YORK MINSTER is to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year by placing a statue of the monarch in a niche high on its medieval west front.
The figure, which is slightly larger than life, will be the centrepoint of a makeover of the open space in front of the Minster, to create a new Queen Elizabeth Square. Planners at York City Council have been given a preview of the design, but the public is currently being kept in the dark.
In a letter to officials, the Dean, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, explained: “Details of the statue design are confidential, and need to be given only essential and limited circulation so that the city of York can plan a public ‘reveal’ in 2022.
The Queen has approved the design, which shows her in the robes of the Order of the Garter, and holding the historic symbols of monarchy: the orb and sceptre. The Queen will be the first British monarch to have reigned for 70 years.
The Chapter has described the project as a “symbol of hope” in the aftermath of the pandemic, and a “focal point” to honour the Queen. The square would become “the pre-eminent civic and ceremonial space for the city”.
The figure will be carved by the Minster’s own stonemasons from Lepine, a hard stone suitable for precise detailing which is also known as Lavoux, from the village of Lavoux, near Poitiers, in France. It has previously been used in restoration of the Heart of Yorkshire window on the western façade. The statue will be sited above and to the right of the Minster’s great west door in an empty niche unfilled is thought to have remained unfilled since medieval times, when plague curtailed construction.
More details of the proposals are expected to be disclosed during the autumn.
An extended programme of events to mark the anniversary is planned for next year, culminating in a four-day Bank Holiday in June for the Platinum Jubilee weekend. Beacons will be lit throughout the country, and, for the first time, in the capital cities of Commonwealth countries. On 3 June, a thanksgiving service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral, and the next day the BBC will broadcast a live concert from Buckingham Palace.
On 5 June, the public are being urged to hold street parties under the title the Big Jubilee Lunch. The same day, more than 5000 people from Britain and the Commonwealth will take part in the Platinum Jubilee pageant at Buckingham Palace and in the surrounding streets. It will combine street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival, and costume.
Finances hit. The publication of the Minster’s accounts for 2020 revealed that income from visitors fell by three-quarters, from £5 million in 2019 to just £1.3 million, writes a staff reporter. Overall, income was down 40 per cent, to £6.5 million.
The impact of the pandemic was described as “catastrophic”, cutting visitor numbers from more than 706,000 in 2019 to just over 147,000 in 2020. The Dean praised the courage and tenacity with which the Minster community had cared for one another and the diocese.