The last thing that David told Ruth and me was to take the tour of the interior of York Minster the next day with Andrew Evans. We had already explored the exterior with David for several hours. When we entered the next morning, Andrew Evans had already started his tour, and he was evidently a man who knew his subject well. Everything he told us was backed by photos or illustrations. For example, he told us right away that York Minster’s chief architect, Archbishop Walter de Gray, was buried inside and showed us a picture of his bones to prove it. Inside burials came to a halt in 1853. Evans was clearly an expert who told us stuff we otherwise could not possibly know. For example, he said that the builders of York Minster didn’t include a foundation, so lots of British concrete holds it up today, and it could collapse tomorrow.
York Minster Cathedral took 250 years to build and is still full of mysteries. Andrew Evans told us quite frankly that there is more of what humans don’t know about it than what they do.
What we do realize is the importance of the Great East Window that has recently undergone a ten year restoration. At 186 square meters, this is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Great Britain. Now fully restored, this 1338 creation of wonder tells bible stories from creation to the apocalypse and is an unforgettable sight. However, it’s only one of the incredible windows in this cathedral. The Rose Window in the South Transept, for example, is an awesome spiral that was badly damaged by a 1984 fire caused by lightning. There are 128 medieval glass windows to dazzle eyes here but 800 windows in all. Andrew Evans told us that medieval glass is destroyed by moisture, so it’s something of a miracle that so much of it has survived. When flying buttresses were place in the 13th century, this was a new technology like today’s self-driving cars and it wasn’t known if the entire building would collapse. There is only one original roof left.
Andrew Evans has an impossible job. He has to tell a bunch of people like me who know nothing enough to entice them into wanting to learn more. There are 800 faces in the stonework, and he was able to show us only a couple of them. Many people like me get to see artifacts that have never been on public display before.
The Minster has been the center of Christianity in the north of England since the 7th century. As the mini guide Only In York says, “You could visit York Minster every day for a lifetime and still discover something new.” Many visitors take hidden Minster tours to absorb even more, but Ruth was overwhelmed by the end of the 2nd day here and, after this tour, she simply lit a candle for my mother and exited. She has not discussed York Minster with me since.