have geometrical tracery: nave is capped with blind traceried parapet, clerestory with parapet of pierced battlements with finials. North transept front, flanked by buttresses, has blind arcading below 5 tall lancets and 5 smaller ascending lancets in the gable. To the west are 2 small aisle lancets and, at north-west corner, buttressed octagonal staircase turret with slit windows and plain parapet. East and west fronts have arcaded lancet windows: in east front a cusped doorway with colonnette jamb shafts with stiffleaf capitals. Windows are arcaded beneath hoodmoulds enriched with dogtooth mouldings.

At north-east corner, L-shaped vestibule with loft leads to octagonal chapter house. Vestibule buttresses rise into detached pinnacles, the upper parts tied back with open traceried flyers. Chapter house buttresses rise to cruciform gableted pinnacles with crockets and finials, tied with flyers at two levels, one blind traceried, the other raking. Windows are of 2 lights or 5 lights, with geometrical tracery and deeply set in wall thicknesses. Masons' loft over vestibule has square-headed 2-light windows.

South transept front and aisles are flanked by buttressed octagonal turrets with tapered roofs and crocket finials. Shallow vaulted porch in centre has restored traceried door in arched doorway: shafts are filleted and have stiffleaf capitals, inner door arch of continuous stiffleaf mouldings, the outer of dogtooth. Above is a triple gable hood with trefoiled arches and dogtooth mouldings. Above again are 3 lancets and in the gable a rose window of concentric circles of arches with central sexfoiled circle. Aisles have blind arcading below paired lancets, with further pairs of lancets above. At south-west corner is former library of 2 storeys, 4 bays. 2-light windows are square-headed with iron glazing bars and hoodmoulds: two openings contain shallow 2-centred arched doorways with C19 nail studded doors. Crossing has single stage lantern tower with thin angle buttresses and pierced embattled parapet. Each face has two 3-light windows with perpendicular tracery and ogee hoods, flanked by tiered niches. In the eastern arm, transepts have buttresses rising into crocketed pinnacles and 4-tiered windows of 5 panel traceried lights beneath hoodmoulds on head stops.

Aisles have 3-light perpendicular windows, 3 to west, 4 to east, with crocketed hoodmoulds, separated by buttresses with crocketed pinnacles and gargoyles. Clerestory has 4 windows on each side of transept, three each of 5 lights, one of 4 lights, all with panel tracery. Those to west have plain hoods; to east, arcaded external screens of 3 cusped lights or paired lancets with transoms. Bays are defined by pilaster buttresses rising to crocket pinnacles with finials. Aisle has blind traceried parapet, clerestory and transepts a pierced embattled parapet. Aisled east end is flanked by buttresses encrusted with gabled niches and with crocketed spirelets. East window is of 9 lights with perpendicular tracery in the head, beneath tall ogee hood rising above the gable end. Aisle end windows are of 3 panel traceried lights with crocketed ogee hoods. Over all three windows are bands or tiers of niches and above, open arcaded gabled parapet with crocket finials.

INTERIOR:6-bay aisled Choir and 3-bay Lady Chapel, both with triforium and clerestory, the aisles incorporating quasi-transepts. Arcades of moulded arches are carried on compound piers of multiple columns with leaf capitals. Triforium is galleried, of arcaded and transomed cinquefoiled lights with blind panelled parapet at the base. Clerestory windows are in arches of 2 orders. Full height shafts carry the vaults, the capitals to the Choir shafts being sculpted figures, to the Lady Chapel shafts canopies. Below the windows, the aisles are arcaded in moulded square-headed surrounds, in pairs and triplets of blind trefoil headed panels on colonnettes with moulded capitals. Windows are arched in 3 orders of shafts with foliate capitals and flanked by tiers of canopied niches. Aisle vaults are quadripartite and carried on slim colonnettes with foliate capitals. East window is flanked by tiers of canopied niches and the lower two rows of the window are screened by an arcaded stone gallery.

