“ The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, which is almost always referred to by its original name of Westminster Abbey, is a mainly Gothic church, on the scale of a cathedral (and indeed often mistaken for one), in Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English monarchs. „
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Westminster Abbey, in it's current state, was begun in 1245. It has been used for coronations of English monarchs for centuries and has been used for some Royal marriages including, most recently, Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
-- Getting There --
Getting to Westminster Abbey is incredibly easy. Get the Underground to Westminster Station and have a short walk past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. If you're feeling hungry or thirsty there's numerous coffee shop chains in close proximity.
-- Getting In --
I feel that this needs to have a separate section of it's own. I was lucky enough to be able to go on a weekday morning, and while there was a queue a lot of the tourists had "London Day Passes" that got them "free" entry into the Abbey. This meant that their card was scanned and they were in, nice and quick. Therefore the queue was quite fast moving. If you go at the weekend or in the school holidays then I would image that the process is a lot slower.
Your bag will be checked by a security guard, but happily they do this before you get to buying your ticket so at least it means there's no bottleneck after the ticket point. Getting tickets is fairly easy, cash or card, and as of February 2014 the price is £18 for an adult ticket, £8 for a child aged between 11 and 18, and free for any under 11's as long as they are with an adult.
-- The Abbey --
Now, on to the good bit. Once you get inside the Abbey you'll be greeted their friendly staff, in my case a very police gentleman in a clerical collar who gave me a leaflet with the map included and pointed me in the right direction. You cannot just wander around the Abbey as you wish, it is roped out in a particular way that directs you around. I was also pointed towards a table with audio guides, which I dismissed at the time as I don't like to listen and look at the same time in case I miss details.
However this was a mistake, if you visit I would highly recommend you pick up the audio guide as there is just so much to see as you go around. The door you come in through is the North transept. You then take a right and go down the aisle for the nave. This part of the route is simply stuffed full of memorials on the wall. Frankly I had no idea who any of the people mentioned were and while some of the carvings were nice to look at I sincerely believe the audio guide would have given some information on the symbolism behind them or some information on some of the people.
When you get to the end of the aisle you come to the bottom of the nave. You are therefore at what I consider to be the "main doors", underneath the two gorgeous towers that are an iconic feature of the Abbey. There is more rope here to prevent you leaving (since you've only just come in), and while people can take a few steps in to look inside there are staff on hand to guide them to the actual ticket point, or for you to ask questions to if you need it. This area features two boxes and some pens and paper, so you can write a note asking for a prayer to be said for a loved one. This is also where you will find one of the Abbey's most famous memorials; The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. When I was there it had an outline of poppies, I assume that this is a permanent feature.
Next you walk down the centre of the nave, through the "Quire" to the high altar and the Tomb of Edward the Confessor". It is in this area that you find the tombs of England's medieval Kings and Queens, including Eleanor of Castile and Edward III. The outside of this area also has a series of small chapels with more tombs and memorial marbles on the walls, primarily the old noble families (many of whom would have been related one way or another to the sovereigns they now surround). Carrying on up brings you to the Lady Chapel which features the tombs of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, as well as their granddaughters (their son Henry VIII is buried at Windsor).
Coming out of the Lady Chapel takes you down the other side of the Confessor's Tomb and a left hand turn brings you to Poet's Corner. This area started out as the last resting place of Geoffrey Chaucer and has now grown to include some of Britain's most famous figures in literature, including Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling. It also has memorial stones for writers and poets who are buried elsewhere but are recognised as being part of this illustrious group, such as the Bronte sisters and Lord Byron.
-- The Rest --
Once you get to this point you have pretty much seen the famous parts of the Abbey, and most people tend to leave it there. But if you follow the directions you'll find that there is still plenty more to see. The Museum, which is partially underground, includes various funeral effigies (which look very strange with no wigs on) and replicas of coronation "regalia". There's also the usual souvenirs here (there's a much larger gift shop outside) if you want to pick up a postcard. You can also walk along the cloisters, which feature more memorials, and the small gardens.
-- Food & Drink --
Naturally after all this walking around I was getting quite hungry so I went to find the Cellarium café. This is located in the area where monks used to store food and drink, so it's rather apt that it's still used for such today. I was given a table and a menu and after a few minutes perusal I ordered a bacon sandwich and a pot of English Breakfast tea. The café looked recently decorated and was nice and clean. There was a selection of cakes on display, and numerous tables and chairs suitable for lone visitors such as myself or larger family groups.
The tea was served in a proper cup and saucer with a china teapot and a small jug of milk. When the sandwich came it was, quite frankly, one of the best bacon sandwiches I've ever had. The bread was lovely and soft, I'm fairly sure that it had been baked that morning, and they were pretty generous with the amount of bacon inside. I was so full once I finished that I didn't have enough room for any of the cakes I had been eyeing up.
