Life in a Medieval College: The Story of the Vicars-Choral of York Minster

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Though based almost entirely on records written from the middle of the thirteenth century -- some of them even earlier -- to the middle of the nineteenth century, this book is intended primarily for the average reader, men, women and young people, who, by the thousand, have for many years given to me the pleasure of their company during tours of York Minster. "Life in a Medieval College". This is what the book is about. This kind of life was lived, for seven centuries and more, in and about not only the cathedral and metropolitical church of St. Peter at York but also eight other cathedral churches and at several more not of cathedral rank. From the Norman Conquest onwards, the cathedral churches of this country were almost equally divided between the regular and the secular clergy. The former, living their lives in accordance with the rule of St. Benedict or one of the other rules inspired by it, occupied the cathedral churches of Canterbury, Rochester, Winchester, Worcester, Carlisle, Durham, Norwich and Ely, each of these being staffed with an abbot (or a prior) and monks. The cathedral churches at York, Lincoln, London (St. Paul's), Chichester, Salisbury, Wells, Exeter, Hereford and Lichfield were staffed with secular clergy. Everybody knows something about monks. But not many people, otherwise intelligent and well-informed, have ever even heard of secular collegiate clergy. It is the aim of this book to provide a background for its chief subject-matter and then to describe in some detail the life of the college of the sub-chanter and vicars-choral of York, who existed as a corporate body from the year 1252 to the year 1936.

The story of the college at York, however, is based almost entirely on records that had never before been studied in detail. About the discovery of those records there is something approaching romance.

-ix-

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