Westminster Abbey (officially The Collegiate Church of St Peter) is a mainly Gothic style church in London. It is traditionally the place where coronations and funerals of members of the British royals take place. Also found here between 1100 and 2011 16 marriages of members of the royal family, the latest Prince William and Kate Middleton. In 1987 the building along with Westminster Palace and Saint Margaret's Church on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Westminster Abbey’s western façade always had niches above the portal, but somehow they were never filled with statues. When I was second last in London (1996), the four niches left and right of the the Great Western Door already were showing allegoric figures of traditional virtues Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace. But then the ten nices above the door were still empty, however there were plans to fill these remaining niches with statues as well. On July 9, 1998 they were finally unveiled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.
No words can better describe the intention behind these ten statues than the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, who wrote on their website:
…not just to commemorate saintly or worthy figures from the past, but to proclaim a message of which too few people are aware: the twentieth century has been a century of Christian martyrdom. The cost of Christian witness, and the number of Christians willing to die for what they believed (alongside others of different religious faiths or none), has been greater in this century than in any previous period in the history of the church.
These ten statues are of individual martyrs; but they are intended to represent all those others who have died (and continue to die) in similar circumstances of oppression and persecution. They are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations. They include victims of the struggle for human rights in North and South America, of the Soviet and Nazi persecutions in Europe, of religious prejudice and dictatorial rule in Africa, of fanaticism in the Indian subcontinent, of the brutalities of the Second World War in Asia and of the Cultural Revolution in China. In these and other similar circumstances during this most violent of centuries thousands of men and women have paid with their lives for their faith and their convictions. Those represented here have left their testimony to the ultimate cost of Christian witness and to its enduring significance.
(taken from Westminster Abbey website, see link below)
This is a wonderful idea in my opinion and it also shows the very much progressive and modern attitude of the Anglican Church (compared to Roman Catholic).
The stautues are the work of Tim Crawley, Neil Simmons, John Roberts and Andrew Tanser and show (from left to right):
Maximilian Kolbe, Polish priest who was executed by the deadly brainsick Nazi terror regime in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941,
Manche Masemola (photo 5), a girl from Transvaal who converted to Christian belief and was murdered by her own parents at the age of 15 on February 4, 1928,
Janani Luwum, archbishop of Uganda, who was killed by Idi Amin’s death squadron on February 12, 1977,
Elizabeth of Russia (photo 2), born princess of Hesse Darmstadt, sister of the last Tzarina Alexandra and married to grand duke Sergej Alexandrowich. After her husband was killed, she founded Orthodox monastery Martha-Maria and was murdered by Bolsheviks the night after the Tzar family was slaughtered, July 18, 1918,
Martin Luther King, the famous civil rights movement leader was killed in Memphis April 4, 1968,
Oscar Romero, archbishop of El Salvador was killed by the death squadrons during revolution on March 24, 1980,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (main photo), Polish Lutheranian pastor from Wroclaw was another victim of the deadly brainsick Nazi terror regime and executed on April 9, 1945,
Ester John, an Indian girl, was brutally murdered on February 2, 1060 by maybe her family for having converted to Christianity and for not obeying the force to marry a muslim husband,
Lucian Tapiedi (photo 4), a priest from Papua New Guinea who was killed by a member of Orokaiva tribe who cooperated with the Japanese during their invasion in July 1942,
Wang Zhiming (photo 3), priest of Christian belief who was executed by the deadly brainsick Mao terror regime during the cultoral revolution on December 29, 1973.
(I have created a travelogue with photos of the other statues including a photo of 1996, where the niches were still empty).
Westminster Abbey holds within it a glimpse of so much of England's history. It's been the place where monarchs are crowned and buried and royal weddings take place for centuries. In short it is a pageant of British history set in stone.
The Abbey really got underway when King Edgar gave a substantial amount of land (most of which is now London's West End) to a monastic community to set up here in 960AD. About a century later King Edward the Confessor built a palace nearby and so also built a stone church on the site which was to act as his own burial place.
In the mid 13th century, Henry III had the place re-built and that is the gothic building we see today. It became his burial place and established the tradition of many of the monarchs being buried here for the next 500 or so years.
