'The Prick of Consciousness' – York, England - Atlas Obscura

Update as of April 2024: The church is undergoing restoration access to the stained glass window is limited.

One of the popular works in the English language, prior to the invention of the printing press, is the Middle English poem, “The Prick of Consciousness.” This 14th-century tome consists of over 900 lines and pertains to humans who are seeking forgiveness, or penance, over enduring the wrath of the impending apocalypse. It also relates to the metaphysical feeling of experiencing guilt through touch or other sensory methods.

Situated on the south bank of the River Ouse is the Grade I listed building of All Saints North Street (The Shrine and Parish Church). Inside, on the northwest corner, is a depiction of the famous piece of poetry represented in stained glass. Said to be constructed around the beginning of the 1400s, this window depicts “The Fifteen Signs of Doom.” These stages range from floods and fires to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Though the author of the famous composition is up for debate, the 15 panels make clear what will happen to those who don’t obey the scriptures. What is additionally interesting is that inscriptions beneath each section are written in English rather than Latin, which was the official language of the written word at this time. The reason being as a way to communicate more readily to the masses, or as a method of instruction.

Know Before You Go

This is a fully functioning church, so visits may be curtailed by services and other functions. Opening hours are 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Saturday, 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Check the website for tours and other activities.

As a bonus, across the street, towards the river, there is a monument to the physician John Snow, who was born nearby.

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December 15, 2022

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