Westminster Abbey in London

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey

Monday – Wednesday, Friday – 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Thursday – 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm. Saturdays: (May – August) 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.; (September – April) 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sundays – services for the faithful only.

Adult ticket £24, children £10, family ticket (1 adult and 1 child) £24, multimedia guide £5.

Westminster Abbey is one of the most important religious buildings in Britain, a traditional coronation site and burial place for the country’s monarchs. Westminster Abbey refers to St. Peter’s Church, located in the historic district of London (Westminster).

Westminster Abbey is a prime example of the Gothic style. It is known that the church was built with great intervals during five hundred years (from 1245 to 1745). However, the first references to it date back to the V-X centuries.

Westminster Abbey

Thirty-one years ago, in 1987, St. Peter’s Church, together with the Palace of Westminster (the building where the British Parliament meets) and the late Gothic St. Margaret’s Church joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Tickets to Westminster Abbey

Due to the threat of a coronavirus infection, the Abbey ticket office is currently closed, so tickets can only be purchased online, through the official website.

  • adult ticket – £24,
  • children’s ticket £10,
  • family ticket (1 adult and 1 child) £24,
  • Multimedia guide – £5,
  • Diamond Royal Gallery – £5, children under 17 free.

History

There is a legend connected with the origins of the abbey, which took place in the 7th century. A local fisherman saw over the Thames River west of London the face of St. Peter, who is considered the patron saint of fishermen. On the same spot it was decided to start building the West Minster Church.

The founder of the first church erected there is believed to be King Sabert of Essex and Bishop Mellit of London. However, this fact is not entirely proven. The first reliable evidence dates back to 960, when English bishop Dunstan, having enlisted the support of King Edgar, founded a community of monks at the church.

Westminster Abbey

The penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England, Edward the Confessor, began the grand rebuilding of the church. The monarch planned to make a royal tomb in the church. The construction work lasted from 1042 to 1090s. The king never lived to see them finished (he died in 1065). However, Edward the Confessor still became the first monarch to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

In 1066, monarchs were crowned in the church for the first time. This was begun by Harold II. After him, all the monarchs of England and then of Great Britain were crowned in the Abbey.

In 1245, Westminster Abbey underwent changes again, and this time by order of King Henry III of England. The ruler conceived a large-scale project, according to which the church was to be the center of royal power. The King’s stonemason, Henry of Rhein, was in charge of the construction work.

The rebuilding of the abbey took more than 250 years. Both the architect Henry Yewel and King Henry VII of England contributed to the construction. He also added the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, known as Henry VII’s Chapel or Our Lady’s Chapel, to the church.

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Henry VII Chapel

When Henry VIII Tudor came to power, the abbey acquired the status of a cathedral and became subordinate to the monarch of England. This status remains to this day.

English architects Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor designed the Western Towers next to Westminster Abbey.

Since then, the Abbey has undergone two more restorations – in the 19th century and after World War II.

Description

The area of the church is 3,000 m², which gives it a capacity of 2,000 people.

The main entrance, the Great North Door, which contains the chapels, leads to the church.

Westminster Abbey

Henry VII Chapel

The main attraction of the chapel is the fan ceiling. The hangings seem to be just a decorative element, but in fact they have the important function of supporting the niches of the vault. It was a rather complicated construction, due to which the illusion of lightness is created.

Other decorative details of the chapel, such as statues of saints and apostles and sculptural images, are no less beautiful. Special delight is the altar, made of white marble, terracotta and bronze.

The southern part of the transept is interesting with its Poets’ Corner.

Henry VII Chapel

Poets’ Corner

This is a place where at different times were buried famous poets and writers. The tradition began in 1400, the “father of English poetry” Geoffrey Chaucer. Nearly two hundred years later, the English poet Edmund Spencer was buried here. Along with their ashes, the Poets’ Corner also contains the ashes of Dickens, Tennyson, Browning, Jones and other classics of English literature.

