Previous Exhibition: Medieval York: The Power and The Glory
This atmospheric exhibition, set among the ruins of a medieval abbey and glowing with the colour of stained glass, evoked the wealth, power and craftsmanship of a key era in York’s history.
The gallery – which housed objects from Anglian York to the time of Henry VIII – could be enjoyed simply as a beautiful visual experience or by choosing one of several tours. These included a family activity leaflet, a guide to the history of St Mary’s Abbey and a booklet about our greatest treasures.
After a sneak preview of ‘the Treasury’ which lay ahead, the first big display was the York Helmet and the Cawood Sword, two finds made in York from the pre-Viking and early-Viking times. These amazing artefacts combine the cutting edge technology and craftsmanship of the time with ancestral traits.
Power and Religion
Round the corner a full view down the gallery was revealed through the arches of St Mary’s Abbey with four stone abbey statues standing beyond. More of the ruins outside can be seen through a full-length window.
Stained glass panels from Wakefield Cathedral were mounted in the uncovered windows and smaller pieces depicting the coats of arms of powerful families were backlit at the opposite end of the gallery.
For the first time, pieces of the 1330 shrine to St William of York were seen reconstructed, surrounded by objects that pilgrims would have brought to York Minster.
This room showed off the museum’s ‘crown jewels’, spectacular pieces of Viking and medieval gold and silver treasure, including the Middleham Jewel and the Ormside Bowl.
Here there were also four pieces of rare medieval stained glass from St Denis’ Cathedral in Paris which have never been displayed in the museum before.
Trade and Industry
We found out more about how craftspeople created these treasures and a host of more everyday items in a fascinating display of stained glass, leather, pottery, bone, amber, combs and tools – all showing how well York’s moist ground has preserved these materials for archaeologists.
We were then shown how much York was trading with other countries in another display, with examples including a silk cap from Iran, Limoges panels from France and brooches from the continent.
A Second Shrine
As we leave the gallery, a second, later, shrine to St William has been reconstructed dating back to the 15th Century. It was taken down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which marked the end of an era.