East Yorkshire’s medieval minster town of Beverley is gearing up to mark a major milestone in 2021 – the 1,300thanniversary of its founder’s death.
Today’s thriving market town, dominated by its magnificent 13th century Minster, owes its success to Saint John of Beverley, one of the most popular medieval English saints, who died in 721.
Plans are now being drawn up to mark the anniversary in the picturesque market town.
Blessed with the gift of healing and with many accounts of miracles to his name, John – who established his monastery on the site of today’s Beverley Minster in the eighth century – was buried there, making it one of the most prestigious pilgrimage destinations in the north of England.
Beverley became a town offering hospitality to pilgrims and a place of sanctuary, thanks to King Athelstan, the first king of all England, who visited John’s tomb on his way north to fight a force of Vikings and Scots, praying for John’s help in winning the battle. With victory secured, the King gave certain privileges to Beverley, including the right of sanctuary.
While John’s sainthood was not formally recognised until 1037, his reputation attracted large numbers of pilgrims who provided the finance for more substantial buildings and in the early 12th century a start was made on a stone building in the new Romanesque style.
All that remains today of that early building is the stone chair in the Sanctuary of the Minster.
Disaster struck in 1188 when the church, and much of Beverley, was ravaged by fire, but a new building in the Gothic style was started around. 1190; and it is that which survives as the eastern part of Beverley Minster to this day.
The importance of the Minster at Beverley grew and throughout the medieval period English kings showed their respect for John of Beverley, and the town in which his remains lay, by visiting the Minster.
Among them was Henry V, who won the Battle of Agincourt on the Feast of Saint John’s translation (October 25), and who, in 1421, visited John’s shrine to give thanks, and make him one of the patron saints of the Royal family.
By 1377 Beverley was immensely rich through the wool and cloth trade and was listed in the top 12 largest towns in England. Nestling on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, the town is today a popular visitor destination, with its picturesque narrow cobbled streets, antique shops, historic buildings and heritage trails.
Voted one of the UK’s top places to live, it also attracts visitors for its thriving music scene, including The Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, which highlights shared traditions of music and history and is scheduled to take place between 28 and 30 May in 2021.
While the original gate to Beverley – the old North Bar – still exists, the main gateway to the market town is the vast grassy expanse of the Westwood pasture on the edge of the town.
For more details about St John and anniversary plans, see https://beverleyminster.org.uk/saint-john-of-beverley/
For news and updates on East Yorkshire as a destination: www.visiteastyorkshire.co.uk