St Helen's may be one of York's oldest churches, and its dedication to St Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, is a reminder of a real link back to the establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion in Europe. One of over 40 churches serving medieval York, the small size of its parish has at successive times threatened its very survival but it occupies a prominent location and that has been a major contribution to its continuance as a church.
The building you see today is largely 15th century, despite several rebuildings, with elements from both earlier and later periods. In the 16th century it was declared redundant and partially demolished, but quickly saved and rebuilt. Having briefly thrived in the earlier part of the 19th century, with competition from neighbours it declined and closed in 1910, the benefice being combined with St Martin Coney Street. Reopened in 1921 to provide alternative style of worship to that at St Martin, it came into its own after that church was bombed in 1942. It was one of York's most active city centre churches until the 1980s but after organisational changes the congregation again declined and regular Anglican Sunday worship finished in 2003. Worship resumed in 2013 with an emphasis on Saturday services. St Helen is part of the City Centre group and enjoys a variety of styles of worship.