Interesting fact: monuments to some personalities in the Poets’ Corner were often erected only long after their deaths. So, for example, Byron did not receive a monument until 145 years after his burial.

It also happened that a person was buried elsewhere in Westminster Abbey, and a monument was erected in Poets’ Corner. By the way, all the monuments are different: you can see simple plaques, stone statues and group sculptures.

Memorial Plaque

Chapter building

Capitulum building, aka Chapters House, was built in the middle of the 13th century and was restored in 1872 by George Scott. For a long time the building served as a meeting place for the Benedictine monks. At one time it even housed the state archive.

The Chapter House is neo-Gothic in style and is an octagonal room with marble columns in the center of the hall. Unfortunately, the glass stained-glass windows that once adorned the windows have not survived. But not everything was hopelessly lost – in the building of the Chapter House, you can admire the paved floor of the middle of XIII century. And the door, which is recognized as the oldest in England, is preserved. It leads from the building to the east cloister.

Westminster Abbey

The courtyard

The inner courtyard of the Abbey is flanked by four enclosed cloisters with windows overlooking the courtyard. They were presumably built between the 13th and 14th centuries. Until 1560 it was a favorite place of the monks.

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And each cloister served a certain purpose. The western one taught new converts, the northern one had cupboards and tables, the southern one led to the refectory and the eastern one to the Chepter House.

There was also a smaller cloister. However, it is not located in the courtyard of the abbey, but on the site of the former infirmary.

Westminster Abbey

College Garden

College Garden is a garden near the Abbey. It will soon celebrate its thousandth anniversary.

Originally the garden was used to grow herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Also in the garden you can see statues of saints, the sculpture “Crucifixion” and a fountain.

Church of St. Margaret.

This church was built especially for ordinary residents who were not Benedictine monks. The church takes its name from the Christian maiden, the Great Martyr Margaret of Antioch.

Built at the end of the XI century, it was rebuilt in the XV-XVI centuries. Three times it was restored, but the appearance has not changed.

Tomb of the unknown soldier

Near the entrance to the church you can see the grave of the unknown soldier. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1920 in memory of fallen British soldiers.

Westminster Abbey

Abbey Museum

The Abbey Museum was opened in 1908. Its exhibits include royal headstones, various funerary decorations, fragments of sculptures and other items of historical value.

Burials at Westminster Abbey

As mentioned above, the abbey served as the final resting place for English monarchs.

But along with prominent personalities and rulers, the ashes of people who left no mark on history can be seen here. The reason for this is that every Englishman wished to have the great honor of being buried in the abbey. In this connection, rich people simply bought this place for a lot of money. Over time, the situation changed, and only the most worthy persons were buried in the abbey.

Westminster Abbey

Interesting facts

There are many legends and stories connected with Westminster Abbey. One of them tells about the existence on the territory of a ghost.

Once there was a robbery in the abbey. Forty-eight monks took part in it. One monk was against the theft and tried to stop his fellow monks, for which he was killed. A lone figure in cassock has been roaming Westminster Abbey ever since.

Another interesting, but already reliable fact is that the tower clock of Westminster Abbey is recognized as the oldest tower clock.

Westminster Abbey

How to get to Westminster Abbey

The exact address of Westminster Abbey is 20 Deans Yard, London, next to Parliament and Big Ben.

The abbey is easily reached by tube: take the tube to Westminster station and go to the exit (there is only one) or to St James Park station.

You can also take buses 24, 11, 88, 211 and 148. Your stop is Abbey.

Those who choose to get to the Abbey by car will need to know that there is no parking near the building. The closest one is located in the park.

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You can also take a cab. You can do it through a mobile app.

Westminster Abbey – the ancient church of St. Peter in London

St. Peter's Church in London

Westminster Abbey is the name of the current St. Peter’s Church in the historic center of London. The full name of the city’s largest cathedral is St. Peter’s Collegiate Church of Westminster. The unrivaled beauty of the religious complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Britain’s main church

Popular landmark of the Kingdom, an example of early Gothic architecture and a symbol of the British nation. Coronations, weddings and funerals of royalty are held here.

