Although the city of New York has long surpassed its English namesake in terms of size and influence, it cannot compare with the original York in terms of antiquity and interesting historical stuff. We have been hoping to take a trip to York for a while because it is so close, but had not been able to do so. Finally, last week, we had a free day with decent weather, so we headed south to check it out. We decided to take the train rather than the car, because it is quicker by train (only 45 minutes), and the girls really love riding on the train. The rail station in York is only a short walk from the center of town, and the town itself is not too big, so it was easy to get around on foot once we got there. After an obligatory meal at McDonald’s, we went to York Minster first. Here’s a picture of us with the church in the background.
One of the exciting things about York is that it has existed as a city since AD 71 when it was founded by the Romans. In fact, the city was the northern capital of the Roman province of Britain, so it’s been an important place for a long time. The minister is built on the ruins of the old Roman fort which at one time housed several thousand soldiers. Roman artifacts and the foundation of the Roman fort are visible in the crypt of the minister. There was even a small bit of pottery which had a chi-rho etched on it. This was an early Christian symbol that served as an abbreviation of Jesus Christ, so it suggests that there were Christians in York during the Roman period. In fact, York has a unique role in the role of Christianity in the Roman Empire. When the current emperor died in AD 306, the troops in York proclaimed their general as the new emperor. That general was Constantine, who would go on to become the first Christian emperor of Rome and end the persecution of the Christians. Just beside the minster there is a statue of Constantine commemorating that event, which you can see in the picture above.
After leaving the minster we wandered about for a while and found Shambles street. This is a historic street because of its name. The expression of something being “in shambles” derives from this street. Centuries ago it was the place you went to buy your meat, so the buildings on the street all had hooks sticking out of them with fresh meat hanging for people to buy. In fact, some of the meat hooks can still be seen today, albeit minus the meat. Over the course of time, the name of the street came to mean what we think of today when we say that something is in shambles. There aren’t any butchers on the street any longer, but it retains its quaint medieval feel. A picture of it is above.
Our last stop was Clifford’s Tower, the remains of the old castle in York. By this time we were too tired and too cold to climb the hill to have a look, but we did take a picture from below. Not much is left of the castle today, as you can see. We plan to revisit York when the weather is warmer so that we can enjoy it a bit more. Still it was a fun day out, despite the cold. If you want to see all of our pictures and videos from the trip, click here.