when i was in england, i went to york minster, westminster abbey (the famous one where all the queens and stuff go), winchester cathedral, and canterbury cathedral, where the archbishop of the church of england resides.
all of those other cathedrals were beautiful.
but there was nothing like york minster. and it was the first place that i went to in england.
let's dive in.
i've posted about the flight to england and how intense that was. catch up on that here.
our plane landed in manchester, england, at something like seven in the morning england time, and then we made our way slowly through customs and then onto a coach bus, which was going to drive us two hours to york. we were to stay in york in a hostel for two nights.
i was not looking forward to staying in york because it was not london. i'd had my heart set on london for a long time, since i went there for three days when i was thirteen, really. our two days in york and three days in stratford seemed like they were getting in the way of my time in london.
i was carsick on the coach, so i fell asleep to keep from puking. and i woke up in the most gorgeous city i'd ever been in my life.
york is one of the oldest cities in england. the oldest part of the city is circled by a wall that's over a thousand years old. the wall has public access and you can walk most of the way around it. it has five impressive gates. our hostel was just inside of the biggest one, mickelgate.
|york's wall with york minster in the background.|
we were instructed to stay inside of the wall after we dumped our stuff in the hostel. it was ten in the morning and we had all day to do whatever wanted now that we were in england.
so christina and i set off together. we walked along the thousand year old wall and into historic downtown york, where most of the buildings are from the fifteen hundreds.
we had no idea where we were going, we were just walking.
and then all of a sudden, we came across this.
york minster cathedral.
to say it was huge was an understatement. i looked up and up and up but couldn't seem to get past the ornate wooden twenty foot door.
it had three towers, two in the front and an even taller one in the middle. it went up and up and back and back and just seemed to go on absolutely forever.
i stood there and stared at it with my mouth hanging open for probably ten minutes before we tried to see if we could get in.
not without paying.
so we moved on and i found myself looking back at it, at its immense beauty and size. i now knew how to navigate york.
1. find the wall.
2. find york minster.
the next day, our first entirely full day in york, we went into the cathedral as a class. i'd been looking forward to it all day. dr. aspinall paid our admission fee and suddenly i was standing inside of york minster cathedral. i could not catch my breath. or keep up with how fast i was taking pictures.
one of my favourite quotes of all time is this: "in my mind, i am eloquent; i can climb the intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. but when i open my mouth, everything collapses."
this is how i feel trying to describe york minster.
the ornate vaulted ceilings went up forever. the marble floor was pristine and echoed with footsteps and covered graves. (cathedrals are filled with graves, for many people believed the closer you were buried to the altar in a church, the more easily you'd escape purgatory and get into heaven.)
the stained glass windows.
i could not look down and i could not keep my mouth from hanging open in absolute awe.
i feel that i can best describe the inside of york minster purely with the pictures that i took.
this does not even do it justice.
york minster cathedral was the most beautiful and holy place that i had ever been in.
during the rest of my stay in york, i found myself drawn back to the front of the cathedral, where i'd look it for a while. every time that i was on the wall, i'd try to find it, towering above york's skyline. i could not get enough of york minster.
when we went to stratford, i missed it. when we went to london, i missed it.
during my second full week in london, we had the opportunity to go wherever we wanted for a three day weekend. five of my friends and i had planned to go to edinburgh, scotland for that weekend. we took a train out of king's cross to edinburgh, a five hour train ride straight north.
it was a pleasant train ride with rolling english hills and good music in my ipod. and then i noticed that the train was stopping in york.
when we reached the york station, i craned my neck to look out of the window on the other side of the train.
i could see york minster.
i gazed at it while passengers transferred. when the train began to move again, i stretched my neck as far as it could go until i couldn't see york minster any longer.
then i cried. i sat on the train to scotland and i cried silently.
i decided right then and there that i was going to leave edinburgh early on sunday by myself and go back to york.
i needed to go, and i needed to go alone.
edinburgh was lovely. scotland was beautiful. i climbed a mountain, went to great restaurants, looked at edinburgh castle, toured the city, took a taxi, and went into the elephant house, the cafe where harry potter was born. we stayed in a backpackers' hostel and it was absolutely fantastic.
