With a history stretching back a thousand years, Westminster Abbey is one of London’s most iconic attractions.
Founded by the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor in 960, the church has been the place where England’s monarchs have been crowned since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066.
Here is a short guide to some of the most interesting features of the abbey.
The Coronation Chair
The Coronation Chair was made for King Edward I to enclose the famous Stone of Scone, which he brought from Scotland to the Abbey in 1296, where he placed it in the care of the Abbot of Westminster.
Every monarch has been crowned in the chair since Edward II in 1308, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII, who were not crowned.
The magnificent Lady Chapel has been called “one of the most perfect buildings ever erected in England” and “the wonder of the world”. The highlight of the chapel is its delicately carved fan vaulted roof, with hanging pendants constructed on half-concealed transverse arches. Tudor emblems such as the rose and portcullis can be found all around the chapel, while the walls feature 100 statues of saints.
Famous people have been buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey throughout the country’s history, and their memorials are visible throughout the building.
Poets’ Corner is one of the best-known parts of the abbey and is found in the South Transept. Many of the country’s literary giants were buried here or had monuments to their lives erected. The first, Geoffrey Chaucer, was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey because he had been Clerk of Works to the Palace of Westminster, rather than in honour of his literary achievements.
The High Altar
At the heart of the abbey lies the High Altar, flanked by four large statues of Moses, St Peter, St Paul and King David. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1867 and features a mosaic of the Last Supper by Antonio Salviati.
In front of it lies one of the building’s greatest treasures – a marble pavement dating from 1268. It is decorated in a style known as Cosmati work, involving a number of intricate designs made up of small pieces of coloured marble.
Getting to Westminster Abbey
Situated in the heart of London, near the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey is easily reached by a variety of transport methods. St James’s Park (District and Circle Lines) and Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines) are the closest underground stations, while buses pass by the abbey from all over London.