Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Overview
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 church, in the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

. It is the traditional place of coronation
Coronation of the British monarch
The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

 and burial site for English, later British and later still (and currently) monarchs of the Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s. The abbey is a Royal Peculiar
Royal Peculiar
A Royal Peculiar is a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than under a bishop. The concept dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when a church could ally itself with the monarch and therefore not be subject to the bishop of the area...

 and briefly held the status of a cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 from 1540 to 1550.

Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church
Collegiate church
In Christianity, a collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons; a non-monastic, or "secular" community of clergy, organised as a self-governing corporate body, which may be presided over by a dean or provost...

 governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Dean and Canons of Westminster
The Dean and Canons of Westminster are the ecclesiastical body of Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England and royal peculiar in Westminster, England. They meet in Chapter and are also known as the Dean and Chapter of Westminster....

, as established by Royal charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 of Queen Elizabeth I in 1560, which created it as the Collegiate Church of St Peter Westminster and a Royal Peculiar under the personal jurisdiction of the Sovereign.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Westminster Abbey'
Start a new discussion about 'Westminster Abbey'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Timeline

1065   Westminster Abbey is consecrated.

1066   William the Conqueror is crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.

1100   Henry I is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

1154   Henry II of England is crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1189   Richard I of England (a.k.a. Richard "the Lionheart") is crowned at Westminster.

1547   Edward VI of England is crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

1559   Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, London.

1661   King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland is crowned in Westminster Abbey.

1947   The Princess Elizabeth marries Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in London.

1950   The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, is taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. It later turns up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.

 
Encyclopedia
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 church, in the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

. It is the traditional place of coronation
Coronation of the British monarch
The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

 and burial site for English, later British and later still (and currently) monarchs of the Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s. The abbey is a Royal Peculiar
Royal Peculiar
A Royal Peculiar is a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than under a bishop. The concept dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when a church could ally itself with the monarch and therefore not be subject to the bishop of the area...

 and briefly held the status of a cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 from 1540 to 1550.

Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church
Collegiate church
In Christianity, a collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons; a non-monastic, or "secular" community of clergy, organised as a self-governing corporate body, which may be presided over by a dean or provost...

 governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Dean and Canons of Westminster
The Dean and Canons of Westminster are the ecclesiastical body of Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England and royal peculiar in Westminster, England. They meet in Chapter and are also known as the Dean and Chapter of Westminster....

, as established by Royal charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 of Queen Elizabeth I in 1560, which created it as the Collegiate Church of St Peter Westminster and a Royal Peculiar under the personal jurisdiction of the Sovereign. The members of the Chapter are the Dean and four residentiary Canons, assisted by the Receiver General and Chapter Clerk. One of the Canons is also Rector of St Margaret's Church, Westminster, and often holds also the post of Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. In addition to the Dean and Canons, there are at present two full-time minor canons, one precentor
Precentor
A precentor is a person who helps facilitate worship. The details vary depending on the religion, denomination, and era in question. The Latin derivation is "præcentor", from cantor, meaning "the one who sings before" ....

, the other succentor. The office of Priest Vicar was created in the 1970s for those who assist the minor canons. Together with the Clergy and Receiver General and Chapter Clerk, various Lay Officers constitute the College, including the Organist and Master of the Choristers
Organist and Master of the Choristers
An Organist and Master of the Choristers is a title given to a Director of Music at a Cathedral, particularly an Anglican Cathedral in England. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. He is both the organist and the choirmaster....

, the Registrar, the Auditor, the Legal Secretary, the Surveyor of the Fabric, the Head Master of the Choir School
Westminster Abbey Choir School
Westminster Abbey Choir School is a British boarding preparatory school and the only school in the United Kingdom exclusively for the education of boy choristers. It is located in Dean's Yard, by Westminster Abbey...

, the Keeper of the Muniments and the Clerk of the Works, as well as twelve Lay Vicars and ten of the choristers and the High Steward and High Bailiff. There are also forty Queen's Scholars who are pupils at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 (the School has its own Governing Body). Those who are most directly concerned with liturgical and ceremonial matters are the two Minor Canons and the Organist and Master of the Choristers.