Screens at west end of aisles are shallow 4-centred arches with traceried spandrels, each flanked on one side by tiered arches with C19 sculpture; C18 wrought-iron gates have leaf trail overthrows. Choir screen has ogee-gabled central porch and doorway. On each side are vaulted niches containing sculpted figures of kings of England from William I to Henry VI (a C19 replacement) beneath elaborately pinnacled and crocketed canopies. Above are stucco angels. Round-arched doorway closed by early C18 wrought-iron gates with radiating tympanum entwined with leaf trails; panelled porch within is fan vaulted. Transepts are of 3 aisled bays, aisles blind arcaded beneath windows. Arcade piers are compound of alternately filleted shafts with waterhold bases and stiff-leaf capitals, those in north transept with animals. Arches are of moulded 2-centred arches of 3 orders with dogtooth enrichment. Galleried triforium of twinned pairs of lancets, each pair beneath a pointed sub-arch with pierced quatrefoil in the head, both pairs within outer round arch with pierced cinquefoil in the head.

Wrought-iron gates to St Nicholas Chapel in north transept are C18; re-used late C17 entrance screen to KOYLI Chapel and enclosing grilles of 1925. Chapter House portal is of two cusped pointed arches beneath tiers of super arches and gables with central mullion and tympana pierced by encircled quatrefoils and a cinquefoil with leaf cusps. Pierced panel traceried screens close the doorway. Tunnel-vaulted roofs are carried on shafts rising from foliate corbels. Crossing is arcaded below a lantern of paired arched lights beneath crocketed ogee hoods. Wood vault c1470. 8-bay aisled nave with galleried triforium and clerestory. Nave arcades carried on compound piers of shafts, most with naturalistic leaf capitals, the minor ones with figure capitals. Triforium of arcaded trefoil headed lights is combined with clerestory within 1-order arch. Aisle walls and west end lined beneath windows with blind arcaded trefoil headed panels beneath crocketed gable hoods with pinnacles. Windows are arched in 2 roll-moulded and filleted orders with leaf capitals and flanked by blind traceried panels in crocketed gable hoods with figure stops. Doorway in north aisle has overdoor beneath a gabled hood of the Virgin beneath a canopy flanked by censing angels. Over the west doors are sculpted groups of figures.

Walls of the Chapter House Vestibule are lined with blind arcades of twin cusped lights in 2-centred arches on shafts with foliate capitals, some incorporating figures or animals. Blind cinquefoil tracery in arch heads have central bosses. Quadripartite stone vaults have leaf bosses. Over the door to the Chapter House is a restored statue of The Virgin beneath a canopy. C13 doors with original scrolled ironwork. Chapter House is lined with niche seats beneath octagonal canopies, the rear supported on Purbeck marble shafts, the fronts pendant on leaf balls. Above are gablets with tiny head stops, and above the gables a frieze of naturalistic foliage. Over the door, empty niches originally contained statues of Christ and the Apostles. Painted plaster vaulted ceiling. Arch spandrels to Choir, Lady Chapel, both choir aisles, nave arcade, and to arches beneath the crossing are filled with the heraldry of benefactors.

FITTINGS: include: two C13 cope chests with fine wrought-iron scrollwork; brass eagle lectern, 1686; Gothic choir stalls by Sir R Smirke, post 1829; organ of 1832 by Elliot and Hill; Lady Chapel triptych reredos of carved stone, GF Bodley, 1905; pulpit by N Comper, 1948.

STAINED GLASS includes a wealth of medieval and later glass: including much reused C12 glass in the nave clerestory; the Five Sisters windows c1250 in the north transept; seven late C13 windows in the chapter house, restored by John Barnet and Son, c1840; various early C14 windows in the north nave aisle; the Great West Window c1339; the Great East Window by John Thornton 1405-8; further early C15 windows in the choir, including the St William window in the north transept c1423 and the St Cuthbert window in the south transept c1440, probably also by Thornton; the Rose Window early C16 in the south transept; also important C17 English and French glass, and late C18 painted glass by William Peckitt to designs by Biagio Rebecca. C19 glass includes windows by Kempe and Company in the transepts.

