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New exhibition showcases treasures from York Minster’s historic collection

17 Sep, 2020

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A new exhibition showcasing treasures from York Minster’s historic collection which explore creativity and culture in York through the centuries will open at the cathedral on Saturday (19 September).

From stained glass and illuminated manuscripts to grave goods and York’s first newspaper, the exhibition highlights objects from the cathedral’s 300,000 strong collection and celebrates the work of the artists and craftspeople who created them.

Running until 17 January 2021, the exhibition – The Heart of Yorkshire:  Creativity and Culture in York Minster’s Collections – will take place in the cathedral’s 13th century Chapter House and features around 50 items, including some rarely on public display.

Highlights include one of the oldest stained glass panels in Europe, ornate 13th century silver artefacts discovered in a former Archbishop’s grave and a copy of York’s first newspaper, printed in the city by an eminent female printer.

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to funding and support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Museum Development Yorkshire.

Helen Rawson, Head of Heritage at York Minster, explains: “York Minster is custodian to a diverse collection of objects, many of which were made in York and which tell the stories of the cathedral, the city and the Christian faith in the north of England.

“Since its foundation in 627AD, the Minster has commissioned items to support its devotional and educational missions while collecting material and manuscripts in its library and archives which detail the city’s history and development.

“This new exhibition has been curated to showcase some of these amazing objects, to celebrate the artistry and craftsmanship in the city over the centuries and to explore the role of the cathedral at the heart of this rich and inspiring culture.”

Items include a 12th century stained glass panel which is one of the oldest surviving pieces of stained glass both in the Minster and in Europe. The panel, which is decorated with leaves and foliage and would have formed the border to a larger scene, will be on display with other stained glass ‘displaced’ during different phases of conservation and restoration work in the Minster over the centuries. York was an important centre of glass-painting in the Middle Ages and the Minster’s windows contain the largest and most diverse collection of in-situ medieval stained glass in Britain.

Other items include a silver chalice and paten and a gold ring dating from the 13th century which were discovered in the grave of Archbishop Sewal de Bovill, who was Archbishop of York from 1256 – 1258. Silver and gold have been used throughout history in religious ceremonies and for prestigious occasions.  The metals have been shaped in York from at least the 8th century, when a mint for issuing coins was established, while the goldsmiths formed themselves into a craft guild in the 14th century.

The exhibition also includes a copy of York’s first newspaper, the York Mercury, printed in the city by Grace White, who was one of three entrepreneurial female printers in the city operating in the 1600s and 1700s at a time when the industry was dominated by men. Grace took over her husband’s printing press when she became a widow and ran the business between 1716 and 1721 leading the way with the creation of the local newspaper, with the city eventually boasting eight different titles.

Among the manuscripts on display in the exhibition is the Bolton Hours, a beautifully illuminated 15th century Book of Hours, the exquisite detail of which includes 47 full-page pictures of saints and biblical scenes, and six smaller miniatures.

The exhibition will be open from Saturday 19 September during normal visiting times, currently Monday to Thursday 11am – 4.30pm, Friday and Saturday 10am – 4.30pm and Sunday 12.30pm – 2.30pm. Entry is included with a standard admission ticket and entry to the Minster is free for York residents with a valid proof of address.

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