History



According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard
Sulcard
Sulcard was a Benedictine monk at St. Peter's, Westminster Abbey, and the author of the first history of the abbey.Little is known of Sulcard, whose unusual name may reflect either Anglo-Saxon or Norman parentage...

 in about 1080, the Abbey was first founded in the time of Mellitus
Mellitus
Mellitus was the first Bishop of London in the Saxon period, the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity. He arrived in 601 AD with a group of clergymen sent to augment the mission,...

 (d. 624), Bishop of London, on the present site, then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)
Thorney Island (London)
Thorney Island was the eyot on the Thames, upstream of mediæval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built...

; based on a late tradition that a fisherman called Aldrich on the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 saw a vision of Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 near the site. This seems to be quoted to justify the gifts of salmon from Thames fishermen that the Abbey received in later years. In the present era, the Fishmonger's Company
Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers is one of the 108 Livery Companies of the City of London, being a guild of the sellers of fish and seafood in the City...

 still gives a salmon every year. The proven origins are that in the 960s or early 970s, Saint Dunstan
Dunstan
Dunstan was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church...

, assisted by King Edgar
Edgar of England
Edgar the Peaceful, or Edgar I , also called the Peaceable, was a king of England . Edgar was the younger son of Edmund I of England.-Accession:...

, installed a community of Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s here.

Between 1042 and 1052 King Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

 began rebuilding St Peter's Abbey in order to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Norman Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 style. It was not completed until around 1090 but was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before the Confessor's death on 5 January 1066. The next day he was buried in the church, and nine years later his wife Edith was buried alongside him. His successor, Harold II
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

, was probably crowned in the Abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year.

The only extant depiction of Edward's abbey, together with the adjacent Palace of Westminster, is in the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

. Increased endowments supported a community increased from a dozen monks in Dunstan's original foundation, to about eighty monks. Construction of the present church was begun in 1245 by Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 who had selected the site for his burial.
The abbot
Abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 and learned monks, in close proximity to the royal Palace of Westminster, the seat of government from the later twelfth century, became a powerful force in the centuries after the Norman Conquest: the abbot often was employed on royal service and in due course took his place in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 as of right. Released from the burdens of spiritual leadership, which passed to the reformed Cluniac movement after the mid-tenth century, and occupied with the administration of great landed properties, some of which lay far from Westminster, "the Benedictines achieved a remarkable degree of identification with the secular life of their times, and particularly with upper-class life", Barbara Harvey concludes, to the extent that her depiction of daily life provides a wider view of the concerns of the English gentry in the High
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

 and Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

. The proximity of the Palace of Westminster did not extend to providing monks or abbots with high royal connections; in social origin the Benedictines of Westminster were as modest as most of the order. The abbot remained Lord of the Manor
Lord of the Manor
The Lordship of a Manor is recognised today in England and Wales as a form of property and one of three elements of a manor that may exist separately or be combined and may be held in moieties...

 of Westminster as a town of two to three thousand persons grew around it: as a consumer and employer on a grand scale the monastery helped fuel the town economy, and relations with the town remained unusually cordial, but no enfranchising charter was issued during the Middle Ages. The Abbey built shops and dwellings on the west side, encroaching upon the sanctuary.

The Abbey became the coronation site of Norman kings, but none were buried there until Henry III, intensely devoted to the cult of the Confessor, rebuilt the Abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 as a shrine to honour Saint Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for Henry's own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 in England. The Confessor's shrine subsequently played a great part in his canonisation. The work continued between 1245 and 1517 and was largely finished by the architect Henry Yevele
Henry Yevele
Henry Yevele was the most prolific and successful master mason active in late medieval England. The first document relating to him is dated 3 December 1353, when he purchased the freedom of London...

 in the reign of Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

. Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 added a Perpendicular style chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1503 (known as the Henry VII Chapel
Henry VII Lady Chapel
The Henry VII Lady Chapel, now more often known just as the Henry VII Chapel, is a large Lady chapel at the far eastern end of Westminster Abbey, paid for by the will of Henry VII. It is separated from the rest of the abbey by brass gates and a flight of stairs.The structure of the chapel is a...

