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An historic church that has been partly restored after taking a direct hit by a bomb in the air raids of 1942

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Bombed Ruins
Church Organ
Large Clock
Stained Glass Windows
In a city full of old, impressive churches, St. Martin le Grand can easily be overlooked. It stands behind a modest stone entrance on Coney Street, a narrow lane that is usually full of shoppers - and it's all too easy to just stroll past without noticing it. But if you pause, go through the arch, and take a look - you can see one of the most distinctive churches in York.

The clock outside St Martin le Grand

The arch, leading to the ruined part of the church
Saint Martin himself was born in Hungary, in the 4th century. He spent most of his life travelling across Europe, performing countless deeds of honour and bravery. These tales have been remembered in stories and songs for centuries since, all across the continent.
In his most famous story, Martin was approached by a naked beggar. In a flash of generosity, he removed the expensive cloak from his back, ripped it in half, and shared it with the unfortunate young man. That night, Martin had dreams about Jesus - and in the morning, his cloak had been completely repaired.
Another fable tells of the time that he refused to fight in the military. In his early life, he followed his father into the army, and took part in many battles. But in his late teens, Martin's growing faith in the Christian religion prevented him from fighting. At first, this defiance got him thrown in jail, but he was eventually released, and allowed to join the church. The episode led to his being known as the patron saint of soldiers.
All the stories from Martin's life are depicted in a huge stained glass window, which was installed inside the church in the 15th century. It was removed for safekeeping during the Second World War, which proved to be a very fortunate decision. In April 1942, the building was hit by enemy bombers, badly damaging the building and smashing the remaining stained glass into millions of pieces.

Part of the stained glass window
The church was restored in the 60s, but this work focused only on the south side - the northern half of the church remains in ruins to this day. The repaired section of St. Martin le Grand features brand-new fixtures, pews, and art, which sit alongside all the remaining 15th-century details. There is a clear difference between the old and the new, a fact which serves as a constant reminder of what happened in 1942. The most striking examples of this contrast are the stained glass windows. St. Martin's restored window shares the church with a new design, depicting the building in flames. It is a powerful statement on the atrocities of war.

Inside the restored part of the church

Did You Know?

The church organ was a gift from the German government as a gesture following the devastating damage in the air raids of 1942.
So next time you're shopping on Coney Street, look out for a stone arch, topped with an old Victorian clock. This is St. Martin-le-Grand, and even though half of it is in ruins, it's still one of the most beautiful and poignant churches in the city.
Visitor Information
St Martin le Grand is open Mon to Fri, 9am - 5pm. Entry is FREE. Tel: 01904 625186

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