Against the scrubbed Magnesian limestone
of York Minster’s west façade
a slate-capped steeple stands, a grime-toned
neo-Gothic rearguard.
The scaffolds of the stone restorer
on the Minster’s north-west tower
join aesthetic battle for a
skyline-dominating power.

By dull pink pier, on ochre transom
ill-behaving pigeons perch;
these drab tones clothe the not unhandsome
outline of St Wilfrid’s Church.
Across the road, St Peter’s Minster
looks aloof, yet disarrayed:
its gleaming frontage washed and rinsed, a
stark antithesis of shade.

With what provocative intention
were these buildings juxtaposed?
– colours locked in vile dissension,
perfect ordonnance foreclosed.
Did Mr Goldie (architect
of St Wilfrid’s hallowed halls)
ever trouble to inspect
the outlook from the city walls?

Or did he proudly put his byline
on critiques of proper roles:
keeping this eternal skyline?
saving our immortal souls?
Did mission’s cause promote selection
of this rival central site?
unwelcome sign of welcome resurrection
of the English Catholic rite?

And have the prospects lately brightened
for some power to instigate
an ecumenically enlightened
dialogue of Church and State?
Could those who loathe the skyline’s severance
finance (by St Wilfrid’s grace)
dismantling the church in loving reverence
and re-erection in some better place?

Author's Note

St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic Church was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, by the respected architect, George Goldie, as a pro-cathedral for Yorkshire; but in the event two Yorkshire cathedrals were built, at Leeds and Middlesbrough. St Wilfrid’s has a pleasant, airy and devout atmosphere, and one would have to be a fanatical aesthetic purist to want to tear it down. And yet I would wish it to have been built elsewhere.

Created 9 July 2022