). Much of the stone came from Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, in France (Caen stone
Caen stone
Caen stone or Pierre de Caen, is a light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone quarried in northwestern France near the city of Caen.The limestone is a fine grained oolitic limestone formed in shallow water lagoons in the Bathonian Age about 167 million years ago...

), the Isle of Portland
Isle of Portland
The Isle of Portland is a limestone tied island, long by wide, in the English Channel. Portland is south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England. A tombolo over which runs the A354 road connects it to Chesil Beach and the mainland. Portland and...

 (Portland stone
Portland stone
Portland stone is a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. The quarries consist of beds of white-grey limestone separated by chert beds. It has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the British Isles, notably in major...

) and the Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

 region of France (tuffeau limestone
Tuffeau stone
Tuffeau is a marine sedimentary rock which is found in the Loire Valley of France.The Loire Valley formed the floor of a vast sea 90 million years ago...

).
In 1535, the Abbey's annual income of £2400–2800 (£ to £ as of ), during the assessment attendant on the Dissolution of the Monasteries
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

 rendered it second in wealth only to Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

. Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 had assumed direct royal control in 1539 and granted the Abbey cathedral status by charter in 1540, simultaneously issuing letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 establishing the Diocese of Westminster
Diocese of Westminster
The Diocese of Westminster was a short-lived diocese of the Church of England, extant from 1540 - 1550.The Diocese was created from part of the Diocese of London, and comprised Westminster , and the county of Middlesex, with the exception of Fulham...

. By granting the Abbey cathedral status Henry VIII gained an excuse to spare it from the destruction or dissolution which he inflicted on most English abbeys during this period. Westminster was a cathedral only until 1550. The expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul" may arise from this period when money meant for the Abbey, which is dedicated to Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

, was diverted to the treasury of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

.
The Abbey was restored to the Benedictines under the Catholic Mary I of England
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

, but they were again ejected under Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 in 1559. In 1579, Elizabeth re-established Westminster as a "Royal Peculiar
Royal Peculiar
A Royal Peculiar is a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than under a bishop. The concept dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when a church could ally itself with the monarch and therefore not be subject to the bishop of the area...

"—a church responsible directly to the Sovereign, rather than to a diocesan bishop—and made it the Collegiate Church of St Peter (that is, a church with an attached chapter of canons
Canon (priest)
A canon is a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule ....

, headed by a dean). The last Abbot was made the first Dean. It suffered damage during the turbulent 1640s, when it was attacked by Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 iconoclasts
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

, but was again protected by its close ties to the state during the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of England
The Commonwealth of England was the republic which ruled first England, and then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Between 1653–1659 it was known as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland...

 period. Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 was given an elaborate funeral there in 1658, only to be disinterred in January 1661 and posthumously hanged from a nearby gibbet
Gibbet
A gibbet is a gallows-type structure from which the dead bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. In earlier times, up to the late 17th century, live gibbeting also took place, in which the criminal was placed alive in a metal cage...

.

The Abbey's two western towers were built between 1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor was a British architect born in Nottinghamshire, probably in East Drayton.-Life:Hawksmoor was born in Nottinghamshire in 1661, into a yeoman farming family, almost certainly in East Drayton, Nottinghamshire. On his death he was to leave property at nearby Ragnall, Dunham and a...

, constructed from Portland stone
Portland stone
Portland stone is a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. The quarries consist of beds of white-grey limestone separated by chert beds. It has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the British Isles, notably in major...

 to an early example of a Gothic Revival design. Purbeck marble was used for the walls and the floors of Westminster Abbey, even though the various tombstones are made of different types of marble. Further rebuilding and restoration
Victorian restoration
Victorian restoration is the term commonly used to refer to the widespread and extensive refurbishment and rebuilding of Church of England churches and cathedrals that took place in England and Wales during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria...

 occurred in the 19th century under Sir George Gilbert Scott
George Gilbert Scott
Sir George Gilbert Scott was an English architect of the Victorian Age, chiefly associated with the design, building and renovation of churches, cathedrals and workhouses...

