The Roman road more travelled uncovered at York Minster

Ian Milstead Lead Archaeologist from YAT cleaning Roman Road beneath York Minster. Image courtesy of York Minster.

“Further links to the York’s Roman past have just been discovered beneath York Minster.”


During construction work on the new visitor development in the Undercroft, to be launched next summer, archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust unearthed a section of Roman road.

Section of discovered Roman Road beneath York Minster. Image courtesy of York Minster

The road is believed to have been a backstreet, part of the Via Quintana, running behind the Roman basilica under which the medieval Minster now sits.  The backstreet was used for hundreds of years and was frequently patched and repaired, falling into disuse at the same time as the Basilica itself. The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull commented, “While it was not as grandly paved as the main streets of Roman York, you can imagine that this backstreet, situated as it was between the Basilica and the Praetorium, was exactly the kind of place where the real business of the Empire was done. It probably even witnessed the very first Christians on their way to worship.”

“The Roman road is just one of the many stories about York Minster’s ancient past, which will be revealed in February 2013 when the archaeological analysis on all of this year’s excavations is released.”


Ian Milstead again, excavating the section of Roman Road buried beneath York Minster. Image courtesy of York Minster.

The newly discovered section of road will allow further analysis of the remains found in previous excavations. The development of new visitor displays in the Undercroft, part of the major York Minster Revealed* project, has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to investigate York Minster’s earliest layers of history. The Roman road is just one of the many stories about York Minster’s ancient past, which will be revealed in February 2013 when the archaeological analysis on all of this year’s excavations is released. A series of special events and activities is also planned as part of the Jorvik Viking Festival, in partnership with York Archaeological Trust.

Ian Milsted, Lead Archaeologist from York Archaeological Trust explains, “Before this, there had been no archaeological excavations at York Minster for over 40 years, so it’s a huge privilege to be revealing pieces of the past in such an iconic building, all of it contributing to our picture of life in ancient York.’’

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About York Minster Revealed:

The York Minster Revealed project is a five-year project scheduled for completion in early summer 2016. It is the largest restoration and conservation project of its kind in the UK. The cost of the whole York Minster RevealedProject is £20 million, of which £10.5m has been generously supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The remainder of the fund has been raised by York Minster.

State-of-the-art multi-media galleries, new displays of historic collections and interactive interpretations will create new learning opportunities for all ages. Also improved access to the South Transept, Undercroft, Treasury and Crypt will totally transform the experience of visiting York Minster.

The most recent part of York Minster Revealed was launched to the public in October 2012 and includes the contemporary elliptical stained-glass orb and interactive galleries in the East End of the Minster. Allowing visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, at close range, some of the magnificently restored panels of the Great East Window, England’s artistic equivalent to the Sistine Chapel.

Coming soon in Spring 2013 will see the opening of the Undercroft, visitors can take an inspirational journey into the underground chambers of the vast Undercroft and Treasury, revealing York Minster’s past, present and future. Dynamic, new interactive displays will reveal the significance behind York Minster’s most treasured artefacts as never before, in an inspirational two thousand-year journey.


* Note: While visitors cannot see the actual progress of the archaeological excavations during December as the work is underground, York Minster’s builders and skilled craftspeople are highly visible as work progresses on York Minster Revealed, one of the UK’s largest conservation and restoration projects.

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