We are so focused on COVID-19 in the United States, that it’s hard to keep in mind that it’s a true global pandemic. England, for example, has experienced more than 4,000 cases of it and 233 deaths, so far. Great Britain has been a frequent destination for Ruth and me, so today I’m going to again feature a city there that we first visited in 2019, York, and really enjoyed. It’s a delight to get my mind off of COVID for a brief time to write about a place we can’t currently visit.
York was the Viking Capital of England and the best place to experience this era while there is to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre. I’ve written about this attraction and others in York, except for The Shambles. King Henry VIII figures prominently in York’s history. When he visited, he brought 600 horses with him, established a mint to make gold coins there, and reportedly played tennis. The Overton Hoard containing 37 Roman coins was found in 2018. Long before the Vikings came, the Romans were there during its empire years. Romans called this settlement Eboracum. You can still see evidence of their presence in York’s narrow streets made with Roman tiles. A statue of Minerva, their goddess of wisdom and drama, still presides over what was once called Bookbinder’s Alley but is now Petergate. York is threaded through with snickleways, the still used Yorkshire word for alleys.
York’s biggest attraction remains York Minster. The world’s largest Gothic cathedral, York Minster took 250 years to build in the French style. Like Paris’ Notre Dame, it has been almost destroyed by fire. The most recent large one was in 1984. Just one example of its large amount of real medieval glass is the gray, intact Five Sisters window installed in 1260.
The Shambles is a mostly-outdoors market area that’s fun to explore and is close to a chocolate factory. The Shambles was once a place of butcher shops and is thought to be one of the inspirations for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
In the past, York was an especially important city. The spot where the Theatre Royal now stands was once the location of the largest hospital in Europe in the 13th century. Recent archaeological work, the digging up of the theater’s floor, uncovered a lot of the hospital that was thought to have been demolished. When York’s railway station opened in 1877, it was the largest in Europe.
There are many reasons why 7 million travelers come to York each year but probably not in 2020.