. A narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

 (a portico or entrance hall) for the west front was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens
Edwin Lutyens
Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, OM, KCIE, PRA, FRIBA was a British architect who is known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era...

 in the mid 20th century but was not executed. Images of the Abbey prior to the construction of the towers are scarce, though the Abbey's official website states that the building was without towers following Yevele's renovation, with just the lower segments beneath the roof level of the Nave completed.

Until the 19th century, Westminster was the third seat of learning in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. It was here that the first third of the King James Bible Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and the last half of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 were translated. The New English Bible
New English Bible
The New English Bible is a translation of the Bible into modern English directly from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts . The New Testament was published in 1961...

 was also put together here in the 20th century. Westminster suffered minor damage during the Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 on 15 November 1940.

In the 1990s two icons by Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 icon painter Sergei Fyodorov
Sergei Fyodorov
Sergei Fyodorov, born in Pskov, Russia in 1959, is a Russian icon painter, his name in Russian is Сергей Константинович Фёдоров. Alternative English spelling Sergey Fedorov....

 were hung in the Abbey. On 6 September 1997 the funeral
Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales started on September 6, 1997 at 9:08 am in London, when the tenor bell sounded to signal the departure of the cortege from Kensington Palace. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage, along Hyde Park to St. James' Palace, where...

 of Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

 was held at the Abbey. On 17 September 2010 Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

 became the first pope to set foot in the Abbey.

Coronations



Since the coronations in 1066 of both King Harold
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

 and William the Conqueror, coronations of English and British monarchs were held in the Abbey. Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 was unable to be crowned in London when he first came to the throne because the French prince Louis
Louis VIII of France
Louis VIII the Lion reigned as King of France from 1223 to 1226. He was a member of the House of Capet. Louis VIII was born in Paris, France, the son of Philip II Augustus and Isabelle of Hainaut. He was also Count of Artois, inheriting the county from his mother, from 1190–1226...

 had taken control of the city, and so the king was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the river. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter .-Foundations:The foundations of the present...

. However, this coronation was deemed by the Pope to be improper, and a further coronation was held in the Abbey on 17 May 1220. The Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 is the traditional cleric
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 in the coronation ceremony.

King Edward's Chair
King Edward's Chair
King Edward's Chair, sometimes known as St Edward's Chair or The Coronation Chair, is the throne on which the British monarch sits for the coronation. It was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I to contain the coronation stone of Scotland — known as the Stone of Scone — which he had captured from...

 (or St Edward's Chair), the throne on which English and British sovereigns have been seated at the moment of coronation, is housed within the Abbey and has been used at every coronation since 1308. From 1301 to 1996 (except for a short time in 1950 when it was temporarily stolen by Scottish nationalists), the chair also housed the Stone of Scone
Stone of Scone
The Stone of Scone , also known as the Stone of Destiny and often referred to in England as The Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later the monarchs of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom...

 upon which the kings of Scots are crowned. Although the Stone is now kept in Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear...

, at future coronations it is intended that the Stone will be returned briefly to St Edward's Chair for the moment of coronation.

Royal weddings


Since 1100, there have been at least 16 royal weddings at Westminster Abbey. Only two were weddings of reigning monarchs (Henry I
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 and Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

), and there were none at all for more than five centuries between 1382 and 1919.

Chronology

  1. 11 November 1100: King Henry I of England was married to Matilda of Scotland
  2. 4 January 1243: Richard, Earl of Cornwall (later King of Germany), brother of King Henry III of England
    Henry III of England
    Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

    , to Sanchia of Provence
    Sanchia of Provence
    Sanchia of Provence was the third daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy. Sanchia was described as "of incomparable beauty".-Life:...

     (his second wife). Sanchia was sister of Eleanor of Provence
    Eleanor of Provence
    Eleanor of Provence was Queen consort of England as the spouse of King Henry III of England from 1236 until his death in 1272....

