The minster very much dominates the centre of Beverley. It’s a massive building, comparable in size to many cathedrals yet it only has the status of a parish church. The designation of “Minster” may suggest to some that it is a cathedral, especially as the Minster in York has that status, but it isn’t the case. A minster is a designation given to church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. So it’s the origin of the church that explains its designation – the first church on the site was attached monastery founded in Beverley in the 7th century.
The original building was destroyed by the Danes, but was rebuilt and then refashioned by the Normans. After this burnt down in 1188, the current Gothic building was constructed between 1220 and 1420. This prolonged period resulted in all three styles of Gothic church architecture can be seen in the Minster. The Quire, which is the oldest part of the church, was built in the Early English style while the nave is the Decorated style with the west end of the church in the Perpendicular style.
The Minster is mainly built of limestone, mostly from Tadcaster near York so it is a bright creamy colour. However limestone as a soft stone of calcium carbonate is susceptible to damage from acidic rain and the elements, so there are signs of weathering and it has clearly been subject to repair and restoration. Black Purbeck ‘marble’ (actually not marble but a hard limestone from Dorset) has also been used for some of the shafts and columns inside the building.
These extremely ornate twin towers at the west end of the church are an outstanding example of Perpendicular Gothic
A close up of the west entrance.
The north west entrance (the main entrance into the church) – more Perpendicular Gothic
The south east of the building. Much less ornate Early English style
English Decorated style on the north side of the nave
The north entrance
The church is open to visitors until 5 p.m. so I was able to take a look inside. However, there was a Baptism service taking place which meant I had to be careful not to disturb the worshipers and restricted where I could wander.
I did, however, manage to get a quick look down the nave before the service started.
Typical of Gothic buildings it has a high ceiling supported by clusters of relatively slim columns with pointed arches.
The elaborate carved elements are typical of the English Decorated style
I rather liked the carving of musicians along the north aisle of the nave
The ceiling in the nave has relatively simple decoration but there’s a more elaborate section over the alter in the quire
As we’d expect with a major Gothic church, there’s some attractive stained glass.
The Great East Window contains the oldest glass in the Minster, dating from around 1220-30 to the early 1400s.
Nearby, this attractive modern design in the Pilgrim’s window at the right hand side of the Retro Quire
Also in the Retro Quire, this modern statue of two pilgrims, heading towards the Pilgrim window
There’s also several tombs and plaques representing members of the Warton family who were benefactors to the Minster, including this rather elaborate monument.
More attractive stained glass windows in the chapel at the north east of the building
I rather liked these lancet windows in the “Retro Quire” at the east end
The very elaborate Percy Canopy which stands over the tomb of one of the Percy family who were one of the richest and most powerful families in the north of England in the 14th century.
It’s not certain who is buried here although it is thought that it is likely to be Lady Eleanor Percy who died in 1328.
These two large wooden doors below the west window were carved in the early 18th century by a York wood carver named William Thornton. On the doors are figures of the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beneath the figures are their symbols – an angel, a lion, a bull and an eagle. Between the symbols and the figures are four carvings representing the different seasons of the year.
Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to take a photograph from directly in front.
There was more to see, but by now the service was in full flow so I felt it was appropriate to depart quietly.
The Minster’s website tells us
One reason the Minster is judged to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe is that the different styles have been carefully harmonised.
I have to say I agree. It’s a beautiful building and I was pleased I’d taken time out to drive over to Beverley to take a look.