For more than a 1000 years worship has taken place in Westminster Abbey. Since 1066 almost every English monarch has been crowned in this stunning medieval shrine. Royalty and the famous elite lie to rest here and royal weddings are held here – Westminster Abbey’s importance as an English stronghold of heritage cannot be overstated and it certainly can be described as a ‘jewel’ of English heritage.
The timeless appeal of Westminster Abbey lies not only in the splendour, grandeur and beauty of this impressive building but the Abbey’s fascinating history.
Building of England’s most famous church began between 1043 and 1065 when King Edward the Confessor built a church on the site where the abbey now stands. In the middle of the tenth century, Benedictine monks first came to the site, marking it as a place of daily worship.
Laying the foundations
In 1245 King Henry III lay the foundations of Westminster Abbey as we know it today and it soon became one of the most important gothic churches in the country. Asides establishing the foundations of West Minister Abbey, in honouring Edward the Confessor by constructing a jewel-encrusted tomb for him, Henry III founded the time-honoured tradition of making Westminster Abbey the final resting place for English monarchs.
Possibly the most impressive burial site in the world
From Henry III to Richard II, from Mary I to Mary Queen of Scots, from James I to Charles II, a total of seventeen monarchs have been buried at Westminster Abbey. Although it’s not just English royalty that have been laid to rest at what became known as the House of Kings, as many of Britain’s greatest literary and artistic talent and philosophical thinkers are also buried here. From legendary poets Geoffrey Chaucer and Ben Johnson, to Charles Dickens and Alfred Tennyson, this splendid site of historical magnificence has also been deemed a worthy place for Britain’s greatest literary figures to be buried.
When William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey in 1066 his coronation started quite a trend, with a total of 37 subsequent monarchs having been crowned at the House of Kings.
In April 2011 the world watched on at the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William at Westminster Abbey. There has been a total of 16 royal weddings here, the earliest dating back to 1100 when King Henry I married Matilda of Scotland. Although despite the Abbey being a justifiably popular fixture for ancient royal weddings, approximately one third of the total number of noble marriage ceremonies to have been held here have been down to the current royal family.
With its dazzling stain glass windows, its treasure trove of paintings, a library and Muniment Room, which houses impressive collections of archives, books and manuscripts belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and having the knowledge that you are standing in a place of unparalleled royal significance, both past and present, it is easy to understand why more than one million people visit Westminster Abbey each year.
With its great West Towers, the Northern entrance and the Nave, Westminster Abbey is a gem of prolonged improvement and preservation. As you stand silent in the Abbey, ponder the souls of who you stand amongst and fill yourself with their secret inspiration.