This summer discover the history hidden in plain sight at churches across Yorkshire
The long history of Christianity in Yorkshire is written in stone in the churches of the county. Some of these places have been the spiritual centre of their community for over a millennium, living buildings that have been the beating hearts of the villages, towns and cities of the county.
Some faint traces left by the Christian Anglo-Saxon population remain, as at St Mary Bishophill Junior, while churches like the Minster at Leeds are reputedly on the site of much older places of worship. Many of the ancestors of existing church buildings that now stand in Yorkshire, like the first St Olave’s in York, were built in the twilight of Viking rule in the region.
In 1066, the Normans came and brought with them a great enthusiasm for the building of new churches in stone. Some of our finest churches, including the great abbey at Selby, are Norman establishments and bear the distinctive architecture and sculpture of the Romanesque style.
As the wealth and power of Yorkshire grew in the medieval period, the great gothic Minster at York was built over two centuries. The medieval period was also a time of great strife, plague and civil war, events that have left legacies at Bramham and Long Marston.
Upheaval and Rebirth
As the Reformation and Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries swept over England, Yorkshire did not escape these troubles. Fragments of shrines and stonework from religious houses now lost can be seen on display at Barley Hall in York.
In the centuries since, these churches have remained at the centre of the lives of their communities. In turn, those communities have left their mark on the buildings, often through the commission of wonderful pieces of art as can be seen at the churches of St Leonard and Christ the Consoler.
In some cases, those communities have moved on, leaving the churches behind. In Yorkshire as elsewhere, the movement of people from inner cities has left some church buildings redundant. In some cases these buildings have found new purpose as museums and attractions that celebrate the histories of the communities that once used them, as at our DIG attraction in the former church of St Saviour.
These churches are some of the county’s most beautiful historic buildings, filled with fine architectural and artistic features that will be highlighted by some of this year’s Church Explorers’ events. Visit and enjoy these wonderful buildings, and experience exciting attractions and events, from open days and guided tours to fairs and fetes.
Come explore history through the experience of these buildings and see the star attractions of Yorkshire’s historic churches all summer using the Map below and discover the churches taking part: