By the early 1300's, there were 45 medieval parish churches in York. Of those, only 20 structures survive, either in whole or in part, and, of those, only 12 are still used for worship. Early on in our travels, we were advised to go into any religious building that we found open, regardless of its affiliations with any particular beliefs, because each would provide a wonderful and unique experience of its own. So far, that has held true wherever we've traveled. With that in mind, we took the opportunity to visit a number of the surviving medieval churches in York.
"St. Denys' Church" - This was one of our unexpected, happenstance finds. While searching for a totally unrelated building, we came across St. Denys' church along a little side street. The original structure, most likely a Roman temple, was erected by Centurion Marternius Vitalis. Some archeology suggests that this temple's altar was dedicated to a local god, Arlicco(sic). Excavations revealed the foundations of this Roman temple just seven feet below the east end of the southern aisle. In addition, parts of an earlier Norman church have been incorporated into the current entrance doorway. While the present building dates to the 13th century, some parts may go back as far as the 12th century. The current structure is actually only about 1/3 of what is believed to have been its original size.
"St. Helen's Church" - Built in the mid- to-late 12 century by the city's glass makers guild, this church was dedicated to the mother of Constantine the Great. By 1551, it was declared redundant and partially demolished. The church was eventually saved and rebuilt in 1857. There had been a large courtyard in front of the church until 1739, when it was restructured to become St. Helen's Square.
"St. Margaret's Church" - While most of the present structure dates from the 14th century, some parts of this church go back as far as the 12th century. The only surviving part of the original building is the southwest porch. The building was closed to worship in 1974 and is currently being used as the National Center for Early Music.
"Holy Trinity Church" - Hidden at the end of a small alley off of the busiest shopping street in York, is the early 12th century Holy Trinity Church. Some of its most notable features are its uneven floors, box-style pews, and it's medieval stained glass windows, especially the East window.