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St. Helen's Church, York
Empress' Chapel?

St. Helen's Square, YorkSt. Helen's Square is a pleasant expansive area of York, opening out at the bottom of Stonegate. There are welcoming benches here to stop a while and rest your feet. Yet through the hustle and bustle of today's busy shoppers, it is difficult to imagine that, before 1733, this was the churchyard of St. Helen's Church, just to the north.

St. Helen's dates from the 13th century and was the house of prayer for the city's medieval glass-painters. Their arms can be seen in the south-west window. The place was partially demolished in the 16th century, but Queen 'Bloody' Mary passed a private Act to enable the parishioners to rebuild it. Legend says it was the private chapel of St. Helen herself. She was the mother of the Emperor Constantine, a resident of the city for some years. It supposedly survived as a place of worship throughout the post-Roman period and thence into the Middle Ages. Other buildings in the Square include the Mansion House and the original Terry's Chocolate Shop (no longer trading here).


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