If you love to read news about England and its royalties, then the name Westminster Abbey must be really familiar to you. Westminster Abbey is a large and iconic church located to the west of Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster.
The church is the traditional place where coronation and burial of British royals and monarchs were done. History The history of Westminster Abbey started with a vision of a fisherman who saw a vision of Saint Peter near the Thames River. Later in 1042, King Edward the Confessor started to rebuild St Peter’s Abbey as the church to hold royal burial. The church was built in Romanesque style and was completed in 1090. However, it was consecrated in 1965 and held the King’s burial one week after its consecration.
The record shows that one year later, William the Conqueror was the first King who was coroneted in the church. The only surviving depiction of the original church is that on the Bayeux Tapestry. In 1245, King Henry III started the reconstruction of the church into what we still can see today, in Gothic style. Its special position in the British royal life had given the abbey and Benedictine monks who lived in it high royal connection and thus power after the Norman Conquest. The abbey continued to be the site of coronations of Norman kings. Later, King Henry VII added the Chapel of Henry VII to the site between 1503 and 1512.
In 1540, King Henry VIII gave the cathedral status to the abbey. This resulted in the survival of the abbey at that time when the majority of English abbeys were either destructed or dissolute. The status was only given until 1550 and after that Westminster was no longer a cathedral. Under the Catholic Queen Mary I reign, the abbey was restored to Benedictine monks but ejected again when Queen Elizabeth I ruled in 1559. In 1722 to 1745, the two western towers of the abbey were constructed. More restoration and rebuilding were done in the 19th century under Sir George Gilbert Scott. There was a design for a narthex by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the west front in the mid 20th century but it never came into realization.
A fire in 1298 destroyed the original cloister. It was then rebuilt and used as a place for meditation and exercise by the Benedictine monks.
Henry VII Chapel
Also known as the Lady Chapel, this chapel is one of the grandest chapels in its time. It has a magnificent vault and a large stained glass window. The window which depicts the Battle of Britain was constructed in 1947 when an original window was damaged during World War II.
Westminster Abbey Today
Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church governed by a dean and Chapter of Westminster. There are also two full-time minor canons. Westminster Abbey has Westminster School and Westminster Abbey Choir School within the precincts of the Abbey. The school was initially established to literate monks and then became the charity school mandated by the Pope in 1179.
There is a museum that you can visit in the 11th century vault undercroft beneath the former monks’ dormitory. The museum exhibits a collection of funeral effigies, royal effigies, Mary II’s coronation chair and regalia replica, 12th century sculpture fragments. There are also wax effigies of prominent historical figures such as Horatio, Prime Minister William Pitt, Viscount Nelson, and Earl of Chatham by the sculptor Patience Wright.
Visiting Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey welcomes visitors from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, the church is closed for services. Here is the visiting schedule during weekdays.