I would say that the café, while lovely, did seem to be a little crowded. Not through the number of people but through the number of tables and chairs. I think the problem with using an old part of the Abbey is that there is no real room to expand, and so during the height of the tourist season they may have to turn people away at key points such as lunchtime.
-- Overall --
My biggest criticism of the Abbey is that it feels more like a museum than anything else. To me churches have a certain "feel" about them, and while the Abbey is beautiful both inside and out, I didn't get that same feeling. I don't know if it's because of the number of tourists or because of the route that is roped out, or maybe it is simply too vast.
It is well worth visiting, although I would not recommend visiting with a pushchair or a very small child. There are lots of things at a "grabbable" height for small hands, and in some places the aisles are very narrow so getting a buggy down them would be difficult if not impossible. Thinking about it I don't remember seeing anyone with a buggy there, whether that's because the staff asked parents to leave them outside or because I went on a regular weekday I don't know.
I would highly recommend that everyone in London, if not England, visit the Abbey once in their life time. It stands as a remarkable monument to our history, and what amazes me more than anything else is that, apart from a few more recent additions and repairs, the entire thing was built by hand during a period that had no knowledge of power tools. It is a tribute to the best of British handiwork.
Recently I went to London a few days. During my visit I went to various museums and other cultural sites. One of these places was Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is almost always used when there is something special with the English royal family so it seemed nice to go there once.
Westminster Abbey is on the Dean's Yard at number 20 in London. In the immediate vicinity of WA are several metro and bus stops. The nearest subway stops are Westminster and St James's Park. WA is close to the House of Parliament and Big Ben. It is not advisable to use the car to go as there is little parking in the area.
Westminster Abbey official name is The Collegiate Church and is a church that was built in the Gothic style. Westminster Abbey consists of several parts, including the church itself, a museum and a monastery. Some parts are not accessible as the monastery, but most is. It is still quite large, so if you have the full audio tour it's approximately 2 hours. And the map you get is certainly useful to navigate.
In the Westminster Abbey
Upon entering you stand directly where the audio tour begins. From here there are several chapels to visit. My first impression was that these chapels were like a someone's attic and an antique shop. They are filled with all sorts of graves and memorial stones, often leaving little room to walk around, especially when it's very busy. There are many interesting places in Westminster Abbey like Poet's Corner. There were buried and commemorated famous writers such as Charles Dickens and Tennyson. The Lady Chapel is a breath of fresh air in terms of space and light in comparison to the various chapels of the vessel borders. You will also find a chapel for the Royal Air Force. I noticed that a lot anyway of military memorials in the church.
Westminster Abbey is not only a tourist attraction but also a church. For example every hour they ask for a few minutes of silence. At that time is often a prayer and you have the opportunity to do the same. It's weird, because when it is announced, it is very quiet in the church. Everything is then paused.
There is also a small museum. It exhibited all sorts of things relating to the funeral of famous people. Like large dolls that those proposals had been buried, a coronation chair and various stained-glass windows. I found it quite interesting, because it was all clearly explained in detail.
An audio tour is included. It is available in several languages. Using the audio tour you walk the route through Westminster Abbey, and meanwhile you get to hear anything and everything. Often there is the opportunity to hear about certain things more than what standard is told.
The audio tour is really handy, because you learn so much about what certain things mean, then when only one sign with text. Therefore there is a better flow.
Westminster Abbey is suitable for children, besides that there is much to see, there is a special tour (in English) for children and they can dress like a monk in the museum.
Some parts of Westminster Abbey are not accessible to wheelchair users, but it is generally be as accessible as possible. As compensation pay people in wheelchairs and companion no entrance fee. They also make wheelchairs available for those who have difficulty walking. There is no specific disabled toilet.
There are not many toilets, than just at the exit. I have not used it, so I can not do much about it.
Eating and drinking
It is not always allowed to eat and drink in Westminster Abbey. There are two Coffee Clubs where you eat and drink can buy and consume. I have not used them.
There is a shop where you can buy all sorts of things, from Bibles to keychains.
Bag, coats, photo's
You have to leaveyour stuff inside. There is no possibility for them to issue a wardrobe or something. It is also, in a few places after, not allowed to photograph or filming.
Staff are abundant, they are clearly visible and helpful. If you want to know something then I would certainly ask them, because they know a lot of Westminster Abbey.
If you want to visit Westminster Abbey, you will have to pay 12 pounds, but that was because I could use student discount. A normal adult (18 years) pay 15 pounds. Now there's a lower rate for children with a family card. An audio tour is included in the fee.
Westminster Abbey is generally open from 9:30 to 4:30 p.m.. Up to one hour before closing, you can still enter. Wed to close the day at 19:00. On Sundays and other religious days she is open only for church members and not for tourists. Outside a sign that will indicate when and what time to what time they open that week. Plus, you can see what the website is opened on a certain date. This can also see for a date further in the future.
