We spent the first night of our tour in Leeds and the following morning getting a taste of the centre of York, a city founded as Eboracum by the Romans in AD 71 which became the capital of the Roman province of Northern England. The evolution of Eboracum to York is made a lot clearer by Wikipedia’s entry on the city.
Trafalgar Tours normally overnight in York, but the local Race Day is a big event and there was no room in the inns for our group. York was the first walled city we had seen on tour: what an impressive construction: a wall wide enough for 1st century traffic, complete with observation and defence towers and city gates!
The next point of interest was the old city market area, with a street named The Shambles where the meat traders were located. The colourful origin of another familiar English word now clear. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (or meat shelves) – and in the 19th century there were 25 butchers trading here: what a shambles that must have been. The streets in this area have many Tudor style overhanging houses and shops, some 700 years old.
The Minster of York, or St Peter’s Cathedral, is a huge Gothic building that besides the Roman walls is the most impressive and historic feature of the city. The cathedral is the seat of York’s Archbishop, the second most important Anglican Church leader. It seems that there was already a Christian church in York when the Romans established the city in AD 71; the development of the present building started in 1220. As happened to many Christian church buildings as a result of the Reformation and the resulting instability in the UK, York’s Minster suffered considerable looting, damage, and loss of its lands during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Constantine the Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor near the cathedral in AD 304 when his father died in the city whilst campaigning with his son. In 313 Constantine became the first emperor to respect the liberties of the early Christians. This and his own conversion to Christian faith laid the foundations for Western Christendom.