One of London’s most famous landmarks, the Westminster Abbey is a must-see when you visit the capital city of England! Throughout the years, the 700-year-old church has held burials of many historical figures, as well as royal coronations and even weddings. Most recently, it was the site of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding on 19 April 2011. Book a Top Sights Tour today to ensure you see this fascinating part of British history.
This magnificent and world-famous building is England’s most important church and has been the site of every coronation since that of William The Conqueror in 1066. It was here fifty years ago, on June 2nd 1953 that Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.
Founded as a Benedictine monastery over a thousand years ago, the Church was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor in 1065 and again by Henry III between 1220 and 1272 and is renowned worldwide as an architectural Gothic masterpiece.
Monarchs have been crowned at the site ever since 1066, and the Abbey is the burial site of 17 monarchs along with many other significant historical figures. The burial of the writer Geoffrey Chaucer within the Abbey began what is now known as the Poets’ Corner.
Around Chaucer’s grave, writers and poets were either buried or memorialized. The Poets’ Corner includes names such as Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, William Wordsworth, John Milton, Alexander Pope and William Shakespeare.
Besides the Poets’ Corner, there are several other things to see in Westminster Abbey such as the church houses the Coronation Chair, or King Edward’s Chair. This ancient throne was commissioned by King Edward in 1296, and contains the Stone of Scone, which was the Scottish coronation stone. Almost every sovereign of England and later Great Britain has been crowned on this wooden throne. The last occasion it was used was Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Today, the Chair is heavily guarded, as many visitors over the centuries have tried to carve their names into the wood.
Coronations are not the only occasions the Royal Family visits Westminster Abbey. In fact, the Royal Family has had ties with the Abbey for centuries. The Abbey has seen sixteen royal weddings so far, of which the most recent was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. For their wedding, the Abbey was completely transformed. Almost 30,000 flowers adorned the interior of the Abbey, and there were even eight real trees placed alongside the main isle. The ceremony was attended by many members of the Royal Family, as well as by members of foreign royal families, politicians and celebrities such as Sir Elton John, David Beckham, Guy Ritchie, Joss Stone and many more.
When you’re walking through the nave of the Abbey, where the Royal Wedding was held, you’ll notice that there’s only one grave you are not allowed to step on. This is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The tomb contains an unidentified British soldier who was killed during the First World War. The grave represents all the fallen soldiers of the war. In France, a similar grave can be found at the Arc de Triomphe, also containing the bones of an unidentified soldier.
The Abbey has not only been the setting for Coronations, it has also witnessed numerous other royal occasions such as state weddings and funerals, including the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.
Services have been held at the site for more than a thousand years and Westminster Abbey still offers worship every day of the year.
It stands just west of the Houses of Parliament in the Greater London borough of Westminster.
For a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the Capital, stroll through Liddell’s Arch into Little Deans Yard, (the square behind the Abbey by Westminster School) or pause for reflection in the cloisters.