Facade of Westminster Abbey

A temple steeped in the country’s history

The peculiarity of the building is that it is closely connected with the life of English royal families: 38 monarchs were crowned here. In and around the building there are 3,300 burials and hundreds of busts of scientists, politicians and economic figures.

Mary Stuart Burial Ground

Westminster Abbey has become a pantheon where the nation honors its heroes and great men:

  • Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and folklorist whose famous quote reads, “A king can make his subject a knight, a marquis, a duke, and a prince, but not even a king can make him an honest man.”
  • Martin Luther King (Jr.) – American Baptist preacher, leader of the black civil rights movement in the United States.
  • Charles Darwin – British naturalist, author of the theory of evolution and founder of the doctrine of “Darwinism.
  • Edmund Spencer – English aristocrat, politician and military man, father of Diana, Princess of Wales.
  • Henry Irving – English theatrical actor, performer of tragic roles.
  • Rudyard Kipling – English writer, the first Englishman to win the Nobel Prize.
  • Walter Scott – Scottish poet and novelist, historian and lawyer, founder of the historical novel.
  • Jane Austen – English writer, satirist.
  • Oscar Wilde – Irish writer and poet, considered the wittiest Briton.
  • William Shakespeare – British poet and playwright, actor, national pride of England.
  • Isaac Newton – mathematician and physicist, astronomer and mechanic who formulated the law of universal gravitation.
  • John Moses Browning, designer of firearms.
  • Israel Amyot – Jewish poet and novelist who wrote poems in Hebrew.

There are 3300 burials on the grounds of the church

Interesting! All the rulers of England and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the older sister of Nicholas II’s wife, also found rest here.

The creation of St. Peter’s cathedral

The church of St. Peter was born long and not easy. With great interruptions the building was built for 500 years (1242 – 1745 years). In ancient times on the left bank of the Thames, where St. Peter’s Cathedral stands, there was a pagan temple.

In the VII century there appeared a building called Westminster – that is, the “Western Church”. The wooden structure sometimes disappeared in turbulent times, then was rebuilt again.

In the early XI century, after another destruction, King Edward the Confessor erected a stone building in the form of a cross. The kings took a liking to the temple and “took patronage” over it. The abbey received generous donations and privileges.

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Eagerly invested in church building

In 1065, the monastery became the coronation site of the English rulers. The first person to be crowned here was Harold II.

The initiator of the great restructuring of the cathedral was Henry III. The king ordered the construction of a building in the Gothic style, worthy of monarchs, which would be a place for services, coronations and burials of monarchs. So in 1245 the modern cathedral of London was founded.

Interesting! The church spent most of its life in a state of reconstruction, the complex changed, and in 1512, with the creation of the tomb of Henry VII, the work of the architects ended.

The area of the church is 7000 square meters, the capacity is 2000 people.

Westminster Abbey in the 18th century

Architectural features

The building was designed in the form of a cross, to which the side galleries and chapels were added. The exterior is complemented by two towers 68 meters high. Between them there are four statues symbolizing Law, Truth, Peace and Mercy. Above are ten niches with figures of Christian martyrs of the 20th century.

Statues of Christian martyrs

The architecture of St. Peter’s Church has no solemn and richly decorated portals, and there are no sculptures on the facade of the building. The façade is decorated with lancet arches and exquisite stone carvings forming a lacy grid with large rectangular cells on the wall surface.

Lancet arches decorate the facade

The end walls of the northern and southern aisles have large round rose windows decorated with a beautiful stone binding. The main entrance is on the north side.

From the south the building is adjoined by ancient monastic constructions and grouped around a square yard, enclosed by open arched galleries.

