The York of Yore
By Ted Heck
We Americans can boast with equanimity about our English heritage that was
recently celebrated with the 400th anniversary of the settling of Jamestown.
Citizens of the walled city of York in northeast England wouldn’t be
impressed. They can go back in time 20 centuries and more, with a rich
history that transcends several cultures and languages.
In two days of whirlwind sightseeing recently Connie and I caught the flavor
of this beautiful city, but left with huge gaps in our understanding of
those changes. We learned about the Roman invasion in 43 A.D. and that Latin
was the dominant language for four centuries. We were talked through
Anglo-Saxon times, arrival of the Vikings, conquest by the French Normans,
life in the middle ages, the marvelous architectural changes that make the
city a delight to stroll in.
We went underground for some of this history, exploring the
crypt and foundations of the Minster, a magnificent cathedral that dominates
the town. Consecrated in 1472, the minster is the largest Gothic cathedral
north of the Alps, but beneath it are remnants of an earlier Romanesque
church, and ruins from the Roman period.
Above ground we gaped at extraordinary stained glass windows of the
cathedral, through which light rays streamed from the setting sun. We were
attending the daily Evensong service of prayer and choral music.
We went underground again for a colorful view of Viking times, when York was
Jorvik. A special tour, similar to an amusement park ride, took us through a
reconstructed village with manikins going about their duties. The tourist
office calls the museum “an archeological treasure trove.” It contains more
than 15,000 objects recovered in a major dig here only 31 years ago.
Although we did not walk the two-mile wall the surrounds the old section of
town (and makes it primarily a pedestrian area), we strolled through
picturesque, narrow, cobble-stoned streets. In the Castle Museum, we stepped
back into Victorian times on a reconstructed street of shops and services.
Following the regimen of earlier visits to the Lake District of England and
the city of Edinburgh in Scotland, we relied on a bed and breakfast facility
in York. We stayed in Hedley House, convenient to a bus stop and a short
walk to a neighborhood pub, where we had a quiet game of darts, about the
only exercise we could handle after running through history.
You can see York, too, in the quiet of your den. Check
More by Ted Heck