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York was founded by the Romans as a legionary base in England, around which a city (Eboracum) developed. Under the emperor Severus, it became the provincial capital of Britannia Inferior.

Later, post Empire, the remains of the city were sacked but occupation continued. Under the provisions of Pope Greogory the Great, in 601CE, the city became the assigned seat of the second Archepiscopal see of England, and, together with the palatinate of Durham, was the major centre of North-East England. Edwin, king of Northumbria, had first a wooden oratory and then a stone church built here, dedicated to St.Peter.

In 866 the Danish army occupied York and ravaged the district, and for nearly 50 years the Vikings controlled the city, until in 910 Edward the Elder took it back. Another Norse adventurer, Raegnald, seized power temporarily, later in the decade, but Athelstan recovered it in 927CE.

After the Conquest, William the Conqueror ravaged the North of England in revenge for revolts against the Norman regime, but after that York grew slowly but steadily (allowing for the occasional fire) and remained second city of the realm throughout period.