England: Yorkminster and the Tomb of Saint William of York
About William of York:
The Story of William of York might make for a great TV series, as it is loaded with drama, betrayal and miracles. Saint William was Archbishop of York not once, but twice: first from 1141 to 1147 and then again from 1153 to 1154. His election had been challenged but later upheld by Rome. Then a new Pope, Eugene III, suspended him, and in 1147 he was deposed.
He went to live a quiet life of a monk, but then in 1153, he was again made Archbishop by then Pope Anastastius IV.
As he made his triumphant return to the city, he stopped at Ouse Bridge. So many people were crowded onto the bridge to greet him that it collapsed throwing many people into the river below. William stopped and called on God to save the drowning. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
Unfortunately just a short while later, in June 1154, that William himself fell ill after celebrating mass at York Minster. He died a week later. It was widely believed that he had been given poison in the chalice that he had used at Mass that day. One of those assisting him at Mass was accused but never tried so we will probably never know the truth.
He was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1224, with several miracles attributed to his intercession in addition to that of the Ouse Bridge. His body was said to emanate a pleasant odor after his death..
A small altar was built for the tomb of Saint William, but around 1330 a shrine was built to replace it. It became a popular place of pilgrimage and so around 1480 a larger shrine was built. That shrine was destroyed under King Henry VIII after he broke from Rome, but William of Yorks’ tomb is in York Minster.
The Cathedral is located in the heart of York…it is Protestant, not Catholic, but was, of course, Catholic when it was originally built. And certainly William was Catholic, as he died several centuries prior to that time.
There is an admission fee to help finance the restoration of the Cathedral.
Catholic Masses are held with special permission. On St. William’s Feast Day, June 8, small services are still held in the Western Crypt, and the area around the tomb is used as an area of quiet reflection.
Traveling to Yorkminster:
Address: York Minster, Deangate, York YO1 7HH, U.K.
GPS coordinates: 53° 57′ 44.3844” N, 1° 4′ 54.9156” W
Tel: +44 (0)1904 557200 Fax: +44 (0)1904 557201
e-mail: [email protected]
Click here for the official website of Yorkminster Abbey.
Photo courtesy Carmelite Friars.