Westminster Abbey has a comprehensive website where you can find all sorts of information. www.westminster-abbey.org.
Westminster Abbey is a must for a time to visit. It is so often the center of important events and there is much to see. A visit is unfortunately not cheap, but the audio tour is included in the price. The audio tour allows you everywhere and it will show you all kinds of interesting things. It is easily accessible, but you should keep in mind that on religious days is not accessible to tourists.
Westminster Abbey is an absolutely amazing place to visit and contains so much history it is not possible to do justice to it in a shortened review. It is bursting to the seams of notable historical and nationally important events, of the people who are buried there or commemorated by after their deaths as part of our national heritage. Reading through the list of people buried here or memorials sited to honour them are far more important to our history and heritage than Madam Tussauds or the hand printed pavements outside Mann's theatre in Hollywood. Let me tell you where else in the world can you find the resting place or memorials to Kings, Queens, Talented Poets, writers, Composers, scientists, Statesmen buried or remembered all in one place.
Westminster Abbey has been described as our national treasure and the Parish Church of England however it is not just a simple church or cathedral as its correct name is The Collegiate Church of St. Peter. Westminster after having this name bestowed on it by Queen Elizabeth I and is known as a Royal Peculiar giving it special associations to the British crown and under no jurisdiction of a Bishop but rather to the monarch. There are several other Royal Peculiars for example the Chapel Royal.
A small church was built on a small island in 616 after a fisherman saw an apparition of St. Peter after which a church was built. There has been an Abbey on this site in London since around 850 when St. Dunstan brought 12 monks here from Italy to establish a monastery in the city of London. The land was marshy ground which was donated to St. Dunstan the then bishop of London. The sole purpose was to pray and worship god but over the years it became more of an educational centre, a hospital and place of worship. The monks were involved more and more in other duties and lost the main reason for them being there so a further church was built St. Margaret's church next door to the abbey so that the congregation could continue to worship and the monks could continue to study and pray.
King Edward the confessor paid for the building of the Abbey church. He was the first candidate to be buried there dying a week after its consecration. William the Conqueror was first King crowned there on the 25th December 1066 being the first of a long line of monarchs to be Crowned at Westminster Abbey only two coronations did not take place here. Westminster Abbey has been the coronation place of Our Royal family since then and whoever is going to be our next King will also follow our tradition and be crowned here too whether it is Prince Charles or Prince William only time will tell.
We should be proud of our national heritage and celebrate what is good about the United Kingdown and we should certainly be proud of what Westminster Abbey means to our nation. Other countries view our history in awe and with envy something of which we should honour and maintain and show off to the rest of the world. It is part of our national identity.
Entering the Abbey from the West doorway ( Although as a tourist the main entrance is at the side entrance) you will notice the tomb of the unknown warrior. He was from one of four bodies exhumed from one of four cemeteries in France chosen at random and then placed in a coffin where he was taken to Boulogne for the journey to Dover. He was then placed in an oak coffin made of wood from Hampton Court Palace and transported to London. At Victoria station the coffin was placed on a gun carriage and taken to Whitehall where the new Cenotaph was unveiled by King George V then taken to Westminster Abbey for a service and burial on Armistice day.
The tomb represents all soldiers, seamen and airmen who were killed in action during the 1st World War and is a fitting memorial to those lost in action who gave their lives so that we can continue to live in freedom. The grave is covered by a black marble stone which came from Belgium and a handful of French soil was dropped on the coffin once it was lowered. Around the edge of the tomb it is adorned by poppies and at each of the four corners stand a candle stand.
Looking straight ahead towards the high altar the nave is magnificent with very high vaulted ceilings. Just before the high altar is the area where state occasions take place for example the coronation or it is the resting place of coffins prior to internment. Just after the high altar is the chapel of St. Edward where the coronation seat is sited. This seat has been used at every coronation since King Edwards. Underneath the chair was the Scottish Stone of Scone which had been brought to England as a trophy by Edward the 1st. This stone was the coronation stone of the Scottish monarch and has been used in each coronation since. It has been given back to the Scots but will be returned to Westminster Abbey on loan for the next coronation and then returned to Scotland. During the 2nd world war the coronation seat was sent for safe keeping to Gloucester Cathedral and the Stone of Scone secretly buried inside the Abbey. Behind this chapel lie the resting places of our Monarchs.
On either sides of the Nave are various chapels and places where people are laid to rest and commemorated the most notable being Poets corner and the RAF chapel honouring those who lost their lives during action.