but on sunday morning, i took the ten o'clock train from waverely train station to york, england.
the train dropped me off at one in the afternoon, and even though i hadn't been there in two weeks and i'd only been there for two and a half days of my entire life, it felt like i was home, that i had never left at all.
i could see york minster from the train station. it had started to rain and i put up my hood and adjusted my backpack. i had everything for three days in scotland in it, and it was huge and heavy.
i was here in york, completely alone and in the rain with a backpack. i pretended that i was backpacking through europe.
i went to the cornish bakery that i found on my first day there and got a cheap cheese sandwich for lunch.
i then decided to walk the entire medieval wall, which was three miles around. i started at the gate by the train station, the one closest to york minster, and i worked my way around. hardly anyone was walking on it because it was fifty degrees and raining. my toms were soaked, my backpack was heavy, but i walked all the way around it, looking at the beautiful city that i had absolutely fallen in love with.
i loved clifford's tower. i loved the river ouse. i loved the medieval wall. i loved the shambles. i loved the ancient buildings, the thousand year old churches hidden among the sixteenth century buildings that had been turned into coffees shops.
i loved york.
and i loved york minster.
after walking three miles around the wall, i was soaked and freezing, and i found myself standing in front of york minster cathedral, gazing up at it in the rain.
then i went inside.
york minster had a bench next to the admission desk. i sat on that bench and gazed at the ceiling for an hour and a half before i decided to pay admission to go inside. someone inside was playing the organ and it was echoing toward the ceiling, reverberating off of the stone walls. people came in and out, bought admissions tickets, and i sat, dripping wet, never wanting to leave.
finally, i purchased a ticket for nine pounds, a ticket that will last me a year of free admission.
i do not believe i will go back within the next year, but i hope that i do. i have my ticket.
i wandered by myself around the cathedral, seeing what i had seen two weeks ago, taking it all back in. then i sat in the nave on a wooden chair and simply gazed ahead at the stained glass windows and up at the ceiling. i wasn't cold anymore, i was just numb with the overwhelming feeling of being back in the cathedral.
at four o'clock, there was an anglican service called evensong. it involved a professional choir that sang psalms of praise.
york minster cathedral, as do other cathedrals in england, invites people to attend their services without paying. it runs on an honour system; if you say that you were coming for worship, they will not charge you. you can get away without going to the service and simply wandering around the cathedral, but these ancient giant churches cost thousands of pounds to run per day. (york minster is twenty thousand pounds of upkeep per day to keep open. it was built in the fourteen hundreds.) if you decide to go in without paying, you have to deal with the guilt of going into one of these houses of god without helping it maintain its awesome majesty.
evensong took place in the choir part of the church. i sat down with a bulletin, unsure of what was about to happen. i'd never been to anglican service before. i sat among strangers and i could hear the choir in the distance, walking toward us, coming from the hall.
they sat down across from where we were sitting and sang their psalms of praise. the choir was a mixed choir; the youngest person i saw was a five year old girl. across from her was an old man. their voices were completely ethereal, rising up to the top of the cathedral, filling it up, filling me up.
when the service was over, it was hard for me to move.
i didn't want to leave.
i couldn't leave the cathedral. i just couldn't.
i had been there for four hours. i needed to return to my flat in london. it took a lot of willpower, but i grabbed my heavy backpack and i left.
the entire walk back to the train station to go back to king's cross, i kept looking back at the cathedral. i wanted to walk backwards the entire way. i wanted to look at it forever.
i knew that there was a chance that i would never go back to york again, and i had to drink in everything that i could about it, and all that i wanted to drink was york minster.
when i got on the train, i took a seat where i could see the cathedral. i watched it until the train twisted around, snaking its way back to london, and i could no longer see it.
and i cried.
i have left my heart scattered in many places throughout england. i have calculated, based on the weight of a female human heart, how much of my heart is in england.
i left ninety-eight percent of my heart in england, and over half of that percentage is buried in the stones of york minster.
one day, i will go back and collect it from those stones.