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Art & Imagery in York Minster - HOA00002M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Sarah Brown
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

The in-depth exploration of the art and imagery on one of Europe’s largest and best preserved medieval monuments.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. It preserves the most extensive collection of medieval stained glass in Britain, dating from the late twelfth to the early sixteenth century. Its architectural sculpture is of great variety and importance. In its thirteenth-century chapter house it boasts one of Europe’s most remarkable feats of structural engineering, designed to showcase a decorative display of exceptional richness manifest in several media. By the end of the Middle Ages its choir housed the largest late-medieval shrine base in England, while an earlier cult site remained a focus for pilgrim interest. Much of this medieval imagery has survived and further light is shed by the antiquarian record, which is exceptionally rich.

This course will examine some of the surviving iconographic schemes in the Minster, looking not just at the stained glass, but also at the remaining medieval sculpture and monumental paintings so as to give as comprehensive a view as possible of the imagery in the Minster. We will start with the earliest standing part of the building, viz the transepts and chapter house. While following a broad chronological outline, so as to situate the works of art within the architectural development of the building, we shall focus on material which exemplifies the great variety of imagery, both theological and religious, and secular and humorous, within the Minster; and we shall be able to draw on literature which ranges from early antiquarian sources up to a number of very recent studies.

The art and imagery of the Minster will also be considered in relation to other contemporary schemes both at home and abroad. Seminars will be conducted both in the building and in the class-room and we will take full advantage of current conservation projects in order to gain privileged access to some of the Minster’s most extraordinary treasures.

Module learning outcomes

  • To familiarise students with past and current trends in scholarship relating to York Minster.

  • To encourage students to explore complex buildings and their decoration from a holistic and interdisciplinary / multidisciplinary way.

  • To suggest topics and themes for further research.

Indicative assessment

Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Indicative reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Brown, Sarah. "Our Magnificent Fabrick." In York Minster: an Architectural History 1220-1500. Swindon: English Heritage, 2003.
  • Brown, Sarah. Stained Glass at York Minster. London: Scala Arts & Heritage, 2017.
  • Brown, Sarah, Rees Jones, and Tim Ayers, eds. York: Art, Architecture and Archaeology. London: Routledge, 2021.
  • Goldberg, P.J.P., ed. Richard Scrope, Archbishop, Rebel, Martyr. Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2007.
  • Harrison, Stuart, and Christopher Norton. York Minster: An Illustrated Architectural History 627-c.1500. York: Chapter of York, 2015.
  • Norton, Christopher. St William of York. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2006.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University constantly explores ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary. In some instances it may be appropriate for the University to notify and consult with affected students about module changes in accordance with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.