    , Henry III’s queen.
  3. 9 April 1269: Edmund of Crouchback, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster, son of King Henry III was married to Lady Aveline de Forz
    Aveline de Forz
    Aveline de Forz , Countess of Aumale and Lady of Holderness, was a British noble.Aveline was born at Burstwick in Holderness to William de Forz, 4th Earl of Albemarle and Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon. In 1269, she married Edmund Crouchback, the second son of Henry III of England, at...

  4. 30 April 1290: Joan of Acre
    Joan of Acre
    Joan of Acre was an English princess, a daughter of the King Edward I of England and queen Eleanor of Castile...

    , daughter of King Edward I
    Edward I of England
    Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

     was married to the 7th Earl of Gloucester
  5. 8 July 1290: Margaret of England, daughter of King Edward I was married to John II, son of Duke of Brabant
  6. 20 January 1382: King Richard II of England
    Richard II of England
    Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

     was married to Anne of Bohemia
    Anne of Bohemia
    Anne of Bohemia was Queen of England as the first wife of King Richard II. A member of the House of Luxembourg, she was the eldest daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Elizabeth of Pomerania....

  7. 27 February 1919: Princess Patricia of Connaught
    Princess Patricia of Connaught
    Princess Patricia of Connaught was a member of the British Royal Family, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria...

     was married to Capt the Hon Alexander Ramsay
  8. 28 February 1922: The Princess Mary
    Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood
    The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood was a member of the British Royal Family; she was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She was the sixth holder of the title of Princess Royal...

    , daughter of King George V was married to Viscount Lascelles
    Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood
    Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood KG GCVO DSO TD , styled The Hon. Henry Lascelles before 1892 and Viscount Lascelles between 1892 and 1929, was the son of the 5th Earl of Harewood and Lady Florence Bridgeman.Lascelles was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and commanded the...

  9. 26 April 1923: The Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), second son of King George V was married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother)
  10. 29 November 1934: The Prince George, Duke of Kent
    Prince George, Duke of Kent
    Prince George, Duke of Kent was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth son of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI...

    , son of King George V was married to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark
  11. 20 November 1947: The Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), elder daughter of King George VI was married
    Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh
    The wedding of Princess Elizabeth , and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh took place on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London.-Engagement:...

     to The Duke of Edinburgh
    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

     (who was Lt Philip Mountbatten until that morning)
  12. 6 May 1960: The Princess Margaret
    Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
    Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

    , second daughter of King George VI was married to Antony Armstrong-Jones
    Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
    Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, GCVO, RDI is an English photographer and film maker. He was married to Princess Margaret, younger daughter of King George VI and younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II....

     (later Earl of Snowdon
    Earl of Snowdon
    Earl of Snowdon is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1961, together with the subsidiary title Viscount Linley, of Nymans in the County of Sussex, for Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was then the husband of HRH The Princess Margaret...

    )
  13. 24 April 1963: Princess Alexandra of Kent
    Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy
    Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy is the youngest granddaughter of King George V of the United Kingdom and Mary of Teck. She is the widow of Sir Angus Ogilvy...

     was married to the Hon Angus Ogilvy
    Angus Ogilvy
    Sir Angus James Bruce Ogilvy, was a British businessman best known as the husband of Princess Alexandra of Kent, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II....

  14. 14 November 1973: The Princess Anne
    Anne, Princess Royal
    Princess Anne, Princess Royal , is the only daughter of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

    , only daughter of Elizabeth II was married to Captain Mark Phillips
    Mark Phillips
    -Ancestry:-Issue:-Sources:...

  15. 23 July 1986: The Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Prince Andrew, Duke of York KG GCVO , is the second son, and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

    , second son of Elizabeth II, was married to Miss Sarah Ferguson
    Sarah, Duchess of York
    Sarah, Duchess of York is a British charity patron, spokesperson, writer, film producer, television personality and former member of the British Royal Family. She is the former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whom she married from 1986 to 1996...

