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Westminster Abbey – Location, History, Facts

Last Updated : 22 Sep, 2023
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Let’s dive into the oceanic currents of one of the most iconic churches of all time. Well, pack your bags, and yeah do not forget to get an English dictionary before visiting the destination as this time we’re off to the land of the Birth of English, England. Now, the church we’re seeing today is not just some ordinary church as we’ve already mentioned it as one of the most iconic with the living history of 1000 years, so yeah it is, living up to its status, the one and only, Westminster Abbey. Let’s get to know about Westminster Abbey in detail like its location, history, and amazing facts associated with it, in this article.

Westminster Abbey – Overview:

Westminster Abbey, formally known as Collegiate Church of St. Peter after Elizabeth I officially gave it this title in 1560. It is not a cathedral, it dodges the jurisdiction of the diocese and the province it lies in, but to be precise it is termed as “Royal Peculiar” under the jurisdiction of a Dean. Dr. David Hoyle is the 39th Dean of this very collegiate church, announced on 16th November 2019.

The Abbey as of today hosts ceremonies of national magnitude. The Complex is known to have been an Abbey, Coronation venue, Royal Wedding venue, Burial site, and Holy monastery throughout its long history.

Westminster Abbey is situated in the Westminster province, west of the Westminster Palace in Westminster city in London, England. The Westminster Abbey along with St. Margaret’s Church and the Houses of Parliament altogether is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Westminster Abbey – History:

Legend says that it was the first Christian King of East Saxons, King Sahbert, who established a church on a small island by River Thames and St. Peter consecrated it himself. The island at the time was known as Thorney Island but later by the time, started to be known as Westminster. 

Further to Abbey’s known history, in the 10th Century, King Edgar along with St. Dunstan brought the Benedictine monks from Glastonbury and established a community.

By the 11th century, in the 40s, King Edward who later came to be known as Edward the Confessor started rebuilding St. Peter’s Abbey. It was completed in 1060 and was consecrated on 28th December 1065. Kind Edward died the week after the consecration and was buried in the same church. After his death, his reputation as a saint grew larger, which attracted people to worship him. It was 1161 when he officially gained the title of a Saint. Henry III decided to establish a shrine in his name.

Westminster Abbey – Reputation:

As a Coronation Site

The Very Abbey has hosted many Coronations throughout time. Beginning with England’s first King, William the Conqueror, every monarch since was crowned in Westminster Abbey except Edward V and Edward VIII. So far, 39 monarchs have been crowned in this splendid structure. Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first one to be broadcasted live on TV.

As a Royal Wedding site

The Abbey is also a venue for royal weddings for a long time. No ordinary couple can get married into this mega structure, unless and until they are from Royal lineage. 

The first one to get married here was Henry I with Matilda of Scotland in 1100. The only other reigning monarch to get married here was Richard II to Anne of Bohemia in 1382 ever after. 

So far, 16 royal weddings took place here. The latest one was in 2011 when Prince William married Catherine Middleton on 29th April.

As a Mortuary

The site is also known for its famous burials over history. The record says, 16 Kings and Queens were buried here along with over 3,000 famous entities throughout time like poets, scientists, and ministers, etc., Sir Isaac Newton is one of them. George II of Great Britain and Ireland who died in 1760 was the last sovereign to be buried here. After that, the burial site for the Royals was shifted to Windsor Castle.

Westminster Abbey – Design:

The Church we see today mainly seems like gothic-style architecture but it was not always. The first stage of construction was in Romanesque style architecture by Edward the Confessor. Later by 1245, Henry III started rebuilding the church in Anglo-French style with a high set budget. He died before he could rebuild the nave. It was the late 1300s when the remaining nave was rebuilt with the controlled budget under the reign of Richard II.

The additional Lady chapel was built around 1220 but was later replaced by Henry’s chapel we see today by Henry VII in 1503.

Westminster Abbey – Facts:

  • Benjamin Johnson, who was a great poet was buried upright in the Westminster Abbey.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is on her way to breaking the longest reigning record. She is currently second on the list with the first being King Louis XIV, who reigned for more than 72 years.

This very church must be a sure-to-visit place on everyone’s journey list. If you are visiting London then you must go see it for sure. 

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