In the UK we have a lot of Cathedrals. We also have York Minster but I'm unsure what is special about York that makes it a Minster rather than another Cathedral.

The only other case I can think of is Westminster Abbey although I believe this is named after the City of Westminster.

What does a religious building require to be classed as a Minster rather than a Cathedral?

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    Maybe will help: ask.com/question/… – nicael Jun 23 '14 at 9:31
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    "... named after the City of Westminster" it's more like it's the other way round instead. – Kris Jun 23 '14 at 11:42
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    This seems to be a question about Church of England nomenclature, rather than the English language per se. – David Richerby Jun 23 '14 at 14:16
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about nomenclature of the Church of England – Marcin Jun 23 '14 at 17:29
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    There is an SE site dedicated to Christianity. This question would be on-topic there and you would probably get more useful and accurate answers. – user39425 Jun 23 '14 at 19:41

OED s.v. Minster 2.a.:

The church of a monastery; a church having its origin in a monastic establishment. More generally: any large or important church, esp. a collegiate or cathedral church. Also more fully minster church.

Both minster and abbey refer to certain large church buildings’ origins as monastic churches. And no, the Borough of Westminster is so named after the monastic foundation that was once there.

When the monasteries of England were dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII, and afterwards, many of their larger churches were retasked as Anglican cathedrals; a church is an Anglican cathedral if it is the official home church of an Anglican bishop, complete (usually) with the bishop’s throne or cathedra. (Other monastic lands and buildings were given by that old pirate Henry VIII to his cronies, with the result that some of the “Stately ’Omes of England” have “Abbey” in their names—including some so called merely pretentiously, a matter of joke near the beginning of Act II of Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession).

Whether one of these retasked church edifices continues to be termed “Minster” or is just termed “Cathedral” seems to be up to the vagaries of local custom.

  • Nitpick: although Westminster is a London borough, it's full name is the City of Westminster. – Steve Melnikoff Jun 23 '14 at 13:11
  • Yeah, but I got to know it back when the street signs still said "Royal Borough of Westminster." – Brian Donovan Jun 23 '14 at 14:21

Minster is an honorific title specific to some churches in England, while Cathedral refers specifically to the 'church' where a Bishop resides.


Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England, most famously York Minster in York, Westminster in London and Southwell Minster in Southwell. The term minster is first found in royal foundation charters of the 7th century. Although it corresponds to the Latin monasterium or monastery,t then designated any settlement of clergy living a communal life and endowed by charter with the obligation of maintaining the daily office of prayer.


A cathedral (French cathédrale from Latin. cathedra, "seat" from the Greek kathedra (καθέδρα), seat, bench, from kata "down" + hedra seat, base, chair) is a Christian church which contains the seat of a bishop,1 thus serving as the central church of a diocese, conference, or episcopate


This isn't simply a question of English Language Usage, but German as well. The equivalent words in German are Dom and Münster. The former is the seat of a bishop or archbishop, the latter is not. In fact, according to the German Wikipedia, "Münster ist ein frühes deutsches Lehnwort aus griech./lat. monasterium, 'Kloster'." or "Münster is an early German loanword out of the Greek/Latin monasterium, monastery."


A Minster is a church that is used by missionaries. It is (usually) the first church built in an area they are attempting to spread the word of God to, or the church that sets up missionary projects in other areas. You could call it the missionary's 'base of operations' in a way. York Minster has served in both those roles.

When the (original) Minster in York was built, Christianity hadn't spread through Yorkshire and the people were all Pagans, thus the need for missionaries to spread the faith.

A Minster can be a Cathedral (York being a prime example) however this is not a requirement. The original York Minster was a small wooden church (not much more than a large hut) which was replaced by other churches and finally the current Minster, all on the same site, and serving the same role.

The York Minster is no longer used for missions in the UK, but does support overseas missions.

Source: Taking the guided tour around the York Minster.

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