MONUMENTS: include important medieval tombs to Archbishop Walter de Grey d.1255, the mutilated tomb to Archbishop Bowet 1313-15, Archbishop Greenfield d.1315, an alabaster effigy to Prince William of Hatfield d.1346; to Archbishop Savage d.1507. A good series of Jacobean style tombs including those to:- Matthew Hutton d.1600; a rare painted wall monument to Edward Bunney d.1618; Sir William Gee d.1611; Sir Henry Belsaye d.1624; Frances Matthew d.1629; and to Accepted Frewn d.1664. A fine series of late C17 and C18 monuments including those to: Archbishop Richard Sterne by Grinling Gibbons, Archbishop Dolben d.1686; Archbishop Lamplugh d.1691, also by Gibbons; William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford d.1691 and his wife by Jan Van Nost; John Sharp d.1713, by Francis Bird; Thomas Watson-Wentworth d.1723 and his wife by William Kent; Sir George Savile by J Fisher, 1789. Various C19 and C20 monuments including an unusual brass Gothic Revival monument to William Mason and John Dixon by FA Skidmore, 1862; a Crimean War memorial to the KOYLI of 1903 by GF Bodley; and a First World War memorial to the 6th Battalion of the KOYLI of 1921 by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.

Listing NGR: SE6032152195

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

Bells: Bell dating to 1742 by C Crans Amsterdam in the South Choir. Bell dating to 1782, c1150 and c1340 Walter of Esigwald in Store. These 2 oldest bells are on the list of historic interest. SW Tower bells 12 are 1925, 11 are 1933, 1978 and 1999, 12 date to 2001 all John Taylor & Co. 6 by Taylors Eayre & Smith dating to 2007 and 2 2008. NW Tower 1927 and 6 2000 by John Taylor & Co., South Choir 1945 by Whitechapel. CARE NO. 43/001

NMR Information:

(SE 60325219) St. Peter's Cathedral (NAT) The Minster (C of E) (1)


The Cathedral Church of St Peter
(York Minster)

SE 6052 SW 27/15 14.6.54


The fifth church to be built on this site. Early English transepts. Decorated Nave and Chapter House. Norman crypt with excavated undercroft containing substantial remains of the Roman
Legionary Fortress and of the Norman Church of Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux. Celebrated painted glass of 1180-1510. (2)

Additional references. (3-9)

Note on the lost Petty memorial window. (10)

1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:2500 1962
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest DOE (HHR) City of York, N. Yorks, June 1983, 225.
3 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest DNH (HHR) City of york, Mar-1997, 884-8
4 Excavations at York Minster: volume II Derek Phillips
5 Excavations at York Minster, volume I : from Roman fortress to Norman Cathedral; part 1 : the site; part 2 : the finds Derek Phillips and Brenda Heywood; edited by M O H Carver
6 The noble city of York 23-225,409-47 edited by Alberic Stacpoole et al
7 The story of York Minster by the Rev Charles C Bell
8 Yorkshire : York and the East Riding 126-57 by Nikolaus Pevsner; with contributions from John Hutchinson
9 York Minster: an architectural history c1220-1550 Brown, Sarah
10 The journal of stained glass 30-44 29, 2005 British Society of Master Glass Painters

NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.

2015, York Minster Camera Cantorum (Unpublished document). SYO1767.

2020, GPR Survey in the Grounds of York Minster (Unpublished document). SYO2613.

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Unpublished document: 2015. York Minster Camera Cantorum.
  • --- Unassigned: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Unpublished document: 2020. GPR Survey in the Grounds of York Minster.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (15)

Record last edited

Feb 22 2021 3:48PM


Your feedback is welcome; if you can provide any new information about this record, please contact the City Archaeologist.