15 February 2011

Beverley, Sisters

Regarded by many as the most impressive non-cathedral church in England, Beverley Minster is the jewel in the crown of a delightful town, full of attractive buildings and interesting corners. The minster was originally a collegiate church - the College of Canons was abolished, and the chapter house taken down, during Edward VI's reign - and is dedicated to St John. This is the Evangelist, not St John of Beverley, founder in about 700 of a local monastery, and who lies beneath the nave.

A serious fire occurred in 1188. In shades of the hubris of Golding's The Spire, the central tower was raised during the reconstruction but collapsed c.1213, taking much of the church with it. The present building was commenced c.1220. Work extended for about 200 years, so the east end and transepts are Early English, the nave largely Decorated, and the gorgeous west front (top) Perpendicular, although the whole looks and feels coherent. The new central tower, graced with a lantern, itself threatened collapse, and as a consequence was rebuilt yet again in the eighteenth century.

There's lovely blind arcading inside, with that in the north aisle decorated with numerous fourteenth-century stone carvings of musicians and their early instruments. The 68 stalls of the choir have eighteenth-century canopies and early sixteenth-century misericords, each one unique. Just around the corner is a street-side fat-bodied petrol pump, with swinging overhead hose.

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