Monday, April 12, 2010

Still on Stonegate, Mickalgate and some other gates


"Look left. See these buildings? Once it used to be a field. Far in the back you can see a tower. It used to be Terry's chocolate factory. In the 80s every Thursday you could smell orange all over York. Thursday was the orange chocolate day at the factory.

The field holds no significant stories except one. A York Archbishop, Richard Scrope, was beheaded there. He rebelled against the king Henry IV, as he believed that the crown rightfully belonged to King Richard who was forced to give it up in 1405. So, the Archbishop was condemned to death. However, it took five blows to chop his head. The local legend says it was symbolic: the five blows match with the five wounds of Jesus Christ. History has a different explanation. The official executioner refused to behead the Archbishop as he was afraid to end up in Hell. So, the king's men had to find one at the Shambles (the butchers' street in York. Has been a butchers' street since the Viking times). Obviously the butcher was handling a human body for the first time. [This is the story of the martyrdom of Richard Scrope]

You've definitely heard about the local saint, St. William, Archbishop of York. This bridge here, the Ouse Bridge, is where his first miracle happened. He was not a saint really, but a fat man accused of gluttony in the early 12th century. But! He was a royal bastard and King Stephen lobbied ardently for his archiepiscopate even against the papal refusal of confirmation. Anyway, when William returned from Rome as an Archbishop, the whole of York came out to cheer him. Too many people I guess, and once he crossed the bridge, it collapsed and about 300 people fell into the river Ouse, which back then was much larger and more stinky. It is said that William knelt down immediately and started to pray that no one would die. The legend has it that a bridge rose from under the water and held everyone until they were safely ashore. Another one insists that a transparent bridge woven of sun rays unrolled from above and carried people on shore. Whatever happened we don't really know, except that no man drowned in the river Ouse that day. But the unfortunate William died couple of days later. Some say from poison, I believe his liver exploded.

Perhaps you've heard about the ancient rivalry between the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. Once upon a time there as a Pope who was smart enough to end it. While visiting the Pope the Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury had to sit on either sides of the Pope. The right was considered more honorable. So, once, on a certain visit the Archbishop of Canterbury hurried to take the right first. When the Archbishop of York entered the room and saw the right side taken, he refused to take the left and went and sat on the knee of the Archbishop of Canterbury. AND refused to walk down. The next Pope decided to end this and declared the Archbishop of York the Archbishop of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury the Archbishop of All England. Guess who sat on the right from then on?:-)"

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