| Medieval * York |
The Holy Trinity Church is a time capsule hidden in the centre of York. Being redundant, it has lost the spiritual right to perform services, but this also means there have been no recent renovations or modernisations that might have destroyed the historic essence of the building.
The Holy Trinity has layers upon layers of secret discoveries waiting to be found. From mis-matched stained glass (Mary now has the body of an over-indulgent priest), to a carved face of a stone mason (identified by a stone finger wiping dust from his eye), you could spend hours in this tiny church soaking up the mysteries. But we’re not here for them, we’re here for the heat and the warmth of religious buildings in times gone by.
As you walk down the aisle, the Trinity’s original Georgian Pew boxes, unique in York, jut out rebelliously from all angles. Many of them still have the old family crests carved into the dark wood from when they would have been rented by the wealthiest families in the parish. Forget Chanel or Rolex, if you wanted to flex you’d get yourself a private pew. The boxes were needed in the 18th century because it was the only way you could keep out the draft. The old churches had absolutely no thermal insulation to them; this is especially true for the Holy Trinity which now has many of its original outside features on the inside after a few centuries of renovations.
Stoves were eventually used to heat many Victorian churches and towards the latter half of the century hot water was employed. We now use gas, oil, or electric underfloor heating and there are extensive conversations about how to heat churches efficiently, and still be environmentally friendly. The latest guidance from the Church Buildings Council has said that decarbonising the church is critical to the Church’s mission: you can’t protect the integrity of life if you’re burning poison into the air.
As necessary as it is to be warm and to transform all our buildings into efficient, carbon-neutral structures - it’s important that we keep the historic examples of old churches, the ones from before the industrial revolution, to remind us that our ancestors used to spend hours listening to preachers in completely unheated churches. If they can do that, then we probably don’t need to be quite so cosy warm as we think we do.
Goodramgate, York YO1 7LF