York Minster has been the centre of Christianity since the 7th century and one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world. A building this old and with such a rich history is bound to be haunted. And it is! York Minster is believed to be the most haunted building in Yorkshire.
The history of York Minster
The cathedral was built for the glory of God. At first, a wooden church was built to celebrate King Edwin’s, King of Northumbria, baptism in 627. In 633 a stone church was built around the wooden structure. King Edwin was buried here after his death. In 1067, the church was heavily damaged by William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North. After the Norman Conquest, Thomas of Bayeux was nominated to succeed Aeldred as Archbishop of York.
Thomas of Bayeaux started building an entirely new cathedral: the first York Minster: or the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, as it is formally called. The Danes destroyed the church again in 1075, but it was rebuilt again in 1080.
In 1215, Archbishop Walter de Gray ordered the construction of a Gothic structure to rival the Cathedral of Canterbury. Building of the magnificent structure started in 1220. The construction was completed in 1472, when it was also consecrated. By then, the cathedral was bigger and much grander than the one in Canterbury. Every aspect of the building, from the handcrafted stone to the medieval stained glass, tells the story of Jesus Christ.
York Minster is not located in the centre of the old city, but near Bootham Bar, one of the city gates. The cathedral has three towers, two of which are 56 meters high and one is 71 meters high. It has the largest collection of medieval stained glass in the world. During World War I and World War II, it was feared that the cathedral would be damaged by fire and bombings. Out of precaution, most of the stained glass was removed and stored somewhere safe. The cathedral also houses Chapter House, built between 1280 and 1297, which was used as the parliament of King Edward I.
The Undercroft Museum
The cathedral also houses a museum which was created between 1967 and 1972. It was created while emergency works were carried out because the cathedral’s central tower was in danger of collapsing. The excavations, which were necessary to keep the tower up, uncovered a hidden treasure of history! The remains of a Roman barracks, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and the foundations of the Norman Minster were discovered.
So, York Minster was built right on top of a Roman fortress, which housed both the sixth and ninth legions of the Roman Empire, dating back to 71 AD! The remains of the fortress are still visible in the Undercroft and many artefacts of that period are on display here, too. York is also linked to Viking history. The Vikings called the city Yorvik when they arrived in 866. The Horn of Ulf is a 1,000 year old carved elephant tusk, which was gifted to York Minster by Viking Lord Ulf. It can be seen in the Undercroft as well. And I haven’t even mentioned the York Gospels, a priceless manuscript (ca. 1020) is still used in ceremonies in the cathedral today.
Fire in the cathedral!
York Minster has seen its share of disaster during the centuries. The cathedral was damaged by fire in 1753, 1829, 1840 and 1984. The 1829 fire was caused by a man named Jonathan Martin. After his arrest, Martin claimed that God made him do it. God had told him to challenge organised religion. He hid in the church when the last visitors had left, he stripped naked and he assembled a large pile of wood and books and started his fire. Disaster was averted and because Martin was declared “mad” he wasn’t hanged but put away in an asylum for the rest of his life.
The ghosts of York Minster
York Minster is considered one of the most haunted places in York. It is claimed that the cathedral is even more haunted than The Golden Fleece, which can also be found in York. One of the ghosts that haunt York Minster is the ill-tempered pyromaniac Jonathan Martin. His spirit has been seen, still naked, trying to complete his earlier attempt to destroy the cathedral.
The ghost of Dean Gale
Senior clergy Dean Gale was much-loved in York Minster and after his death he was greatly missed. Dean Gale died at the young age of 26 in 1702, but he still has no intention of leaving his job. His ghostly apparition has been seen sitting in the pews where he appears to be listening to the sermons.
A message from the afterlife
Back in the 1820’s, two women got separated from a tour and found themselves alone wandering the building. A man in a naval uniform came towards them in the opposite direction. When the man passed the two women, he whispered something in the ear of one of them. The woman was shocked. The man who had passed her was her brother. Her deceased brother. Several years before, they had made a pact: whoever died first, had to return to the other to tell what the afterlife was like. He had died at sea and kept his promise to his sister. I wonder what it was he told her!
York Minster today
If you are in York make sure to visit this magnificent building and don’t forget to visit the Undercroft Museum. What a wonderful discovery! And who knows, perhaps you get to meet Dean Gale. Let’s just hope you won’t encounter mad Jonathan Martin!
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Cover photo: PichayutP via Getty Images
Sources: britblog.nl, wikipedia, yorkminster.org, hauntedrooms.co.uk, nh-hotels.com and voicemap.me
Address: Deangate, York YO1 7HH, England