There is also a museum here which is housed in the oldest part of the abbey. It dates from the 11th century where you can see the death masks of Kings, queens and other notable people. For example the death mask of Oliver Cromwell is there. King Charles the 2nd was so incensed by Oliver Cromwell that he had his body exhumed from his grave he was then posthumously hung and decapitated. His body was buried in a pit and his head hung on a post outside the houses of parliament. His head stayed there for twenty five years until it was blown down during a storm and is now buried in Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge.
Sadly despite the abbey being protected by boarding and sandbags during the 2nd world war most of the original windows were blown out during the bombings. However they have been restored and are quite remarkable. On VE day alone 25,000 people visited the abbey to give thanks for the end of the war. Services were so packed that they had to run the services hourly throughout the day. The architecture is stunning throughout the abbey and some of the works are exquisite especially the ceilings. There is nowhere else in London and probably the world with so much history, and famous people all in one place.
There are various other activities such as musical events and concerts that take place throughout the year. It is always wise to check out when you intend to visit so that it does not clash with those events. These are usually ticketed events and may be pre purchased or sold on the day of the event.
I would recommend everyone to go and visit one of our most precious of monuments to absorb over 1000 years of history and to admire the sheer beauty of the abbey. It certainly is worth spending several hours here and your visit will help support the maintenance of the Abbey. I would not recommend visiting the abbey with young children as they would soon get bored and probably would hold no memories for them. Older children may find it interesting especially from the history and architectural design of the buildings.
Opening times are staggered for different areas of the Abbey for example the cloisters are open from 8am to 6pm however the abbey is not open for visitors until 9:30am and closes around 1:30pm. The museum is open from 10:30 to 4:30pm.
You should decide what you want to see before you go so you can plan your visit in advance.
Entry prices may seem a bit steep but when you take into consideration what you are about to see they are fairly reasonable the entrance fee also includes a audio tour. For £3 extra you can join a verger on a tour which is only conducted in English it is well worth paying the extra £3 as you will be told different snippets of information lost through the audio tour you also get the opportunity to visit some areas not covered if on your own tour.
Adults :- £16
Children :- £6
There is a web site which can be accessed at
You should note that there is no visiting allowed during special Royal occasions such as weddings or funerals or state functions and especially on a Sunday or on high days such as Easter and Christmas as the Abbey is only open for worship.
Yes, the abbey is slightly expensive at £15 for adults and £12 for students. However, its an absolutely brilliant experience. My girlfriend and I went on the Verger Tour around the Abbey (it cost £3 more) and it was one of the most enjoyable things we did on our whole holiday. The tour lasted around 90 minutes and thoroughly explained all the details of the abbey - its history, and the people inside it. The verger was intelligent, eloquent, friendly and immensely helpful. People on the verger tour access one or two areas of the Abbey that other people are unable to get to unless they are on a verger tour (makes you feel a bit special ha ha), and every room, memorial and tomb that we saw on the tour was well explained and all questions the group had were answered well.
The Abbey itself is an immense place - full of history and heritage. It is not a Cathedral and it is not the same as St. Paul's, so if you go there expecting something like St. Paul's you will be disappointed; it is a church that is the resting place for hundreds of influential men and women through the ages.
The abbey itself is full of history, heritage and culture - and to fully appreciate the abbey some prior research would be good because knowing who the people are and why they are important is definitely makes the experience a lot better.
I would also say that you should DEFINITELY 100% go on a Verger tour as it seems to me this makes the experience so much more interesting, informative and worthwhile. Its cheap and absolutely fantastic. If youre not able to do this for some reason then make sure you get the audio tour, there isnt many signposts and you will definitely need some direction as well as explanation as to why things/people are important etc.
If you do the verger tour, honestly, one of the best things you will do in London!
For many years, ever since I became interested in royal history, and particularly Mary Queens of Scots, I was keen to visit Westminster Abbey, where so many British monarchs are buried. Following my move to London, I finally got my chance and visited with my mum, who is even more interested in royal history than I am, and is always useful to have around when visiting places like this - she's a walking encyclopaedia of Scottish and subsequently British monarchs.
Adult entry to the Abbey is currently £15, £12 for over 60s, age 11-18 is £6 and free for under 11. There are also family tickets available. The Abbey is open Monday to Saturday, but Sundays are for worship only and so tourists cannot visit. Travelling to the Abbey is very easy - it is located on Parliament Square and is right beside Westminster Underground Station.
You enter the Abbey through the side door, and not from the front. Even so, the scale of the building and the beauty of the architecture is immediately apparent. It really is quite a breathtaking building. I am not religious, but even so I can appreciate the beauty of religious buildings, and Westminster Abbey really is one of the most stunning. It was begun in the eleventh century by Edward the Confessor. Building continued over the next five centuries, and the most recent addition was in the eighteenth century. As always, the sheer scale of the architecture which was created in a time before heavy machinery is simply astounding.