  16. 29 April 2011: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Elizabeth II was married
    Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton
    The wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton took place on 29 April 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London. Prince William, the eldest son of Charles, Prince of Wales, first met Catherine Middleton in 2001, when both were studying at the University of St Andrews. Their...

     to Miss Catherine Middleton

Burials and memorials


Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 rebuilt the Abbey in honour of the Royal Saint Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

 whose relics were placed in a shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 in the sanctuary. Henry III himself was interred nearby, as were many of the Plantagenet kings of England, their wives and other relatives. Until the death of George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 in 1760, most Kings and Queens were buried in the Abbey, two notable exceptions being Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 who are buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

. Most monarchs and royals who died after 1760 are buried at Frogmore
Frogmore
The Frogmore Estate or Gardens comprise of private gardens within the grounds of the Home Park, adjoining Windsor Castle, in the English county of Berkshire. The name derives from the preponderance of frogs which have always lived in this low-lying and marshy area.It is the location of Frogmore...

 to the east of Windsor Castle.


Since the Middle Ages, aristocrats were buried inside chapels and monks and people associated with the Abbey were buried in the Cloister
Cloister
A cloister is a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth...

s and other areas. One of these was Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

, who was buried here as he had apartments in the Abbey where he was employed as master of the King's Works. Other poets, writers and musicians were buried or memorialised around Chaucer in what became known as Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there. The most recent additions were a memorial floor stone unveiled in 2009 for the founders of the Royal Ballet...

. Abbey musicians such as Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

 were also buried in their place of work.

Subsequently, it became one of Britain's most significant honours to be buried or commemorated here. The practice of burying national figures in the Abbey began under Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 with the burial of Admiral Robert Blake
Robert Blake (admiral)
Robert Blake was one of the most important military commanders of the Commonwealth of England and one of the most famous English admirals of the 17th century. Blake is recognised as the chief founder of England's naval supremacy, a dominance subsequently inherited by the British Royal Navy into...

 in 1657. The practice spread to include generals, admirals, politicians, doctors and scientists such as Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, buried on 4 April 1727, and Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

, buried 19 April 1882.

During the early 20th century it became increasingly common to bury cremated
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 remains rather than coffins in the Abbey. In 1905 the actor Sir Henry Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

 was cremated and his ashes buried in Westminster Abbey, thereby becoming the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment at the Abbey. Since 1936, no individual has been buried in a coffin in Westminster Abbey or its cloisters; the only exceptions to this rule are the Dukes of Northumberland
Duke of Northumberland
The Duke of Northumberland is a title in the peerage of Great Britain that has been created several times. Since the third creation in 1766, the title has belonged to the House of Percy , which held the title of Earl of Northumberland from 1377....

, who own a private vault in the Abbey.

Just inside the great west door, in the centre of the nave, in the floor is the tomb of The Unknown Warrior
The Unknown Warrior
The British tomb of The Unknown Warrior holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London on 11 November 1920, simultaneously with a similar interrment of a French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in...

, an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, on 11 November 1920. There are many graves on the floors of the abbey but this is the only grave which is forbidden to step on.

In 1998 ten vacant statue niches at the West Gate were filled with 10 representative 20th Century martyrs.

Schools


Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 and Westminster Abbey Choir School
Westminster Abbey Choir School
Westminster Abbey Choir School is a British boarding preparatory school and the only school in the United Kingdom exclusively for the education of boy choristers. It is located in Dean's Yard, by Westminster Abbey...

 are also in the precincts of the Abbey. It was natural for the learned and literate monks to be entrusted with education, and Benedictine monks were required by the Pope to maintain a charity school in 1179.

Organ



The organ was built by Harrison & Harrison
Harrison & Harrison
Harrison & Harrison Ltd are a British company that make and restore pipe organs, based in Durham and established in 1861. They are well known for their work on instruments such as King's College Cambridge, Westminster Abbey and the Royal Festival Hall....

 in 1937, then with four manuals and 84 speaking stops, and was used for the first time at the coronation of King George VI. Some pipework from the previous Hill organ of 1848 was revoiced and incorporated in the new scheme. The two organ cases, designed in the late nineteenth century by John Loughborough Pearson
John Loughborough Pearson
John Loughborough Pearson was a Gothic Revival architect renowned for his work on churches and cathedrals. Pearson revived and practised largely the art of vaulting, and acquired in it a proficiency unrivalled in his generation.-Early life and education:Pearson was born in Brussels, Belgium on 5...

