Must-See At The Minster
With a clear emphasis on visitor interaction, kids will enjoy touch screen maps, games and videos.
There is so much to see within York Minster that you should make sure you allow for the likelihood of long queues, and set aside a good few hours to take in the entirety of the Cathedral, the roof, the chapter house, the crypt and the two latest exhibitions the Undercroft and the Orb.
Newly opened on May 25th 2013, and housed underneath the main body of the Minster, the Undercroft is a succession of impressive interactive galleries and exhibitions, which tell the story of York through the sites very own 2,000 year old history.
As visitors descend in to the depths of the Cathedral, the sudden infusion of interactive multi-media exhibitions provides an exciting contrast to the wealth of history and tradition witnessed above. Fully embracing the era of the i-pad, York Minster Undercroft allows visitors to explore its rich and vivid history through more than just the trusty but tired format of tour guide, headphone set and pamphlet.
With a clear emphasis on visitor interaction, kids will enjoy an abundance of touch screen maps, games and videos, as well as music samples, 3D projections, and the opportunity to dress up in Bishop’s robes, trace authentic Roman tiles, and even lift a replica of the Horn of Ulf.
There is also plenty to keep the big kids entertained too, with an impressive array of the Minster’s very own artefacts on show, including the coffin of the Arch Bishop Walter de Gray, and the 1,000 year old book of York Gospels. The famous book lays illuminated on a stand, acting as the dramatic centre piece in a large dark room, and, although you are unable to touch it, there is a digital replica for you to enjoy, complete with swipe pages and pop up annotations to help decipher the text.
The equal importance of past and present is emphasised throughout the exhibition, with a particular highlight being a 3D projection of the transformation of the site through the ages, morphing from Roman fortress to present day panoramic views of the Minster in all its glory. Another nice touch is the interactive board featuring plans and video clips of the Minster today, allowing you to peek behind the veil, and catch a glimpse of the people who work hard every day to keep the bells ringing and the choirs singing.
Despite the focus on independent discovery and learning, the enthusiasm of the staff is infectious. You will be greeted with a warm Yorkshire welcome, as guides approach asking “D’you know what you’re looking at?”, keen to pass on hidden gems of knowledge and present hand drawn sketches and plans.
Finally, as your exploration comes to an end, you are able to put your feet up in the miniature theatre, and are treated to a real cinematic experience. Sit back and relax as you are shown three impressive short films chronicling some of the most important moments in the Minster’s history, through to the charming feature ‘A Day in the Life of….’.
The Minster Orb
The Minster Orb, on show in front of the Great East Window, certainly provides a refreshing twist to the frustration of being greeted with signs in museums reading ‘under development’ or ‘under renovation’.
Whilst the 311 stained glass panels are being restored, visitors are treated to a selection of the work done so far, presented in an almost other worldly, illuminated art hub.
The largest conservation programme of its kind in Europe, it aims to restore the stunning biblical vision, and representation of, the beginning and end of the world. Although not set to be completed for another few years, don’t worry about missing out, as aside from the Orb gallery, featuring a ‘panel of the month’, there are also interactive displays allowing you to zoom in and examine photographs of the originals, as well as interesting and accessible annotations to help translate and analyse the images.
Tickets are £10 per person (York cards no longer accepted) and this works out as a quite a bargain for locals, or those who live close enough to return (the tickets are re-usable for a year at no extra cost)
The addition of the Undercroft, and to a lesser extent the Orb, has transformed York Minster from more than just an awe-inspiring aesthetic pleasure, and quick-stop tourist attraction, in to an enthralling days’ worth of education and entertainment, suitable for all ages and tastes.
As there is very little in the way of refreshment offered make sure to bring your own drinks, and also a jacket, as even on the warmest days the Minster can feel quite drafty.