Westminster Abbey is a ‘Royal Peculiar’. This means it is a free chapel of the Sovereign, exempt from any ecclesiastical jurisdiction other than that of the Sovereign.
Considering the fact that the building has played such a key role in the history of the nation and is supposed to be a key place of worship as well as being such a 'Royal Peculiar', I would have hoped that admission would have been free. It most certainly is not free however and an adult admission is an eye watering £16 in December 2011. This does include the audio guide and using this a tour of the abbey will last about 60 to 90 minutes. Photography within the abbey is not allowed except in the cloisters and there is no photography permit which you can buy to get around this. The abbey is keen instead to push buying postcards from their giftshop. Of course you can take as many pictures as you like outside but the real gems are within.
You enter through the North door at the ticket office and there are seperate queues depending on what payment method you wish to use - cash or card. Once inside you can pick up a map of the abbey and your audioguide (which is included in the cost of your ticket). The audio tour starts in the centre of the abbey in front of the high altar. The altar and the decoration above it are mid 19th century and not really anything special, but the floor in front of it (behind the barrier) is a real treasure - a marble mosaic pavement from 1268.
Opposite the high altar is one of my favourite parts of the abbey, the Quire, where before the reformation the monks would have sat and worshipped. Their 13th century stalls have long since gone and what you now see is typically victorian gothic and this is where the boys and men of the modern choir sit and sing at daily services.
Another must see feature is Henry VII's lady chapel, commisioned by that first Tudor king in 1503. When you go in just look up at the ceiling and you'll see why the Tudors believed it to be a "wonder of the world". Behind the altar in this chapel is the tomb of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York (niece of Richard III, who Henry killed to become king). James I of Engalnd and VI of Scotland is also buried in teh vault beneath this monument, the first monarch to unite the two kingdoms.
The north and south aisles of this chapel have other great attractions. The north aisle has the tomb of perhaps the most famous of all monarchs, Elizabeth I. But under her effigy is not just her own burial place but that of her catholic sister and predecessor Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary). Considering their differences and how Mary had been shunned several times in life in favour of her younger, protestant sister, I wonder how she would have felt about this burial arrangement?
In the south aisle opposite Elizabeth's monument, her succesor and cousin James I & VI constructed a tomb for his own mother, Mary Queen of Scots who had originally been buried at Peterborough after her execution at the orders of Elizabeth I.
Once out of the church building you are in the cloister and despite the audio- guide symbols displayed it seems that the English version at least then stops working and you just get a message saying there is no commentary until you re-enter the church at the nave. Whenever I have visited the College Garden has always been closed - even though the listed openning hours and the information day by day on the Abbey's own website says it will be open.
The most important aspect of the Nave in my opinion is the tomb of the unknown soldier, which commemorates those lost in the first world war.
If you are visiting London and interested in it's history then this is clearly one of the top priority sights to see. Unfortunately the Abbey knows this and so has set a greatly inflated admission fee to match (thus is the generosity of the church) but I'd suggest that you'll just have to swallow this bitter pill and pay up as you can't miss seeing whats inside.
The initially Romanesque church built at the beginning of the last millennium, was later (XIII century) re-built in the Gothic style and it remains like this until now, in the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace).
Only the two western towers were added later in XVIII Century.
Being in a hurry, I have got only time for few bad pictures from the outside of the church. I hope that I will get another occasion to go back and see it in all its splendour.
For more details, I cannot compete with Wikipedia so... use the link below:
I have a philosophical problem with visiting Westminster Abbey (and indeed, St Paul's Cathedral), as I object to being charged to enter a place of worship. To add insult to injury, the Catholic Westminster Cathedral - just down the road - doesn't levy an entrance fee, but maybe Canterbury is harder up than Rome these days!
Having vented my spleen, Westminster Abbey is an extremely ancient and interesting building, and probably well worth the entrance fee (a stonking £15 at the time of writing in January 2011). The Abbey was founded in 960 and the current glorious Gothic structure was started in the late 13th century and has survived remarkably intact. The structure was dedicated to King Edward the Confessor, the English king whose demise triggered the Norman invasion in 1066, who was subsequently canonised, and still contains a shrine to his memory.
