Monday, July 16, 2012

In the Land of Moors: York and Northern England

Northern England, known for its beautiful landscape, its moors and its authors.  Some notables include the Bronte sisters (Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights) and, for Harry Potter fans, the Beedle the Bard.  York and Northern England is also the birthplace of a huge collection of notable actors including Sean Bean, Sir Ben Kingsley, James Fran (of the Tudors), Andrew Lee Potts, Matthew Lewis, Dame Judi Dench, and Patrick Stewart.  Other notables include the fictional character Robinson Crusoe, Guy Fawkes, Captain James Cook and Saint John Fisher.

Our first stop was to walk along the old wall that used to surround York.  It was part of an old Roman fortress.  York has a history of being conquered and invaded, by Celts, by Romans, by Vikings, by Normans.  You name it, they've probably invaded at some point.

Next we walked through the Shambles.  The Shambles is an old medieval street in York now full of all kinds of shops.  It definitely gives you a sense of what the entire city would have been like hundreds of years ago, although now it's all confined to one small block.

The gorgeous York Minster rises above the city of York and dominates the skyline.  A "minster" is Anglo-Saxon churches used as teaching churches and is now used as an honorary title for churches.  York Minster is the largest cathedral in Northern England and is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second highest office in the Church of England behind the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now the minster is absolutely huge and gorgeous.  It's a Gothic style cathedral, and it's not too overwhelming on the inside.  I've been in some cathedrals with lots of smaller chapels all over the place, but there were only two here.

The minster also boasts a beautiful chapter house (pictured above) and crypts.  The chapter house was where meetings used to be held.  It's an octagonal room with a high ceiling and the walls are all made up of the gorgeous stained glass windows like the ones you see above.  Parts of the crypt date back to Roman times.  Unfortunately, the crypts were closed when we got there, but we did get a peek at them in the doorway, but that was about it, and no photos were allowed.

Now, it might seem a little weird to have a statue of Constantine the Great outside York Minster, but this 19th century statue sits close to where the Roman Emperor was crowned in 306 A.D.  He is the only Roman Emperor to be crowned in Britain, so it's actually fitting to have a statue of him in York, near where he was crowned.  A quick history lesson about Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to embrace Christianity.  He also issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., which preached religious tolerance throughout the empire.  During his reign, he settled in Byzantium, and, in his honor, it was renamed Constantinople.  Today, you know it as Istanbul in Turkey.  That's it on Constantine the Great, I told you it would be brief.

Our first stop of the second day in York was the remains of the gorgeous Fountains Abbey.  The abbey was founded in 1132, and it functioned until Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in 1539 and took all the money when he made himself Supreme Head of the Church of England to grant himself a divorce from wife number one, Catherine of Aragon.  It is considered one of the largest and most well preserved Cistercian Monasteries, and is a World Heritage Site today.

Fountains Abbey has also been used as the backdrop for several movies and television shows including Omen III: the Final Conflict and The Secret Garden.  It's easy to see why, it's absolutely gorgeous and tucked away from the rest of the world, making it the ideal location for wide country shots with the eerie remains of an abbey in the background.

Now, at the beginning of this post I mentioned that York and Northern England gave us quite a few notable actors.  It also gave us the Bronte sisters, known for their emotionally charged classics that are laced with aspects of their own lives along with fiction.

Haworth, in the county of Yorkshire, was home to the Bronte sisters for the majority of their lives.  This is the Bronte Parsonage Museum.  Their father, Patrick, was the Perpetual Curate at the church which sat directly in front of this building.  This is where the sisters lived, where they wrote their famous novels.  The small town also contains some not as happy reminders of the Bronte legacy as well.  This house was where they all died, Emily and Anne in 1848 and 1849 respectively.  Their brother, Branwell, had died earlier in 1848, just a few months before his sister.  Charlotte lived until 1855.  All of the Brontes were outlived by their father, and there are no immediate decedents of the literary powerhouse family.

The Black Bull was the pub the brother, Branwell, would go to to get drunk.  He was a known alcoholic, and, unfortunately, he would then go to the apothecary across the street to get opium as well.  It was said formally that he died of alcoholism and its related side effects, but Charlotte always thought that it was tuberculosis. 

This is Church of St Michael and All Angels, the church where Patrick Bronte worked, and it is literally maybe 150 yards from the Parsonage House.  Inside this church, which you couldn't go into because of restoration work to the roof, is the Bronte family vault where all three sister, Branwell and their parents are buried.  It must have been a slap in the face to Patrick, who outlived all his children, to have to walk by the place where the remains of his children sat every single day to get home, and whenever he looked out a window in the front of the house, this was his view.

So, that was my adventure in York and Northern England.  If anything, that beautiful area has given us wonderful authors and amazingly talented actors, so keep an eye on the area to see who else comes from there in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment