Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London.
The official name for Westminster Abbey is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.
Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the 10th century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day.
The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.
The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country.
The building was later significantly expanded, the Chapel of Henry VII was added between 1503 and 1512.
The abbey’s two western towers were built between 1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor, constructed from Portland stone to an early example of a Gothic Revival design.
The youngest part of the abbey is the North entrance, completed in the 19th century.
Highlights of Westminster Abbey include the nave, which is the highest in England, and the chapel of Henry VII.
The architecture within Westminster Abbey is beyond spectacular, and one of the most magnificent areas is the Henry VII Chapel commonly referred to as the Lady chapel.The pendant fan vault ceiling is beyond beautiful.
The beautiful octagonal Chapter House is one of the largest of its kind in England. It has an original tile floor dating from 1250 and its walls are decorated with 14th-century murals. The Chapter House has one of the oldest doors dating to 1050.
The Cloister was originally built in the 13th century. It was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire in 1298. The cloister was used by the Benedictine monks for meditation and exercise.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew is carved out of the north wall and the space is so small that there is no room to sit in it. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the year 1300.
Poets’ Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the high number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there.
King Edward’s Chair, or the Coronation Chair, is the throne that every British monarch sits on during the coronation since 1308.But, up close, you will notice that is that it is covered in graffiti – the work of schoolboys and other visitors in the 1700s and 1800s.
A statue of Saint Wilgefortis stands in the Lady Chapel of Henry VII and is notable for being the only statue in the Abbey of a bearded woman. Legend has it that Saint Wilgefortis prayed to be made repulsive in order to escape a forced marriage. Her prayers were answered and she was given a beard.
The Abbey’s ten bells were overhauled in 1971 and “are rung for major church festivals, saints’ days, Royal and Abbey anniversaries, civic events and for special services.”
Westminster Abbey’s College Garden is a peaceful spot and one of the oldest gardens in England. At one time it was used by the monks to grow medicinal herbs and food.
Westminster Abbey’s museum holds the wax figures of many previous monarchs, with nearly all of them in traditional full costume.
The gallery runs 21 meters (70 feet) above the Abbey floor, and has been hidden to the public for over 700 years. It will be open in 2018.
Seventeen royal weddings have taken place at Westminster Abbey over the centuries. In April 2011, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was held there.
The current reigning Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on King Edward’s Chair, along with every monarch since 1308.
Over 3,300 people have been buried in Westminster Abbey over the centuries. This includes 17 British monarchs including King Henry V and all the Tudors except for Henry VIII. Other notable people buried at Westminster Abbey include Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dr. Samuel Johnson and Charles Darwin.
There are 450 tombs and monuments in the Abbey.
Westminster contains impressive statues and monuments from the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus to the grave of the unknown warrior.
Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every year, the Abbey welcomes more than one million visitors who want to explore this wonderful 700-year-old building – the coronation church of England.
During the Second World War, about “60,000 sandbags were used to protect immoveable royal and medieval tombs. The Coronation Chair was sent for safety to Gloucester Cathedral and the Coronation Stone was buried secretly within the Abbey.”
Westminster Abbey is the setting of a climactic scene in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.