The Abbey is best known for being the venue for royal coronations, having been used for this purpose since 1066, when the ill-fated Harold (soon to be deposed by William the Conqueror) was crowned here. From 1301 until very recently St Edward's Chair (on which the monarch is crowned) sat on the Stone of Scone - a 152kg stone on which Scottish monarchs were traditionally crowned. This symbolism of national subjugation wasn't hard to interpret, and feelings still ran so high centuries later that it was 'liberated' by Scottish Nationalists in 1950, although it was soon recovered. It was officially returned to the Scotland in 1996 with the understanding that it would be temporarily returned to Westminster for the crowning of future monarchs.
Although the Abbey hosted the wedding of Prince William and Kate (or should I say Catherine) Middleton, it has not been the preferred venue for royal weddings over the centuries, and only two ruling monarchs have been married there.
There are an awful lot of famous dead people buried in the Abbey, including 17 ex-monarchs, so it's definitely the Place to be Seen Dead, especially if you're a literary sort! It is particularly well endowed with men of letters - the earliest being Geoffrey Chaucer who was interred here in 1400. Since then, the ranks of what became known as Poet's Corner have been swollen by literary giants such as William Blake, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, John Dryden, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Gray, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Samuel Johnson, John Keats, the Brontë sisters, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, John Milton, Laurence Olivier, Alexander Pope, Nicholas Rowe, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jane Austen, Thomas Shadwell, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Dylan Thomas and William Wordsworth. And in case you're wondering how they can continue to find space to accommodate all this deceased writers, a condition for the more recent occupants is that they be cremated prior to internment.
Unfortunately one or two who were afforded the privelege didn't want it: most notably Charles Dickens who had a horror of the Victorian rituals associated with death and specifically stated that he wanted to be buried at Highgate Cemetery instead (see my travel tip on what I consider to be the 'must do' tourist attraction in London). The Powers That Be were not impressed by this posthumous snub, and insisted on him being interred in Poet's Corner in the Abbey anyway, by which time he was not in a position to object!
Fascinatingly, in researching this tip, I discovered that the Abbey is classified as a 'Royal Peculiar' - as it turns out, this is not an inbred, halfwitted relative, but rather a church that falls under the jurisdiction of the monarch rather than a bishop. I just love what I learn when I'm writing on VT!
Westminster Abbey is a living, working Anglican church. It is also the church of coronations, where kings dating back to William the Conqueror in 1066 have held their coronation ceremonies. Many people have watched the royal wedding of William and Kate, if you did, you can walk in their steps as you tour this beautiful church.
It is the final resting place of many historic British figures; Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Henry VII, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and the Unknown Soldier are all entombed there.
Admission is 16 GBP for adults and 6 GBP for children. Guided tours are available. Photography is not permitted inside the church.
The queue trying to get into the Westminister Abbey was rather long and it was raining on-and-off when we were there.
Even for outdoor pictures taking, had to take shelter when it starts to rain and within minutes the rain stops and this process repeats itself many times over.
This is, it seems, common in Summer.
Lat visit July 2011
It's been about 6 years since I last visited Westminster Abbey and I thought my niece might enjoy it since the royal wedding just took place there, come to find out that she couldn't care less about that marriage although after seeing a few of their palaces she thinks that Harry might be a good catch! We wandered over on a rainy Thursday afternoon, there was a bit of a queue to purchase tickets but not so bad that I wouldn't stand in it. She wanted to do the Verger Tour so I plunked down the additional £3 per ticket and waited for the next one to start.
I was a little shocked at the £16 admission fee to the Abbey, it was 1/2 that when I visited 6 years ago. At least my niece was young enough to get an £6 ticket for under 18s. The 90 minute tour is very informative and allows you access into places that the ordinary tourists can't go. I'd highly recommend this if you are planning on going to the Abbey.
After the tour you can visit the museum or go back around the Abbey at your leisure. I believe they said the Abbey ticket was good for the entire day but ask when you get there.
