York's major church uses the old word Minster, meaning a centre of Christian teaching or ministering. It is also a cathedral, containing the Archbishop's 'cathedra' or throne. The first Minster was 7th century - the present one is the fourth on the site.
York Minster is the largest medieval structure in the United Kingdom. Among its many treasures are 128 windows of stained glass, dating from the 12th to the present century. Archbishop de Grey began the great building about 1220 with work proceeding until the Minster was completed in 1472.
The City Walls
York's first walls were Roman. Substantial fragments of these still remain but it is the medieval walls, carefully maintained and restored, which now encircle the old city, almost three miles round.
The earth ramparts on which they stand were raised by the Romans and the Anglo-Danish kings of York. The Normans strengthened them. They are now planted extensively with daffodils.
Gateways let you in but they, can also 'bar' your way and often, in York's turbulent past, that was the thing which counted most.
Bootham Bar is the defensive bastion for the north road. On the road south is Micklegate Bar, traditionally the monarch's entrance, where traitors' heads were displayed.
Monk Bar has a portcullis in working order, while Walmgate Bar is the only town gate in England with a barbican, a funnel-like approach, forcing attackers to bunch together.
Gates and Streets
A number of York's streets have names ending in 'gate', the Vikings' word for 'street' but Stonegate existed long before the Vikings came - it was the 'Via Praetoria' to the main gate of the old Roman fortress.
The pedestrianised Stonegate and the narrow medieval Shambles are York highlights.
York is noted for its excellent museums covering Yorkshire, heritage, and events. The National Railway Museum offers a fascinating insight into the development of railways. The award winning York Castle Museum covers 600 years of everyday life, the Yorkshire Museum takes you back in time, and the York Art Gallery spans from the Wars of the Roses to the present day.
Fairfax House is one of the finest 18th century townhouses in England. Barley Hall is a stunning medieval building in the centre of York. The Treasurer's House, behind York Minster is a lavish show-home with award-winning garden, creating an oasis of calm behind York Minster. Goddards House and Garden is a 1920s arts and crafts house, owned by the famous Terry family.
Guildhall and River
Two rivers meet at York; the Ouse and the Foss. The Ouse, at one time tidal here, enabled the city to become a great port and trading centre.
The 15th century Guildhall was virtually destroyed in an air raid in 1942. It has been expertly restored and the interior contains some splendid carving. The adjoining Inner Chamber escaped destruction and may also be viewed.
The River Ouse is navigable upstream to Ripon, and south of York is the riverside Bishopthorpe Palace, home to the Archbishop of York.