What can you see at York Minster besides the cathedral itself? If you look up at the minster you can see the gargoyles and grotesques, but you may also see a nesting pair of peregrine falcons.
Since around 2015 there has been a nesting pair of Peregrine falcons at York Minster. During the 2018 they were reported to have raised four young. Two of the three times I visited York I was able to spy some falcons flying around the minster, landing on grotesques and the towers.
If you are going to try to catch these birds of prey, bring a powerful pair of binoculars or a zoom lens. They land pretty high up on the minster. Whether you are a birder or not, they are enjoyable to see in flight.
Gargoyles and grotesques of long ago were frequently scary images of monsters and mythical creatures. Today as some places replace ones that are wearing down in the elements, they may put in place ones based on real people or even characters from stories. One such place that is doing that is that National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
I heard they had a Darth Vader grotesque. I asked the guards at the Cathedral where it was located. They answered look on the dark side. They didn’t seem so sure of its exact location themselves. I had to ask someone wandering around. It is high up on the dark side of northwest tower of the cathedral. It is very high up and one would need good binoculars to locate it.
Who can be found on many buildings in England? Whose image adorns the face of some buildings in Germany, France and others places? It is the Green Man.
Did you know it also can be found on buildings in the United States? There are at least three locations where the Green Man can be found in New York City. Below are some grotesque-like images I found on one Manhattan building.
See if you can find any Green Men in your locale. There seem to be more of these around than people know.
It resembles a man, but is surrounded by leaves or other plant life. It may have branches or vines protruding from its mouth or nose. It is seen on different pub signs and as grotesques on buildings or churches. What is it? It is the Green Man.
Although it can be seen in other cultures, the Green Man can be spotted around England. There are at least three Green Man Pubs in London and more are elsewhere. Several colleges at Oxford have the symbol on a door or as a grotesque on the side of a building. Churches and cathedrals in different counties have the Green Man decorating their edifice.
Although the true meaning may be unknown, there are many theories about it. Some see the Green Man as a symbol of rebirth or growth in spring. Others see it as a symbol of man’s reliance on nature. Another theory is it is a reminder that death awaits us all. One Christian interpretation is that the foliage coming from the mouth represents the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit. Other ideas about the meaning exist as well.
Whatever their meaning or purpose, they are interesting to find. Look them up on the web and see where some of them are located. This site lists some locations: click here. If you are planning a trip to one of these areas, stop in and find one.
Where can you find the highest concentration of grotesques in New York City? The answer is on the campus of City College of New York.
City College is located on Amsterdam Avenue near 138th Street. It is in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan just north of Harlem.
How Many Grotesques?
According to “The City College of NY 150 Years of Academic Architecture” written by Paul David Pearson (1997) the buildings are “encased with over 600 grotesque figures that directly relate to the educational function of each building. The figures were designed by Livingston Smith, a staff member in the post’s architectural office, modeled by G. Grundellis and cast in terra cotta.” I got this quote from another website. Scouting NY website says there are 1,000. I don’t think I was able to access close to either of those numbers walking around campus, however, there are a lot to see.
How to Get There
In Manhattan take the number 1 subway line to 137th Street- City College station. Exit and walk up Hamilton Place and turn right on 138th Street. When you cross Amsterdam Avenue you are there. Anyone can walk around the campus. There are not many people there on the weekend, but I was still able to walk around the buildings. There are areas you can not walk on campus. Some streets or alleyways may be closed off with fences.
If grotesques peak your interest, it is worth a trip up the 1 train. It may also be a good destination prior to Halloween.