Westminster Abbey is the most historic religious building in Britain and is known as the resting place of the royals. The present church was begun by Henry III in 1245. The last phase of building was the completed in 1745. It is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country.
More than 3,300 notable people - including Charles Darwin, David Livingston, Sir Isaac Newton, as well as many famous poets - are buried here. Monarchs were interred here (17 of them) until George the II in 1760 and they are still crowned here.
It is one of the most visited Christian churches in the world. Royal remains inside include those of Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. I didn't find it a particularly beautiful church, although I loved the organ.
In recent years it was where Princess Diana’s funeral was held. Most recently it was the site of Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton.
Highlights of the Abbey include: High Altar, Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, Henry VII's Lady Chapel, Poet's Corner, and the Great Cloister.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9.30am - 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm)
Wednesday: 9.30am - 7.00pm (last admission 6.00pm)
Saturday: 9.30am - 2.30pm (last admission 1.30pm)
Sunday: Worship only No Tourist Visiting
Concessions £13.00 (Over 18 students (on production of a valid student card) and 60+)
Schoolchildren (11 - 18 years) £6
Child under 11 free accompanied by an adult
Family £32.00 (2 adults and 1 child)
£38.00 (2 adults and 2 children)
+£6 per extra child
The first (chargeable) child with two adults - free
Entry for all the above includes a free audio-guide each (vailable at the Abbey’s Information Desk near the North Door).
No charge to worship.
Photography and filming (pictures and/or sound) of any kind is not allowed in any part of the Abbey at any time. Mobile phones should be switched off inside the Abbey.
Please note that all visitor information is correct as of this update.
One of the oldest medieval buildings in London, this is the burial place of most of the monarchs.
Even some national figures like Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone,
Sir Isaac Newton, Rudyard Kipling, Clement Attlee, William Pitt are buried here.
It is also the coronation venue of the monarchs, it all started with The Norman - William the Conqueror, coronated here on 25th of December, 1066! He managed to defeat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, in Southern England.
Every monarch since then, including the current Queen Elizabeth II has been crowned here in an elaborate ceremony (with a few exceptions like poor Lady Jane Grey, Edward V and Edward VIII).
Princess Diana's funeral service was also conducted here.
*** Most recently (on 29/04/2011) Diana's older son William married Catherine Middleton here, and the service was broadcast throughout the world. UK had a public holiday to celebrate the occasion.)
You'll see tombs of so many Kings & Queens in the various sections, with some stones right under your feet!
Apparently, in 1612 King James VI and I had his mother's (Mary Queen of Scots - who was executed by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in 1587) body exhumed from Peterborough Cathedral and placed in the vault of King Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
In short, a lot of history here!
Originally Edward the Confessor built a Benedictine monastery here in 1050 in the Romanesque style. In 1245, Henry III decided to tear it down and build a new church in the Gothic style. The facade, however, wasn't actually finished until the 1400's. So, it is in a Late Gothic style which is much more vertical. Most of the lines go up-and-down and not across. (The two towers were not built until the 1700's).
(* note: no photography allowed inside!)
I went to Westminster Abbey when I was 12. My mom was an English major in college and took us to 'Poets Corner' to see the tombs of famous people buried there - like Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, John Dryden, Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, and John Masefield. I had no idea who most of these people were, so I was not very impressed. This was at the end of the trip, and I was kind of "cathedraled out" by this time.
So I did not even have this as a secondary goal for this visit and I told my youngest daughter when she visited with her two pre-school children not to spend too much time there. There are other places that are better to visit with that age child. When I visited with my grandson in 2007, again we didn't have time to visit.
It is quite surprising that few people realise that London is in fact two cities - because it has two Anglican Cathedrals.
The City of London has St Pauls, but Westminster Abbey is the centrepiece to the City of Westminster.
The Abbey itself (with the exception of the Marriage of Charles & Diana which was at St Paul's) is at the heart of the nation's life with nearly all Coronations, Royal funerals and weddings taking place here.
The place is high on many tourist agendas, but if you are a bit jaded by seeing cathedrals then at least consider taking a look at the Abbey's USP (unique selling point) : Poet's corner.
