Westminster Abbey’s official name is The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster and remains an impressive sight for locals as well as foreign visitors who come to sample some of the most popular attractions in England.
This church, which exhibits a distinctly Gothic style in its architecture, is situated in Westminster, London, near to the Palace of Westminster. It is a Royal Peculiar, meaning that it is under the direct jurisdiction of the Crown, and not an intermediary bishop.
Westminster Abbey is the traditional coronation and burial site for English monarchs. The original site is thought to date back to 616 when a shrine was originally built on the site. In addition to English monarchs, aristocrats,poets, generals, scientists, etc. are also buried here.
Westminster Abbey is traditionally reported to have been founded in the first quarter of the 600’s of our Common Era (CE or AD), during the time when Mellitus was the Bishop of London. Over 300 years later, Saint Dunstan and King Edgar created a monk community and based them at this abbey. King Edward the Confessor constructed a stone abbey as part of his palace, which was also built at this site. Then, it had to be rebuilt in 1245 by King Harold II as this was his chosen location for burial. For the next few centuries, building work continued, creating a rather beautiful holistic creation, despite its eclectic origins.
In 1539, King Henry VIII took direct control of Westminster Abbey and officially made it a cathedral. This status meant that it was spared when Henry VIII was destroying England’s other abbeys. Still, it lost its cathedral status in 1550.
Significantly, Westminster Abbey is the location at which the Old Testament and second half of the New Testament of the King James Bible were translated. During the 1900’s, the New English Bible was compiled here too.
Today, Westminster Abbey is still used for the coronation and burial of all the monarchs of the Commonwealth Realms, which include New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Australia, amongst others. It is also a very popular attraction for tourists, welcoming over a million guests every year.
Obviously, worship is a major part of the runnings and appeal of Westminster Abbey. Every day is characterised by Morning Prayer, Evensong and Holy Communion (or Eucharist). Daily services are held and visitors are invited to join these services for an authentic experience. To assist foreign-language guests, audio guides are available (in eight different languages). Tours are conducted through the ancient building by vergers.
Exploring the stained glass, paintings, textiles and artefacts is fascinating for young and old alike, regardless of their personal religious affiliations.
The tombs are fascinating, having been the burial grounds of some of history’s most notable figures. These include Geoffrey Chaucer, William Blake, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, TS Eliot, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, Dylan Thomas, William Wordsworth, Henry Purcell, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
The Westminster Abbey Museum is another favourite attraction and is situated in the vault below the former monks' dormitory. This particular part of the abbey dates back to about 1065, making it one of the oldest areas. Being immersed in such ancient history that has such a deep religious and cultural import gives visitors a true sense of the English heritage.
For more information, please view: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/