Similarly, think of the age of this building - back to the eleventh century. And then think about the number of monarchs England and Britain have had since then, the number of coronations and royal weddings which have taken place here. As I walked around the Abbey, I was standing on flagstones which people like Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I, and our own Elizabeth II have quite possibly walked on. That's quite a heady feeling, and it followed me all the way through the Abbey.
Following our guide leaflet, my mum and I saw far more than I can possibly tell you about in a review. We saw numerous royal tombs and memorials, all of which my mum was able to give me some information about. The highlight for us of the royal tombs were those of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth had Mary executed as a threat to the English throne, but was in such anguish over having murdered a fellow queen that she had Mary buried with much ceremony in Peterborough Cathedral. When Mary's son, James VI of Scotland, became James I of Great Britain, he had his mother's remains brought to Westminster and had a wonderful tomb erected in her memory. I had been eager to visit Mary's tomb and pay homage to our most famous monarch, but I didn't expect to feel as moved by it as I did.
Another section of the Abbey that I found very moving was the Royal Air Force chapel. This is a small chapel created in memory of those who flew with the RAF during the Second World War. It features stained glass with the badges of the fighter squadrons who took part in the Battle of Britain, and has a memorial roll of those who died in it. This does not only include Brits, but those from British colonies and other countries such as the USA who flew with the RAF. The chapel is a beautiful and fitting memorial to those who fought, and it's worth stopping and reflecting. There is even a preserved area of bomb damage to really bring home what happened.
We saw the Coronation Chair, which was of some interest to us, but having seen the Stone of Scone in Edinburgh Castle a few years before, we weren't overly interested in the ancient chair of the English monarchs. It is fascinating that it is 700 years old - I wouldn't expect a wooden chair to last that long, but it is looked after very well and doesn't exactly get used very often. There is a nice gap underneath the seat where the Stone of Scone used to sit. I must admit though that the chair would probably look more impressive with the Stone in it - as it is, it is just a very old wooden chair.
I was surprised and delighted to learn that the Abbey has a Poets Corner, where a number of literary figures are buried and remembered. I enjoyed seeing the resting places of wonderful writers such as Dickens, Chaucer and Hardy, and there are memorials to many others including Wordsworth, Keats, Austen and the Bronte sisters. I was pleased to see the Scots Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott also had memorials. I don't know why, maybe it was the light or the open and slightly higgledy-piggeldy layout of Poets Corner, but I found it quite an uplifting area, and very pleasant to visit. It did not feel sombre, but rather celebratory of these great figures. In addition to writers, the composer Handel is also buried here.
From Poets Corner we headed to the front of the Abbey, and looked up the Nave. From the main door, looking up the nave, the interior of the building is instantly recognisable as it is the section which is seen on television. In this area there is also a memorial to the great Winston Churchill, which rather appropriately is near the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
Throughout the Abbey there are statues and memorials to numerous other figures from history, and more recent years, including Darwin, Brunel, and Martin Luther King. One which was of particular interest to me was a statue of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. I have a great interest in the last Tsars of Russia, and as the wife of the Tsar's brother, and sister to the Tsarina, Elizabeth or Ella was very much a part of this. Following the death of her husband, she set up a convent and became a nun in her new order of the Sisters of Martha and Mary. She was murdered by the Bolsheviks along with the rest of the royal family, however she was created a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1980s. Hers is a happy and sad story, and it is nice to see her remembered so far from her home.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Abbey, and despite the high entrance price I would like to go back - I think the entrance is definitely worth it for all the history that is contained in the Abbey. My mum and I didn't visit every section and we spent two hours there, and I haven't even covered everything we did see in this review as there is just too much, so I do intend to go back. I would strongly recommend a visit to locals and visitors alike, as you there is just so much to see and learn.
Slip back in time.
Hear the trumpets, see the pomp and ceremony today,
the 25th of December, 1066. You are lucky enough to be the recipient of an invitation to William the Conqueror's coronation and here you are witnessing the first monarch to walk down the stone floor to his coronation. You are among his subjects watching in awe, with hopes and aspirations for a honest and wise reign.
Move forward to 2006 and now you are in the same magnificent building which has endured the test of time. You may not be able to stand in awe today, but I did recently and immediately mused about all those feet which traversed these hallowed stones before me. Just a few foot-steps into this London icon you are hushed by the history, whispering in awe of the noble residents some resting in grand chapels, others marked with massive statues and some marked by stone memorials on the floor.
Not just the royal, aristocrats and the countrys best in society but poets, writers, scientists, architects, politicians, musicians, military people, explorers and even an unknown solider in pride of place near the front entrance (West door) to the abbey. In the church and cloisters there are around 3300 officially buried but records were not kept until 1607 so not all buried here are documented and the actual number is known to be higher.
But, dont think this is a cemetery. It is not. The minute you walk in the public, paying entrance on the side you can not help but be impressed with the architecture, the history and the age of this religious edifice. It quite takes your breath away. Truly it does.
