Monday, January 1, 2024

The Great Stone Shields of York Minster, Part the First

The interior arches of York Minster are flanked with pairs of large shields carved and colorfully painted. One source says that “The crests [sic] above the aisle arches represent the coats of arms of the nobles who assisted Edward I in his Scottish incursions” (; another says that "The shields that line the walls are those of the nobles who accompanied Edward I and II on their campaigns against the Scots" (; while another says that they "commemorate patrons, donors and benefactors of the Minster." (A Guide to the Heraldry in York Minster)

Any of those descriptions may be true for the majority of these coats of arms, but the two you see first when entering the Minster are neither of nobles who took part in Longshanks Scots campaigns nor "patrons, donors and benefactors" of the cathedral.

These two shields are, in fact, the arms of the See of York (ancient),* Azure an episcopal staff palewise or surmounted by a pall argent edged and fringed or charged with four crosses patty sable; and the attributed arms of St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York 664-678, Azure three suns or, which we have seen before in our perambulations around the old city of York and, indeed, carved on the exterior of the Minster itself.

Please feel free to click on either (or both!) of the images above to go to larger photographs which will let you see these arms in their carved and painted glory in greater detail.

Next time, we'll begin looking at the great stone shields of nobles, patrons, donors, and benefactors gracing the archways inside York Minster.

* We have already seen, and will see again, the arms of the See of York (modern), Gules two keys in saltire wards to chief argent in chief a Royal crown or.

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