York Minster welcomes stonemasons from across the globe for Stone Carving Festival

Stonemasons from across the globe will gather in York Minster’s Dean’s Park this August to compete in the cathedral’s first Stone Carving Festival since 2010.

More than 70 expert craftspeople will take part in the festival on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August, with participants travelling from a range of countries including India, Iceland, Norway and Cyprus, as well as locations across the UK.

The masons will spend two days carving on the theme ‘All creatures great and small’, with the finished pieces auctioned at the end of the festival.

The weekend forms part of a four-day celebration of the ancient craft at the Minster, which starts with the annual Stoneyard Open Day on Friday 17 August, and concludes on Wednesday 22 August with an auction of historic stone removed from the cathedral during conservation work.

Funds raised from the events will be reinvested in maintaining the 800-year-old cathedral.

Alex McCallion, York Minster’s Director of Works and Precinct, said: “We’re delighted to be holding our first Stone Carving Festival for eight years, celebrating the extraordinary skills which go into maintaining not just York Minster but iconic buildings across the globe.

“York’s team of stonemasons has been involved in festivals since 1999 and the cathedral has hosted two previous events in the last two decades. We’ve had more than 70 masons register for our event with people coming from a range of organisations, from famous cathedrals to commercial firms. We look forward to welcoming them to the Minster and seeing their extraordinary creations take shape over the weekend.”

The festival will be officially opened at 11am on Saturday 18 August by the Sheriff of York, Verna Campbell. The two winners of a school competition, which attracted nearly 120 entries, to design a carving for York Minster stonemasons to create will also be presented with their finished pieces.

As well as the carving activity, a series of lectures will run from 12noon with speakers and topics including The 12th Century Minster by Cathedral Archaeologist Stuart Harrison and How to read the Minster – an architectural history of York Minster by Cathedral Architect Andrew Arrol.

The festival will conclude on Sunday when participants will vote for the winners of two categories – ‘Best Carving’ and ‘Best Apprentice Carving’ – before an auction of all pieces carved during the festival takes place at 3.30pm.

The Stoneyard Open Day runs from 9.30am until 3pm on Friday 17 August in the cathedral’s Stoneyard in Deangate. Visitors to the free event will be able to see the cathedral’s craftsmen and women at work in their workshops and learn how they repair, restore and protect the Minster’s historic fabric.

Master Mason John David will lead tours of the plaster cast museum and drawing office every hour between 10am and 2pm, and a limited number of places will also be available for tours of the cathedral’s South Quire Aisle scaffolding, to see the conservation work taking place there. Tours will run every 45 minutes from 9.45am to 3pm and are available on a first come, first served basis.

On Wednesday 22 August, people will have the chance to own a piece of York Minster when 140 pieces of historic stone, removed from the cathedral during conservation work, go under the hammer.

The auction, the first the cathedral has held for two years, will feature lots ranging in date from 14th century stones to Victorian pieces. Highlights include grotesques, finials and ten lots which form an 18th century pinnacle.

For the first time, people will be able to view and bid for the pieces being auctioned via an online catalogue, available via the York Minster website at www.yorkminster.org. Previews of the stones will also take place in Dean’s Park on Saturday 18 August 1pm-3pm, Sunday 19 August 2pm-3pm, Monday 20 August 5pm-7pm, Tuesday 21 August 5pm-7pm and Wednesday 22 August 10am-12noon.

The Stone Carving Festival runs from 8am-6pm on Saturday 18 August and from 8am-5pm on Sunday 19 August, with the auction starting at 3.30pm. The event is free to attend. For full details, visit www.yorkminster.org.