The Virgin Mary to whom our church is dedicated, is honoured because of her relationship to Christ. And this honour, rather than taking away from that due to God, makes us more aware of God’s majesty; for it is precisely on account of the Son (Himself God) that she is venerated.
Christians speak of Mary as being the Mother of God, which was proclaimed in 431 at the 3rd Ecumenical Council in Ephesus. She is the supreme example of the cooperation between God and Man; for God, who always respects human freedom, did not become incarnate without her free consent which, as Holy Scripture tells us, was freely given: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).
St.Mary's is a wonderful building; its architecture is amongst the oldest in the City. The tower is built of stone from the Roman period and is quite unique. In Roman York, Bishophill was the site of the civilian settlement. When the tower was built hundreds of years later, much of the stone was re-used.The stones in the tower are mainly millstone grit and limestone; there are also a few bits of Roman tile.
Like most York churches the building covers several centuries. The nave and the north ailse have their origins in the 12th century, the chancel in the 13th and north chapel and south aisle in the 14th. Other points of interest include pre- conquest carved stones near the tower arch and the medieval font. There are four small panels of late 15th century glass in a window on the south side of the chancel. These depict St. Michael, The Blessed Virgin Mary in Glory, an Archbishop holding a pastoral cross, and an Archbishop with a palium.
St. Mary's also contains a modern dramatic set of Stations of the Cross by the local artist, Fiona Kahn FitzGerald. The Stations of the Cross offer people an opportunity to follow in Christ’s footsteps, from his being brought before Pontius Pilate to his entombment, using images from the Gospels and early church tradition. During a meditative Lenten service the people move round the church, stopping at each Station for a short time of prayer and silent reflection.
The first Station, when Jesus is brought before Pilate, is situated on the north pillar of the chancel arch by the choir stalls. The series continues anti-clockwise, finishing back at the chancel arch on the south side where the fourteenth Station depicts Jesus laid in the tomb.