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Old York, Cradle of Civilization

A Bishop's Cathedra

A Bishop's Cathedra

One place I hold dear is York, Old York of the Old Country after which it’s antithetical cousin, New York, is named. As altogether 21st century as American New York is, the English York would more comfortably be situated in Roman times with its original name Eboracum. The city was founded in AD 71, which, to place it in context, was a year after those empire-building Romans burned down the Temple in Jerusalem, massacring thousands and enslaving thousands more; and about 40 years after Jesus Christ’s Roman crucifixion. The Romans were not the only ones to occupy York, as a few hundred years later it was captured by the Vikings in 866 AD.¬† I have visited the city many times as a tourist, it being a convenient 45 minute drive from my hometown of Leeds, and I have to admit that those cruel and repressive Romans left impressive¬† edifices of civilization in this great city that endure to this day. Their architectural masterpieces include an intact wall that surrounds most of the city, several beautiful gates and no doubt many other artifacts in the local museum. There is a great deal to see for many visits and I am drawn back year after year in a quest to uncover layer upon layer of history – Roman, Viking, Middle Ages, industrial, and the architectural tour de force – York Minster. In “Death Before Breakfast,” the Inspector and his Sergeant pay a visit to York, and the Minster makes a brief appearance. York is to play a larger role in the sequel “Death at the Races,” such is its fascination to me. My early fascination with York probably coincided with my first romantic attachment, which faded into history soon after that young man from York returned to college. Today’s memories conjure up a frigid night last December when we lined up outside York Minster waiting for the annual service of nine lessons and carols to begin. Inside it was still below freezing but choral voices soared to the rafters as we rubbed our hands and kept our hats on, except for the men who reverently removed theirs for the prayers. The Archbishop of York infused the service with his own African-Christian brand of faith and we were reminded that York is and always has been a melting pot for all cultures.

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Bledsoe is a published poet and photographer. DEATH BEFORE BREAKFAST is her debut novel.