Ive visited twice but I have to say the second time I took so much more in. I was accompanied by my son, sister and brother-in-law from New Zealand. They were most impressed with their first vision, upon viewing the stunning towers and strikingly interesting exterior. Just seeing their initial reaction to the interior, especially the ceiling, was extremely memorable. It definitely has its own WOW factor. First impressions do count - they become really special when you think about all those who have gone before. Those as visitors and those who are buried there for eternity.
This mention of burials Im sure will interest you as much as it did us.
Thomas Parr lived for 152 years and nine months so hed seen out 10 monarchs but when he took his demise King Charles, impressed with his longevity, ordered that Parr be buried in Westminster Abbey.
He takes his place in history under a small, white marble gravestone in the centre of the South Transept: it reads THO; PARR OF YE COUNTY OF SALLOP. Borne in AD: 1483. He lived in ye reignes of ten princes VIZ; K.EDW.4, K.ED.5. K.RICH3. K.HEN.7, K.HEN.8, K.EDW.6. Q.MA. Q.ELIZ. K.JA & K.CHARLES, AGED 152 YEARES. 7 WAS BURYED HERE NOVEMB. 15.1635.
LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Taking centuries to construct, Westminster Abbey is an architectural gem and its easy to see why it has been described as unique pageant of British history where you will see tombs of kings and queens, the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, set in quiet grandeur. It is still a fully operative church, regular worship as well as grand national occasions take place here, including every coronation since 1066, royal weddings and funerals. (Apparently when stating the claim that every monarch has been crowned at Westminster Abbey there needs to be a clarification: there were two exceptions: Edward V and Edward VIII were never crowned - so that clears that up for history boffins reading this.)
Apparently it is neither a cathedral or a parish church but a Royal Peculiar with jurisdiction by a Dean and Chapters, answerable to the Sovereign. Since my visit there Ive read that Prince Charles may break from tradition and have his coronation elsewhere: what a dreadful shame to sever such long, strong, historic bonds with previous monarchs. The only connection in my opinion will be that his decision to go elsewhere will be a Royal Peculiar decision!
We walked in the main public entrance and like most others moved to the left, in behind the high altar to see the massive tombs of the great, wealthy and memorable. I particularly was interested in the Coronation Chair, not for its beauty but because Id seen the Stone which sits under it for coronations, in Stirling Castle (I think), where I learned that it had been kept in Westminster Abbey against the wishes of the Scottish people for many decades. Our current Queen Elizabeth returned the stone to Scotland and it will come back down when needed for further coronations. (Thats if they are held in the Abbey!)
Grand edifices, beautiful wooden carvings, stunning stained glass windows, the dark and fantastically carved choir chairs, gold and grandeur all come readily to mind as I reminisce on our visits. Each time we have been there we have been reminded that Westminster Abbey is a place of worship, foremost, a place of God. A duty minister has invited us to stop and take time to pray, as thoughts of the day are shared with those present. Quiet reflection comes easy here.
I havent walked you through every inch of this magnificent abbey, theres too much to tell but you should join the many thousands of visitors from all over the world who go to explore and appreciate this wonderful place, next door to the Palace of Westminster, the seat of parliament. However, I would like to share with you the Chapter House because it is one of the biggest in England.
This octagonal Chapter House has beautiful Victorian stained glass windows, is adorned with sculpture and wall paintings of the Apocalypse - here you will find the Last Judgement painted on the east wall. Our guide was justifiably proud of the role the Chapter House has played in the life of Westminster Abbey and overall he had every reason to be. From 1250s the monks met in here for prayers and to read chapters from the rule of St Benedict and to talk about their daily tasks. There are no monks there in todays evangelical life.
This important Chapter House was in fact, the first place that the Kings Great Council met in 1257 which historically is the start of the English Parliament, it later moved over the road to the Palace of Westminster.... which is still the House of Parliament today.
Do visit the Museum, just off the Cloisters: it has a huge range of apparel, papers, manuscripts, crowns and other aspects of monastery and church life from the very beginning of Westminster Abbey.
GENERAL FACTS AND FIGURES YOU MAY LIKE TO KNOW
Now for some general facts about The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster: the official title of Westminister Abbey. Mainly limestone from Caen in France and sandstone from Reigate in Surrey make up the construction, along with Purbeck marble from Jurassic Dorset are included in the 2972 square metres (32,000 square feet): 161.5 metre (530 feet) length of the exterior.
For the 1953 coronation there were around 8200 people present, no doubt taking in the grandeur of the event but also the striking 68 metres (225 ft 4 inches) of the West Towers, the interior length being 156 metres (511 feet).
