Saturday, February 21, 2015
a day in York
My daughter lives within a short train ride of the small medieval city of York, so that was one of our first excursions. I read up on York before my trip. It was originally a Roman fort city, then conquered by the Vikings and finally the Normans. There is plenty of evidence of the Roman presence in the walls and towers. Sarcophagi were unearthed below the train station recently and moved to the museum grounds. This tower is Roman half way up- it's stones are smaller and rounder. The smooth, upper part with windows for archers is Norman. Sadly the Vikings built with wood so very little remains from their reign in northern England.
The Normans built the York Minster Cathedral. We wandered through the narrow streets on our way to see it. It towers over the city but the city crowds closely around it.
This was my first experience seeing a European Cathedral and I was smitten. There is rarely such a sense of the human hand on such a large building. I kept thinking of sand castles. It towers over the city in its own ethereal atmosphere. I caught a glimpse of it on our second visit to the city in the evening just as the daylight was almost gone. Its towers were just a little lighter blue than the sky. Minutes later they had disappeared into the dark. In the sunlight earlier in the day they were honey colored with distinct shadows in all the crevices around the statuary.
I had never really thought about the possibility of cathedrals falling or that one day they would be gone. It turns out many of the towers have collapsed. York Minster has had major renovations recently to strengthen the underground support for its tower. Not like pyramids which were built to last forever with the most stable design possible, the cathedrals were built to soar, hoisting stone as high as possible and walling with glass. They are built in harm's way.