St. Peter's Collegiate Church in Westminster

The galleries, laid out of light stone, with projecting dark ribs of lancet arches, are very picturesque. The graceful stone bindings of the arched spans are as if silvered by frost, so airy and light.

Interior

The interior of the cathedral is stunning. Inside there is space and light pouring in through the huge windows. Above the head is a magnificent tent, formed by the huge height of the ribs of the vaults.

Inside the Cathedral

The Hall of the Chapter

At the eastern part of the gallery one can see the entrance to the hall of the Chapter, arranged in a shape of a polyhedron. This was the name of the room where the monks would gather. The huge, full-wall lancet windows, framed in thin marble columns, are filled with bright stained glass.

Capitulum windows

The mosaic floor, 800 years old, is lined with tiles. Since 1282 the House of Commons sat here. In the underground is the royal treasury.

The eastern part is occupied by tombstones and sarcophagi. Here is the monumental tomb of King Edward the Confessor. The base of the tomb is dressed with mosaics of smalt, in the upper part decorated with gold – a sarcophagus with a two-tier arcade with pilasters.

Tomb of King Edward the Confessor

Further on – the tombstones of English kings and queens, the English nobility. On the monumental sarcophagi lie gilded figures, executed in bronze, which immortalize the dead.

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Above the sarcophagi are high stone baldachins, pointed arches, turrets and niches with sculptures – all richly decorated with carvings of plant ornamentation.

Henry VII Chapel

The peculiarity of the chapel, created in the 16th century, is the giant windows with a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines and tracery vaults 20 meters high. A forest of stone leaves and flowers covers the turrets above the supporting pillars, carved thrust arches turn the surface into a solid lace of stone. Around the perimeter of the building are sculptures and paintings .

The openwork bindings of the windows are so light that the line between the windows and the wall is blurred. The main advantage of the chapel are the fan vaults with pendants: it seems that huge stone stalactites are hanging in the air, in defiance of the laws of physics.

Henry VII Chapel

Patterns of stone wind around the walls. On the sarcophagi of King Henry and his wife is an image of a crown lying in the grass. The crown belonged to Richard III, whose battle Henry won. He picked up the abandoned crown and was crowned here, on the bloody battlefield.

The central nave and chancel

The central nave of Westminster Abbey is the tallest in England at 31 meters. In the west window are stained glass windows depicting Isaac, Abraham, Jacob and the 14 prophets. Decorating the nave are crystal chandeliers.

Interesting! In 1990 a memorial stone was laid here to honor the innocent victims of repression, violence and war.

The altar, built in 1867, is made of marble, terracotta and bronze. The main decoration of the altar is a mosaic on the theme of the Last Supper. The floor of the altar is made of 30,000 tiles of limestone, onyx, glass and porphyry.

Altar of Westminster Abbey

Coronation Ceremonies

Coronation ceremonies for monarchs ascending the English throne were held on the Abbey grounds.

On the day of the coronation celebrations, Westminster Abbey is transformed. Along the length of the cathedral, covering the statues, are rows of ornate boxes. The coronation procedure is performed in front of the altar.

Coronation Ceremony

An ancient wooden throne with gilding and painting, made in the fourteenth century, is placed on the elevation. At the bottom of the coronation chair there is a stone from Scone, an incredibly valuable item for Britain.

This seemingly insignificant reddish piece of sandstone was brought to London in 1296 by King Edward as a trophy after his conquest of Scotland. The trophy, a symbol of victory that served as the headstone of the patriarch James, the English called the Stone of Destiny. The last time Queen Elizabeth II visited the coronation chair was in 1953.

The Abbey Garden

Not far from the abbey is a garden laid out 900 years ago. Herbs grew here. Vegetables and fruits. Since 1849, there are long-lived trees, sycamore trees.

Garden of the Cathedral Complex

In the garden are statues of saints, a Crucifix sculpture and a fountain. Westminster Abbey’s tower clock is the oldest tower clock in the world.

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