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  • Writer's pictureJoel Robinson

Westminster Abbey - The Royals Church

What is Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey, is more than just a religious institution - it is a living chronicle of British history. For almost a millennia, this majestic Gothic masterpiece has witnessed coronations, weddings, and funerals of monarchs, politicians, and literary giants, solidifying its role as one of the most important and revered buildings in the United Kingdom.

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When was Westminster Abbey built?

Its origins can be traced back to 1050 when King Edward the Confessor commissioned the construction of a grand church in what was then called Thorney Island, a swamp where Parliament Square Stands today. It became known as West-Minster, differentiating it from St Paul’s Cathedral in the East. By the time the church was consecrated in 1065, Edward was on his deathbed, unable to attend, but chose to be laid to be rest in front of the High Altar. He was later canonised and his shrine became a popular site of pilgrimage over the following centuries.

The church was mostly demolished and rebuilt in a new Gothic style in the 13th Century. Largely copied from French cathedrals, this new church boasted rose windows, flying buttresses, paintings, sculptures and grand tombs for fallen Kings.

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What happens at Westminster Abbey?

William the Conqueror chose Westminster Abbey for his coronation, marking the beginning of a tradition that has persisted for centuries. Since then, almost every English and British monarch has had their coronation within the hallowed walls of Westminster Abbey. Besides coronations, Westminster Abbey has also hosted countless royal weddings, notably, the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947 and Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. 

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Who is buried at Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey also serves as the final resting place of some of Britain’s most famous figures, in total over 3000 people, including 17 monarchs and 8 prime ministers. In poet’s corner you will find many of the nation's literary greats, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and Noel Coward. Nearby you can find scientists and explorers, such as Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Sir Ernest Shackleton. Close to the west door you will find one of the most important graves, The Unknown Warrior, an unidentified soldier from the First World War who remains symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of British soldiers who died. Every year on Remembrance Day, hundreds lay wreaths on this grave in memory of soldiers lost throughout history, fighting for a cause they believed in.

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Can I visit Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey remains a vibrant centre of worship, with regular services and daily prayers. Services are free and are open to the public. We visit on our regular Royal Westminster Tour. Alternatively if you want to explore the Abbey fully, tickets are from £29 per person and can be booked here.


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