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York Minster unveils new exhibition showcasing rare treasures from local parishes of Yorkshire

5 Oct, 2023

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Silver, gold and diamonds from across Yorkshire will be showcased in a new exhibition at York Minster. Treasures: Yorkshire’s People and Parishes will feature precious and rare objects, which have survived the turbulent, religious, political and social history of England’s largest county. The exhibition opens on Saturday 21 October.

The exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into Yorkshire life, the history of York Minster and how historic collections are formed. Objects from the cathedral’s historic collection of more than 300,000 pieces and fascinating items across the North come together to form one celebratory narrative. From ornate gilded altar panels to a rare seventeenth century cup crafted by a female silversmith and belonging to Selby Abbey, the exhibition travels across counties and through parishes, charting changing cultures and traditions in churches.

Visitors can see a glorious silver gilt chalice, set with a magnificent 32 carat diamond which was presented to York Minster by Lily Forepaugh, a celebrated circus equestrienne. The dramatic damage to the pages of a fourteenth century cartulary, alleged to have been caused by the impact of a cannon ball, is a must-see.

Selected by York Minster’s Collections Team, other treasures include a beautiful Communion cup and cover from York city centre church, St-Michael-Le-Belfrey, the Mercier chalice, set with an amethyst ring: a powerful symbol of friendship and reunion, and a book gifted by King James I. A pair of seventeenth century enameled brass candlesticks, the only other pair of its kind resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, are beautifully decorated with flowers and scrolling foliage on a background of black and white champleve enamel.

The objects are proudly local, but tell national and global stories, offering insight into the role of art and generous gift-giving in local communities. The exhibition describes the crucial role of women in shaping, using, and creating our collections as owners, publishers, patrons, and makers. A selection of books belonging to Yorkshire woman Margaret Hoby, considered to be the first English diarist, will be on rotation demonstrating this vital legacy.

Kirsty Mitchell, Curator at York Minster, explains:

“The parish collections in York Minster’s care are important, beautiful and can be quite quirky! They hold so many fascinating stories, we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate Yorkshire and the Northern Province in this exhibition.”

Opening on Saturday 21 October and running until February 2025, Treasures: Yorkshire’s People and Parishes will be on display in the cathedral’s historic Treasury.

The exhibition will open during normal visiting times and entry is included with a standard admission ticket. Entry to York Minster is free for York residents and students with valid proof of address.

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