York Minster completes £20 million conservation and restoration project

PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 April 2016

The Great East Window

The Great East Window

© ravageproductions.co.uk

Celebrations as work on one of the biggest church restoration projects in Europe is unveiled

A traditional ‘topping out’ ceremony took place at the cathedralA traditional ‘topping out’ ceremony took place at the cathedral

A £20million conservation and restoration project at York Minster has been completed after five years including the restoration of the Great East Window described by some as the English equivalent of the Sistine Chapel.

The 600-year-old window, which was taken down panel by panel to be restored, is believed to be the biggest of its kind with 311 individual and unique panels. Of its 108 major panels, 81 illustrate scenes from the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) and which describes, sometimes in graphic detail, the end of the world.

The project was supported by a £10.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other work included the creation of a new state-of the-art visitor attraction, Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft, investment in stonemason and glazier apprenticeships, the development of an adult learning programme and outreach work involving new communities.

The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York, said: ‘York Minster Revealed has seen a huge investment in the cathedral which has not only preserved irreplaceable medieval stonework and stained glass for generations to come, but changed the culture of the cathedral.

‘As well as helping to transform the experience of visiting the cathedral, the project has enabled us to become more outward facing and forge new relationships across the region, and it is these relationships which will help us to continue to develop York Minster for the future.

‘We are extremely grateful to both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the York Minster Fund who we have worked in partnership with throughout the project - without their support we wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that has been done over the last five years.’

Carole Souter, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund said York Minster never failed to impress with centuries of history and craftsmanship, brought together in one spectacular building. She added: ‘Today we’re celebrating the achievements of the York Minster team: a wide-ranging group of skilled people, from stonemasons and glaziers to curators and learning specialists, who have both restored and opened up one of our finest cathedrals. I hope National Lottery players will be proud of what their contribution has achieved; our thanks go to them and the many supporters of this great project.’

Funding for the project has also been provided by the City of York Council, the Friends of York Minster and from the Chapter of York’s own funds.

To celebrate the completion of York Minster Revealed, a traditional ‘topping out’ ceremony took place at the cathedral with hundreds of people who have been involved with the project gathering outside the cathedral’s newly unveiled East Front to toast its completion.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

Restoration and Conservation:

The work to conserve and restore York Minster’s East Front and Great East Window has been one of the largest projects of its kind in Europe.

For nearly 12 years, the cathedral’s East Front has been covered in around 16 miles of scaffolding, while nearly 2500 stones have been cut or repaired by York Minster’s stonemasons.

The project has involved conserving and restoring panels from the 600-year-old Great East Window, which is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the country and of international importance.

The window’s conservation has involved using groundbreaking new material, with the minster being the first building in the UK to use a revolutionary new UV resistant glass in its external protective glazing.

In total, 157 stained glass panels from the Great East Window have been completed and returned to the window as part of the five-year project. The remaining 154 panels are currently being painstakingly conserved and restored by York Glaziers Trust and will be returned to the window in early 2018.

Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft:

A new state-of-the-art attraction developed beneath the cathedral allows visitors to explore 2000 years of history through interactive underground chambers.

The Undercroft remains the only accredited museum in a cathedral in the country.

Apprenticeships: the project has transformed the lives and career prospects of 11 young people by creating apprenticeships in stonemasonry and stained glass conservation.

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