The feast day of the saint to which York Minster is dedicated – St. Peter – is celebrated in churches around the world on 29 June, but it will have special poignancy this year for a trio of York stonemasons, who are currently carving the figure of St Peter in stone, ready to be installed above the Great East Window later this year.
The figure replaces an unrecognisable stone that had decayed over hundreds of years, and no records exist which definitively identify the figure. Consequently, archaeologists, historians, academics and clergy spent months researching and discussing the mysterious figure and its context above such a monumental work of stained glass art, with proposals mooted ranging from archbishops to Christ in Majesty. St Peter was an early favourite for York Minster, for which the formal title is The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York.
“It has taken two years to gain approval of the model of the new figure of St Peter. I am very proud of my team, which has the skill to conserve, consolidate and remove the existing figure and to produce an iconic statue of St Peter for the East Front of York Minster. It is a huge privilege to be a part of this project,” says Rebecca Thompson, York Minster’s superintendent of works.
The seated figure of St Peter will be full size, measuring around six feet high from foot to the top of his mitre, and depicts him holding a church in one hand, and blessing with the other. It has been designed by Martin Coward of York Minster’s Stoneyard, who created scale models in clay, before a full size version of the approved design was sculpted and cast in plaster of Paris. Martin is carving the top section of the figure, including the detailed head.
The statue will be carved by three masons out of three separate pieces of stone, specially imported from France. The project will take sixty working days, during which time the three blocks will be transformed into a dramatic and imposing figure that will soon be looking out over the city from the top of the Great East Window. However, with scaffolding due to remain in place around the East End until the window is reinstalled in 2016, it will remain largely under wraps until then.
“This is one of the largest figures to adorn the exterior of York Minster, and its position above the most celebrated window – the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in any church in the Western world – shows just how important this carving will be,” comments the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York. “Although it will sit many feet above the ground, the detail that is going into the carving is painstaking, from the fold of the robes to the creases on St Peter’s fingers – every bit as impressive as the world class works of art within the glass of the window itself.”
The fine work of York Minster’s stone masons and glaziers is on display to all visitors in a special exhibition in the East End of the cathedral dedicated to the craftsmanship involved in the York Minster Revealed project, a £20 million project to conserve, restore and interpret York Minster inside and out. The Orb, a contemporary gallery of stained glass, and the Undercroft are now open for visitors, with the Piazza outside the South Door complete. Entry to the new exhibitions and underground visitor attraction is included in the price of admission, which is £10 for adults and £9 for concessions. Children get in free with paying adults (up to four children per adult ticket). The ticket is valid for 12 months of unlimited visits.
For more information about York Minster, please visit www.yorkminster.org
About York Minster Revealed
The York Minster Revealed project is a five-year project scheduled for completion in early summer 2016. It is the largest restoration and conservation project of its kind in the UK. The cost of the whole York Minster Revealed Project is £20 million, of which £10.5m has been generously supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The remainder of the fund has been raised by York Minster.
State-of-the-art multi-media galleries, new displays of historic collections and interactive interpretations will create new learning opportunities for all ages. Also improved access to the South Transept, Undercroft, Treasury and Crypt will totally transform the experience of visiting York Minster.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UKand help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk. For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF press office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.
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