Every day worshippers can total 2000 and they too will be impressed with the holiness of the place but also the 50 metre (166 feet) and the height of the Henry VII Chapel - 18.5metres (60ft 7 inches); or the width across of the entire chapel, 21 metres (70 ft 1 inch).
I loved the Waterford Crystal chandeliers which the Guiness family gave to celebrate the 900th anniversary in 1965.
ABBEY MISSION STATMENT
Westminster Abbeys ministry is to SERVE ALMIGHTY GOD AS A SCHOOL OF THE LORDS SERVICE BY OFFERING DIVINE WORSHIP DAILY AND PUBLICLY...... TO SERVE THE SOVEREIGN BY DAILY PRAYER AND BY A READY RESPONSE TO REQUESTS MADE BY HER OR ON HER BEHALF..... TO SERVE THE NATION BY FOSTERING THE PLACE OF TRUE RELIGION WITHIN NATIONAL LIFE, MAINTAINING A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS AND WITH OTHERS IN REPRESENTATIVE POSITIONS...... TO SERVE PILGRIMS AND ALL OTHER VISITORS AND TO MAINTAIN A TRADITION OF HOSPITALITY TOWARDS ALL OUR VISITORS AND GUESTS. For me, those involved in its stewardship are certainly achieving these ideals.
Westminster Abbey has an Anglican heritage and responsibilities within the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury has special rights to preside over ceremonies there. More recent history, seen on television screens, has brought grand Westminster Abbey occasions into homes all over the world but theres nothing like actually being there. Anyone reading this will have memories of some events at Westminster Abbey and I am sure, like myself, a visit there will prove it to be so much bigger and grander than it looks on tv. I remembered the high altar but had no idea of the magnificence behind it - history abounds at every step.
Todays tourists can appreciate this truly fine, religious house which is funded mostly by admission fees as it receives no government or church funding. In my opinion the charge is most reasonable for what you see and learn and to help restore it for generations to come.
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR
Before I leave this review Id like to share some information about the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior as it was one aspect of the abbey Ive been interested in since I was a little girl. An unknown soldiers body was brought over from France and buried in the abbey on November 11, 1920. Along with him, in the grave, is some French soil, covered with black Belgian marble from Namur. A thick hedge of red poppies are placed around the tomb.
The outer inscription says .... THE LORD KNOWETH THEM THAT ARE HIS.... GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS....UNKNOWN AND YET WELL KNOWN, DYING AND BEHOLD WE LIVE, and IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE.
The actual identity of the soldier is of course not known but he may be from any of the three services: army, airforce or navy and from any part of the British Isles or Commonwealth countries: most importantly, and poignantly it represents all those who do not have another memorial place.
I cannot think of any negative things about how Westminster Abbey presents itself for tourism or worship but I guess one thing I found could be improved and that is there is no public conveniences ... the ticket seller gave me instructions to a nearby toilet, it was across an extremely busy road. Perhaps with the huge amount of people visiting here this could be addressed at some time.
When William the Conqueror walked down the main aisle of Westminster Abbey to his coronation he could never have known that a small tour party of Kiwis from far away New Zealand would, centuries later, take the same walk to appreciate and enjoy the ambience of such a magnificent living monument of the best of English history.
HOW TO GET THERE AND WHAT YOU WILL PAY
To get to Westminster Abbey, use the London bus service or the underground., get off at Westminster station and walk past the Palace of Westminster, from here you will see the abbey in front of you. Youll need at least two hours to see it all and when you are ready to leave there is the convenient SHOP for you to take home a huge variety of souvenirs and mementos. You are not allowed to take photographs inside the abbey so the shop is your chance to buy some extremely interesting postcards.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY charges: Adults, GBP10. Concessions, (GBP6 under 16,students and 60 plus)Family*GBP22Verger guided tour: admission plus GBP4 (English only) Sound Guide: Admission plus GBP3, (several languages).
Opening Hours: These vary each day so phone before you visit. On Sundays it is worship only... no charge but no tourist visiting either.
Ph: 0044 (0)20 7654 4900 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(This is also published on Ciao)
No i'm not kidding, this actually is my favourite place in the world! I love the Abbey. I fell in love with it on a school trip around 12 years ago and I still think it is remarkable. This place has so much history under one roof and the fact that kings and queens walked where we do in the place amazes me.
The Abbey that we see today was begun by Henry III in the 13th century. There had been a religious foundation on the site since the 7th century. The first Abbey was built by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. Edward was buried in the Abbey and his successor, William the Conqueror was crowned in the building in 1066. Henry III ordered the rebuilding of the Abbey as a shrine to Edward the Confessor, who had by then been made a saint. Although the Abbey was begun in the 13th century, work continued up to the 16th. Henry VII added the Lady Chapel or Henry VII Chapel in the beginning of the 16th century. The two dominating West Towers were an 18th century addition.
