Claiming Devotional Space

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


The most prominent architectural feature of medieval—and twenty-first-century—York is its Minster.1 The cathedral’s overall length is 518 feet, the breadth of its transepts measures 249 feet, and its central tower rises 197 feet high. Although the Minster stands on the site of a seventh-century church begun by King Edwin, construction of the current Minster began in 1220. Its design reflects three architectural periods of the Middle Ages: Early English Gothic (1220–1260) mainly constituted by the north and south transepts; Decorated Gothic (1280–1350) represented by the nave and chapter house; and Perpendicular (1361–1472) corresponding to the choir, most of the Minster’s eastern arm, and its central tower.2 The Minster project consumed the diocese of medieval York, with its wealthy citizens donating money for, and its craftsmen producing, the windows, sculpture, carving, and stonework. The Minster also figured as the location of the tomb of Richard Scrope, archbishop of York from 1398 to 1405 and locally celebrated for his martyrdom after being executed for leading an insurrection against Henry IV.3 As Barrie Dobson reminds us, “The ‘concourse of people’ who came to worship at Scrope’s tomb serves as a reminder that the most formally hierarchical church in northern England was at the same time the centre of the most striking manifestations of popular religion and piety.”4


High Altar Domestic Space Patron Saint Central Tower Parish Church 
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© Jill Stevenson 2010

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