St Cuthbert’s Window, which is believed to date from about 1440, is one of the largest surviving pieces of stained glass of its kind, but it is in desperate need of repair.
Centuries of exposure to the elements have caused much of the stonework around the window to crumble and all 154 panels of stained glass will have to be removed before work on the masonry can begin.
A fundraising campaign has been launched to support the cost of the project and Neil Sanderson, the director of the York Minster Fund, has said work will begin as scheduled next year despite a multi-million pound financial deficit caused by reduced visitor revenues this year.
He said: “This year has been a roller-coaster, but a project like St Cuthbert’s Window is too important to allow it to be delayed and I am really delighted that the first part of the scaffolding is up and the team is ready to go in the New Year.
“This window is one of the Minster’s very best and while like all the conservation we do in a building like this, the work will be long and painstaking the results will be worth it.”
With the Minster forced to shut it doors for a large part of this year due to coronavirus restrictions, the pandemic has had a major impact on the cathedral’s income from both entrance receipts and visitor donations.
However, Mr Sanderson said other revenue streams have weathered the storm and a significant restructuring, which led to 55 redundancies, means that the future of major projects is now secure.
He said: “We are very lucky to have many loyal supporters and I honestly have been humbled by their generosity, with a number of them donating even more than they had pledged. This year has been tough for everyone involved in fundraising and we have had to completely rethink how we do things.
“From mid-April, it became increasingly apparent that all the major events we had in the diary were not going to go ahead, or at least not as planned. However, I do think it has made us more agile and while there has been some heartbreaking decisions, we have worked hard to protect the core of what we do here.
“Towards the end of next year we will again look to open up our apprenticeship scheme, as we know that preserving the skills of the glaziers and our stonemasons is the future to the life of this great building.”
The team at the cathedral also hopes that Prince Charles, who replaced his brother Prince Andrew as patron of the York Minster Fund earlier this year, will help raise the profile of future conservation work.
Mr Sanderson added: “Having an influential member of the Royal Family on board is fantastic. It is easy to underestimate how much of an impact someone like Prince Charles can have on the work we do here.
“I just hope we can persuade him to visit us in York very soon. After the year we have had, that really would be something to look forward to.”