Although it is usually known as Westminster Abbey, the building's official name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter. Henry VIII dissolved all the Abbey's and most were destroyed or sold, but royal connections saved Westminster. Elizabeth I made the Abbey a royal peculiar, meaning that it is answerable only to the monarch and not to a diocese.
The Abbey today is still very much a working church, holding regular services, as well as being used for special memorial services and funerals (such as Princess Diana).
All of England's monarchs since 1066 have been crowned in the Abbey (with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII who weren't crowned at all). A good number have been buried in the Abbey, beginning with Edward the Confessor. Those monarch's buried there include Henry III,Edward I, Henry VII and Elizabeth I.
Getting to the Abbey is very easy. It is located in Parliament Square, directly opposite the Houses of Parliament. The nearest tube station is Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle lines). Once out of the tube you can't miss the Abbey. There are numerous buses that go to Westminster from all sides of London.
Opening hours vary but in general the Abbey opens at 9.30 and last admission is 3.45 Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, 9.30-6 on Wed and 9.30-1.45 on Sat. The Abbey is closed to tourists on Sunday. The hours may seem quite short but this is still a working church.
The entrance fee is £10 (£6 for concessions), but before you all go WHAT???, remember how much there is to see here. It is expensive, especially if you have a guided tour (extra £4) or an audioguide (extra £3) but I think its worth it. You only have to go once!
The Abbey has some access for disabled people but not complete access and therefore they don't charge for entry for those in wheelchairs.
I've been to the Abbey many times, and despite the admission price I keep going back. I know all the tombs back to front, but the place has a draw for me. Even though its usually filled with tourists I find it a very peaceful place and every time I go I see something new.
The highlights for me are the tombs. These tombs are hundreds of years old and they actually hold the bodies of past monarchs. You can see the tombs of Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, Henry VII and Elizabeth I, among others. The only slight irritation is that your view of the tomb is often obstructed and they can often only be viewed from one side, meaning that you can't see the effigies on the top. Possibly the most amazing part of the Abbey is the ceiling in the Henry VII chapel. This is fan-vaulted and incredibly intricate. Spend some time looking at it, it will astound you. I think that Henry VII and Elizabeth of York's joint tomb is spectacular. It has bronze effigies of the monarchs and is surrounded by huge grilles. One of the most moving tombs in the Abbey is in the side chapel of the Henry VII chapel, where the tomb of Elizabeth I lies. At the far end of this chapel you will find the tomb of Princess Sophia, daughter of James I, in Innocent's corner. The tomb depicts a sleeping child in a cot. I have to admit that I am a bit of a tomb junkie (if such a thing exists!) and I can wonder for ages around the Abbey just looking at the tombs. They are not just tombs, either, but works of art. They are sculpted and moulded and look absolutely magnificent. Other highlights on the tomb front include the joint tomb of Elizabeth I and Mary I (although you have to look carefully to find reference to the Catholic Mary), Mary Queen of Scots and Richard II.
Don't be disappointed by the Coronation Chair. Although it is severely scratched (the work of generations of Westminster School boys!) you have to remember that it is over 700 years old, ordered by Edward I to house the Stone of Scone. The Stone itself is no longer present, having been returned to Scotland.
The Abbey would perhaps benefit from better labelling as it is not always clear to whom a tomb belongs, especially on the older monuments where the wording has worn away. I find this irritating, as, having visited fairly often, I am familiar with the more famous tombs but would like to know more about other monuments in the Abbey. The more famous tombs have all been labelled. A small label saying to whom the monument is dedicated on those less well known would be very helpful.
Poets Corner is very fascinating. Here lie the remains of many great British poets, and memorials to many more. The first poet's tomb here was Chaucer and the area is now filled by stones and monuments. There is even a stone to a man who was '154 years old' when he died!! This is on the floor in Poer's Corner, although he was not a poet.
Unfortunately one of the greatest sights of the Abbey is always covered to protect it. This is the Cosmati Pavement which leads to the altar. However, when you consider that this mosaic floor is over 700 years old you can see why it needs protecting! It is worth buying a guidebook to see it though.
The Abbey museum is also fascinating. Here you can see the death masks and funeral effigies of some of the monarchs buried within the Abbey. You can also see other memorabilia relating to the Abbey. I find some of the effigies incredible simply for their survival.
Another moving sight in the Abbey is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Placed near the west doors, this tomb is a simple stone on the floor, surrounded by poppies. This is the best place to reflect on the visit and to perhaps light a candle.
Make sure that you don't miss the portrait of Richard II which is near the exit. This is thought to be the first portrait of an English monarch.
I really cannot recommend a visit to Westminster Abbey highly enough. The place is magical, literally a 'House of Kings'. Make sure that you buy a guidebook so that you can see the things that you cannot see on your visit, such as some of the effigies and the Cosmati floor. Its a place that will imprint itself on your mind.