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Beverley Minster

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A collegiate church at Beverley, capital of the East Riding of Yorkshire, served by a chapter of secular canons until the Reformation. The foundation owes its origin to St. John of Beverley early in the eighth century, when the locality was a clearing in the forest of Deira (Indrawood), afterwards known as Beverlac (A.S. Beoferlic ), a name possibly due to the colonies of beavers in the river Hull. St. John here founded a community of monks and another of nuns, but traditions as to the existence of an earlier church are legendary and untrustworthy. Later the saint, having resigned his See of York, retired here and died (721), his shrine being in the minster. After the destruction of the monastery by the Danes, a chapter of secular canons was founded By King Athelstan in gratitude for his victory at Brunanburh (937), as he had visited the shrine on his march north. It remained a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the vicissitudes of the Danish and Norman invasions. Few particulars about the early history of the church are known, but a fire in 1188 destroyed the greater part of it, and the present Gothic minster, rivalling the great cathedrals in beauty, dates from that time. The west front in particular is unsurpassed as a specimen of the Perpendicular style. The choir and double transepts were built early in the thirteenth century; while the present nave replaced the Norman nave a century later. Throughout the Middle Ages the shrine was frequented by pilgrims, and the charters of its liberties were renewed by successive monarchs. Its banner was placed on the standard at the "battle of the Standard" (1138), and it was further honoured after the victory of Agincourt, which was won on the feast of the translation of St. John (25 October, 1415), and was attributed by Henry V to that saint's intercession (Lyndwode, "Provinciale", II, "Anglicanae"). The minster was originally served by a chancellor, precentor, sacrist, nine canons, nine vicars-choral and seven berefellarii or clerks, but in time several chantry priests and minor officials were added. The temporalities were administered by a provost, who was not necessarily a member of the chapter. The former office was held by many noted Englishmen, including St. Thomas Becket and John de Thoresby, afterwards Cardinal. Blessed John Fisher is believed to have received his first education at the grammar school attached to the minster. The chapter being secular, the minster escaped the ruin that fell on the monasteries under Henry VIII, but was dissolved in 1547 under the "Colleges and Chantries Act" of Edward VI. The seventy-seven collegiate officers thus dispossessed were replaced by a vicar and three assistants reduced, under Elizabeth, to a vicar and one curate. Gradually the minster fell into decay until, in 1713, a restoration became necessary to save it from ruin. This was successfully executed, and as a result of further work in 1866 and subsequent years it still remains one of the most remarkable Gothic churches in England.

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