Theses Doctoral

The Building Program of Archbishop Walter de Gray: Architectural Production and Reform in the Archdiocese of York, 1215-1255

Miller, Jeffrey Alexander

Walter de Gray became archbishop of York in 1215 while attending the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome. King John of England recommended Walter for the role, and the new archbishop ruled for the next four decades with the skills of a well-connected royal administrator and a commitment to reforming his churches according to the principles advanced by the general council. Over the next four decades the archbishop reorganized and revitalized a province that had lost much of its stature through neglect and mismanagement by his predecessor. Architectural patronage played a central role in Gray's reform program, and it created four well-known Gothic edifices at the metropolitan church of York and at its dependent satellites, or minsters, Beverley, Ripon, and Southwell. Each construction project was supported by an indulgence from the archbishop and happened alongside important constitutional changes at each church. York Cathedral received a new transept as Gray campaigned for the canonization of a former archbishop and restructured the chapter and its offices. He rebuilt the damaged choir of Beverley Minster as a shrine to its bishop-founder St John while packing its prestigious chapter with trusted lieutenants. He completed Ripon Minster with a two-towered faà§ade after promoting its legendary saint Wilfrid and creating a rich new stall for the chapter. Gray also may have been instrumental in choosing the design for the new east end of Southwell Minster, where he provided new statutes and stipends for the resident canons. The institutional relationships and the programmatic significance of these monuments have not been considered previously, and the four studies here show that reform and rebuilding worked together successfully to raise the profile of York and its minsters. During the building campaigns Gray created new prebends and augmented benefices in order to recruit talented clergy, and he and his allies laid down new statutes to foster the professional ecclesiastic standards and education favored by the Lateran Council. New architectural settings encouraged veneration of local saints, and their stories as pious past prelates of York bolstered the reputation of Gray and his office. New chapels allowed for the founding of chantries, often endowed by the archbishop's handpicked churchmen, and these paid for extra masses and the elaborate liturgical schedules expected of important churches in thirteenth-century England. The story of Walter de Gray and his building program gives scholarly attention to a leading figure in English medieval history, and it provides a new historical structure for understanding several important Gothic churches that rarely find a place in the architectural history of the Middle Ages. Moreover, these four monuments serve as a test case by which to evaluate scholarly approaches to English Gothic architecture of the twelfth and thirteenth century that have attempted to go beyond stylistic analysis, particularly Peter Brieger's idea of an episcopal style.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Murray, Stephen D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2012