The People Who Make York

August 30th, 2011
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Leonard Wrona – Journeyman Stone Mason at York Minster

There’s a good chance you may have seen Leonard or fellow members of the Righteous Strangers in the City center. With their distinctive looking medieval-style clothes; black hats, black ties with Masonic tie-pins, thick chord waist-coats and trousers over white working shirts, they look as though they have stepped out of one of York’s many Museums or historical entertainments; but the Righteous Strangers are for real.

Travelling only with the possessions they can carry, the German Rechtschaffene Fremede (Righteous Strangers) travel the world learning their trade as expert Stone Masons. As a member of the Righteous Strangers, the World’s oldest Journeymen brotherhood, Leonard Wrona currently works at the Minster as a Bank Mason.

Leonard works largely with traditional tools in the new open-fronted workshop situated by the South East lawns, adjacent to the large scaffold works on the East Front of the Minster. As a Bank Mason Leonard specializes in carving stones into intricate geometrical shapes and the detailed mouldings required by the building’s designs. As a Journeyman he follows the customs and traditions passed down since the Middle Ages.

I asked Leonard about his work in York and his life on the road as a Journeymen:

What brings you to York?

We are travelling Stone Masons, it’s a traditional skill. I am on my travelship for three years and one day and in that time I won’t go closer than 50km to my hometown of Hamburg. I can travel and work all over the world. A lot of Stone Masons come to York so we can learn stone masonry and improve our English. York is a very good place to learn and there are many Stone Masons who are glad to work here.

So what does your job entail, day-to-day?

I am a Bank Mason. I work on each block of stone for at least two weeks. The tools I use are similar to those used in the Middle Ages but now the metal is stronger. There are lots of steps, working slowly until I get closer and closer to the detail, always controlling the surface of the stone. It is only by many small steps that I get close to the detail.

How does it feel to work on York’s most iconic building?

The stone I am working on today could be up there on the tower for 300 years. It’s a responsibility you know? I have to think about the time it will be there for. A lot of people will see this work and if I chip one edge wrong and the finish is not nice there’s going to be a lot of people who will see it and think “It could be better!”

What do you do when you’re not working?

On travelship we only have the possessions we can carry and two sets of clothes. I like to take my coffee at Coffee Culture whenever I can during my lunch break. In the evening I like to play sports but with only two sets of clothes if I get them dirty it’s not good. 

On travelship you are not able to go back to your home town for three years and one day, how does this feel?

Not going home for three years and one day is OK. I miss my friends and family but you can be happy in all parts of the world. It’s more a question of what you have in your own heart and mind, how you look at other people and take all the problems and daily struggles.




  • EmmaCourtney

    Great article.

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