Not all on the list (e.g Shakespere) are buried or have their remains here, whilst some (because of the lively exploits) only gained a place recently : Such as Byron.
I've included the full list below, and as you can see it includes many of the 'greats' of English Literature, plus many that philistines like me have never heard of !
Adam Addison Anstey Argyll Arnold Atkyns Auden Austen
Barrow Barton Benson Birch Black Booth Brontes Browning Burns
Busby Butler Byron Caedmon Camden
Campbell Carroll Cary Casaubon Caxton
Chambers Chaucer Chiffinch Coleridge
Cowley Coxe Cumberland D'Avengant
D. Thomas Dickens Drayton Dryden Fox
Eliot G Garrick Goldsmith Gordon Grabe
Gray Grote Hales Handel Hardy Hauley
Heather Hokins Hope Horneck James
Johnson Jonson Keats Keble Kipling
Lawrence Lind-Goldschmidt Litlyngton
Longfellow Macaulay Mackenzie
Macpherson Masefield Mason Milton
Murray Osbaldeston Outram Parr Philips
Pringle Prior Reith Roberts Robinson Ruskin
Saint-Evremond Scott Shadwell Shakespeare
Sharp Shelly Sheridan Simpson South
Southey Spenser Spottiswoode T.S. Eliot
Tait Taylor Tennyson Thackeray Thirwall
Thomson Triplet Tudor Vincent Wetenhall
I am sorry, picture is not good - to take pictures inside is not allowed ...
Since the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066 the Abbey has been the nation's "Coronation church". It is also burial and memorial plase of numerous fomous figures from the last one thousant years
Westminster Abbey is the crowning and burial place of British monarchs. It has its world famed Poet’s Corner with memorials to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, the Bronte’s sisters, Tennyson, Longfellow, Wordsworth, Burns, Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy, Kipling and other leading writers.
Only a few however, are actually buried there.
Here too is that touching symbol of a nation’s grief, The Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Unfortunately we couldn’t visit it cause it was closed but I’ve heard that it deserves to be seen. As local people say St. Paul’s Cathedral is a church for Londoners and Westminster Abbey is church for British people.
A Place of Worship, House of Kings - a grandiose claim from the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster. But it is also its claim to be a 'unique pageant of British history' with the tombs of royalty, every Coronation since 1066 and numerous memorials to the great and famous.
The area of Westminster is a derivation of the building - following the building of St Paul's, the Collegiate Church of St Peter became known as the 'west minster' as opposed to the 'east minster'. The Abbey is older - a Benedictine Abbey stood here in 940AD. When King Edward I founded his royal palace next to the Abbey, he built a stone church, consecrated in 1065. He died before this and his shrine was the first of many English kings to be incorporated, quickly followed by the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. A tradition was established!
Edward's Abbey survived for 200 years before Henry III set about the rebuild, part of which was the renewal of Edward's shrine. Some 600 monuments and wall tablets are to be found in the Abbey today. The Lady Chapel was added in the early 1500s by Henry VII, the western towers were completed along with the rose window in the north transept in the 1700s.
Arguably the most famous part of the Abbey is Poet's Corner, developed more by default than design. Chaucer was the first in 1400 - but as Clerk of Works to the Palace of Westminster, not as writer of The Canterbury Tales! 150 years later, a new tomb was erected in his memory, with Edmund Spenser following in 1599. This was the start of another tradition. Some of the names buried are, nowadays, unknown. Others have received only a memorial but are buried elsewhere. Others received a memorial long after their deaths. Lord Byron died in 1824 - memorial in 1969! Shakespeare, died 1616, commemorated 1740. But the buried include Dickens, Kipling, Dryden, Tennyson, Browning, Samuel Johnson. Commemorated - Wordsworth, Shelley, Milton, Blake, Henry James, Betjeman, TS Eliot, the 3 Bronte sisters among others.
Open: Monday-Saturday. Times vary according to season and the specific part of the Abbey you want to see. Generally, 9.30am-3.30pm (the Abbey itself) are the peak hours.
Entry fees: an astronomical £15/ £12 concessions/ £6 kids/ £36 family