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On Christmas Day 1066 Ealdred anointed and crowned William the Conqueror king of the English in Westminster Abbey, an event which radically changed the course of history for Britain, York and its cathedral.
When Archbishop Ealdred was buried in the Saxon Minster in 1069 the building was virtually intact. However, within days of his burial it was severely damaged during conflicts between the Danes, rebellious Saxons and William I and his followers, with many of its charters and fittings lost. William had faced rebellion in the north in that year and always feared York as a centre of Viking sympathisers. His answer was characteristic: a fearful devastation from which the city took several generations to recover fully.
In 1070 Thomas of Bayeux was consecrated the first Norman archbishop, and on his arrival began to put the affairs of the church back in order, re-roofing the church and rebuilding the refrectory and dormitory. In 1075 the Danes came again to York and destroyed the church entirely. Undaunted, In 1080 the archbishop, decided to rebuild the Minster. Remains of this Cathedral can still be seen in the Foundations Exhibition below the present Minster. The first Norman church was remarkable, 365 feet long with walls seven feet thick, the exterior was rendered with hard white plaster and lined in red to look like ashlar.
Perhaps the greatest change to the everyday life of the church in York after the arrival of the Normans was caused by the introduction of a secular Chapter. Archbishop Thomas, who died in 1100, reorganized his cathedral on an institutional pattern that survives to this day. In York, unlike some other medieval cathedrals, the foundation was never monastic. Thomas of Bayeux introduced canons living the common life at York, later converting the Chapter to conform with the model to which he had been accustomed in Normandy, a fully secular Chapter of canons living in their own houses, enjoying separate incomes or 'prebends'. From among this Chapter of canons the four offices of Dean, Treasurer, Precentor and Chancellor were created to manage the running of the cathedral, while the Archbishops themselves became increasingly significant national figures, often away from York on the business of King or Pope.
In 1137 York Cathedral was damaged by fire. The worst damage was to the eastern arm with the remainder being as patched up or improved. Newly quarried limestone was used in repairs to the walls which were re-rendered with red lines as before. However, even if the eastern arm had not been damaged in the fire, it would have been antiquated by the standards of other large churches of the twelfth century.
When Roger of Pont l'Eveque became archbishop in 1154 he set to work and built anew the choir and crypt of the cathedral. Evidence of this rebuilding can still be seen in the western crypt. Over the years the east end was entirely rebuilt with the west end enlarged by the addition of a pair of towers, close together and projecting only a little beyond the side walls of Thomas's nave.
Also at the west end a large chapel known as St Sepulchre's was built at an angle to the north wall of the nave. By the early thirteenth century the fame of the Norman cathedral at York had spread across Europe. Fashions were, however, changing and the first cathedrals in the Gothic style were already been built. Visitors at this time from Canterbury, where a new choir was constructed in this Gothic fashion, would have thought the York Minster to be very antiquated.
It was not until 1220 that construction of the Minster as we know it began. Archbishop Gray and the Dean and Chapter decided to rebuild the Norman Minster on a scale to rival Canterbury. What survives is a remarkable monument to the energy and faith of the early middle ages. York's architectural styles span from the Early English style, through Decorated to Perpendicular.