Date of Birth: 627 - with several resurrections.

Building: "imposing" is one way of describing it. "Big" is another - it's northern Europe's largest medieval cathedral. The central spire stands at a towering 198 ft, with a choir chamber of 102 ft long. Exclusively Gothic in style, it's been rebuilt several times in its 1300-year lifespan - in the early days on "faith" (or slave labour, depending on how you look at it), and these days, one would hope, by paid builders.

Brief History: turbulent. Originally consecrated on the site of Roman army headquarters to celebrate the wedding of King Edwin of Northumbria, it has been overhauled a traumatic nine times. It was moved to its present site in 1080, and in 1220 work was begun on the current building. Archbishop Gray, fuelled into action by a professional jealousy of the impressive pile in Canterbury, planned to make York the nation's most prominent cathedral. The work lasted rather longer than Gray - 250 years to be exact, and was funded mainly by parliament and swanky nobles hoping to secure an eternal resting place in heaven (and the crypt too, no doubt). While at one of the many wars with Scotland, Kings Edward I & II made York their Sassenach base, holding parliament in the Chapter House. Finally consecrated in 1472, it remained virtually unchanged until two devastating fires in the 19th century, and another in 1984, the damage of which was so extensive it took four years to restore.

Current events: as well as that other thing - what's it called? - oh yes, Christianity, York Minster is playing host to the York Early Music Festival, a celebration of medieval music, which runs from Sat to 21 Dec. Yorkshire soloists are performing Shutz's Christmas story in the Minster on Sun 7 Dec. Tickets pounds 10. All festival information and tickets on 01904 658338.

Where to meet: the St William's College cafe, which is just around the corner. A Grade 1 listed building adorned with 18th-century tapestries, it's the nearest you're going to get to that ye olde cathedral aura while you scoff your tea and buns.

Cost of Glass of Wine: pounds 2.75

Comments