York Minster to hold service and candlelit vigil of prayer to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War

Media Alert: Monday 4th August 2014


On the evening of Monday 4 August 2014, a solemn service and vigil of prayer commemorating the outbreak of the First World War will be held at York Minster. Approximate timings for the evening are as follows:

Service - 8.00 – 9.00pm

Service including hymns, readings and prayers reflecting on the events leading up to the outbreak of war. There will be 12 candles on the altar and four candelabra. As the service progresses, the lighting will be gradually reduced in the Minster and the candles will be extinguished throughout the service until approx. 8.50-8.55pm when the final two candles will be taken into St John’s Chapel for the vigil of prayer.

Vigil of prayer – 9.00-11.00pm

Vigil of prayer in St John’s Chapel. The final two candles will be extinguished at 11pm – the exact hour of the declaration of war in 1914.

Media arrangements

There is a limited number of fixed positions for stills photographers and film crews at York Minster. Flash cannot be used during the service, hymns or during prayer. Movement can only take place during music and with permission from the Communications Team member present. Up to 90 seconds of any music can be recorded for broadcast without necessitating a recording contract. Stills photographers and film crews are asked to arrive no later than 30 minutes before the service starts to set up for these positions. No photography or filming will be allowed during the vigil in St John’s Chapel.


Canon Pastor Michael Smith who will be conducting the service, will be available for interview at the Minster from 5.45 – 6.30pm


The candles for the service will be lit at approximately 7.30pm.

Parking for TV Vans

Location 1 - Chapter House Yard, York Minster

There is a small amount of parking in Chapter House Yard. Requests for parking must be submitted to the Communications Team in advance and no later than 4pm on Monday 4 August. Please provide vehicle registration details when submitting your request. 

Location 2 – South Side of the Minster (outside the Minster School)

This location is on double yellow lines and permission to park must be gained in writing from City of York Council on 01904 552017/552005 (Mon-Fri) or 07767 318082 (evenings/weekends).

For information about attending the service please contact the York Minster Communications Team:

Sharon Atkinson – Director of Communications – t: 01904 557248; m: 07785 615457; sharona@yorkminster.org

Stacey Healey – Marketing Executive – t: 01904 559545; m: 07557 110718; staceyh@yorkminster.org


Monday 4 August 2014

York Minster to hold service and candlelit vigil of prayer to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War

On Monday 4 August 2014, York Minster will hold an evening service and vigil of prayer to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914.  

The Minster’s service will form part of a national day of commemoration including solemn services at Westminster Abbey and Glasgow Cathedral and a commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s St Symphorien cemetery in Mons, Belgium. Anglican churches and communities up and down the country will be holding their own special services.

Starting at 8pm, the service at York Minster will include prayers, readings, poems and music reflecting on the events that led to the conflict that destroyed so many lives. The service will be conducted by Canon Pastor Michael Smith.

As the service progresses, the Minster will move from light into darkness as the candles in the Nave will be gradually extinguished. At approximately 8.50-8.55pm the final two candles will be taken from the Nave Altar and carried to St John’s Chapel where they will be placed on the altar.

At the end of the service at 9pm, the congregation and members of the public will be invited into St John’s Chapel for a vigil of prayer until 11pm – the exact hour at which war was declared 100 hundred years ago. The final two candles will be extinguished at that moment.

Commenting on the service, Canon Smith said that the solemn and reflective nature of the event will provide a poignant reminder of the loss of a generation and the tragedy of war. He said:

“York Minster’s service is part of a national commemoration marking a significant date in the history of our country and the world.   The effects of that war can still be felt today – the roots of so many modern conflicts can be found in the First World War.

“The service and vigil of prayer will provide a space for solemn reflection and remembrance of the suffering, sacrifice and courage of those caught up in those terrible events. “

Notes for Editors

The Service Commemorating the Outbreak of the First World War will take place at York Minster on Monday 4 August 2014. The service will start at 8pm and conclude at 9pm and will be followed by a candlelit vigil of prayer in St John’s Chapel which will last from 9 – 11pm.

About St John’s Chapel

St John’s Chapel was originally dedicated as the Chapel of St Michael on 9 May 1925.  It was the second of three war-memorial chapels (All Saint’s was first in 1923 and St George’s was third in 1926) created within the Minster as a result of the First World War. It is the chapel of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. 

The dedication was changed to St John the Evangelist in 1945 when the glass from St John’s Micklegate was put in.  This glass was taken out of St John’s for safety during the Second World War and was entrusted to the Chapter of York for safekeeping.  The glass was gifted to the Minster in 1945.

In 1968 the 1st Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry became the 2nd Battalion of the Light Infantry and in 2007 the Light Infantry merged with the Royal Green Jackets to form The Rifles.  The monuments and furnishings in the chapel commemorate those who served and died in these forces.

The dedicatory inscription is:

“Of your charity remember before God those who died for their king and country whilst serving with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry – This chapel is enclosed and furnished by their comrades as a thank offering to Almighty God”. 

For more information please contact:

Sharon Atkinson

Director of Communications

York Minster

Tel:       01904 557428

Email:   sharona@yorkminster.org