, were re-instated and coloured in 1959. In 1982 and 1987, Harrison and Harrison enlarged the organ under the direction of the then Abbey Organist Simon Preston
Simon Preston
Simon John Preston CBE is an English organist, conductor, and composer.- Early life :He attended the Canford School in Wimborne in Dorset. Originally a chorister at King's College, Cambridge, he studied the organ with C. H...

 to include an additional Lower Choir Organ and a Bombarde Organ: the current instrument now has five manuals and 109 speaking stops. In 2006, the console of the organ was refurbished by Harrison and Harrison, and space was prepared for two additional 16 ft stops on the Lower Choir Organ and the Bombarde Organ.

The current Organist and Master of the Choristers
Organist and Master of the Choristers
An Organist and Master of the Choristers is a title given to a Director of Music at a Cathedral, particularly an Anglican Cathedral in England. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. He is both the organist and the choirmaster....

 is James O'Donnell
James O'Donnell (organist)
James O'Donnell, KCGS, LVO, FRCM, FRSCM, HonRAM is Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, a position he has held since 2000....

.

Bells


The bells at the Abbey were overhauled in 1971. The ring
Ring of bells
"Ring of bells" is a term most often applied to a set of bells hung in the English style, typically for change ringing...

 is now made up of ten bells, hung for change ringing
Change ringing
Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called "changes". It differs from many other forms of campanology in that no attempt is made to produce a conventional melody....

, cast in 1971, by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Whitechapel Bell Foundry
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a bell foundry in Whitechapel in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London. The foundry is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain...

, tuned to the notes: F#, E, D, C#, B, A, G, F#, E and D. The Tenor bell in D (588.5 Hz) has a weight of 30 cwt, 1 qtr, 15 lb (3403 lb or 1544 kg). In addition there are two service bells, cast by Robert Mot, in 1585 and 1598 respectively, a Sanctus bell cast in 1738 by Richard Phelps
Richard Phelps (bell-founder)
Richard Phelps was born in Avebury, Wiltshire, England. Phelps was a bell-founder, or a maker of bells, primarily for churches. He was master of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London from 1701 to 1738, and is best known for his large bell, Great Tom, in the steeple of St Paul's Cathedral in...

 and Thomas Lester and two unused bells—one cast circa 1320, by the successor to R de Wymbish, and a second cast in 1742, by Thomas Lester. The two service bells and the 1320 bell, along with a fourth small silver "dish bell", kept in the refectory, have been noted as being of historical importance by the Church Buildings Council of the Church of England.

Transport

London Underground
London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...

St James's Park
St. James's Park tube station
St James's Park is a London Underground station near St James's Park in the City of Westminster. It is served by the District and Circle Lines and is between Victoria and Westminster stations. It is in Travelcard Zone 1....

 
Westminster
Westminster tube station
Westminster is a London Underground station in the City of Westminster. It is served by the Circle, District and Jubilee lines. On the Circle and District lines, the station is between St. James's Park and Embankment and, on the Jubilee line it is between Green Park and Waterloo. It is in...

 
London River Services
London River Services
London River Services is a division of Transport for London , which manages passenger transport on the River Thames in London, UK. They do not own or operate any boats but license the services of other operators...

Westminster Millennium Pier
Westminster Millennium Pier
Westminster Millennium Pier is a pier on the River Thames, in the City of Westminster in London, UK. It is operated by London River Services and served by various river transport and cruise operators....

 


Chapter


The Chapter house was built concurrently with the east parts of the abbey under Henry III, between about 1245 and 1253. It was restored
Victorian restoration
Victorian restoration is the term commonly used to refer to the widespread and extensive refurbishment and rebuilding of Church of England churches and cathedrals that took place in England and Wales during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria...

 by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1872. The entrance is approached from the east cloister walk and includes a double doorway with a large tympanum above. Inner and outer vestibules lead to the octagonal chapter house, which is of exceptional architectural purity. It is built in a Geometrical Gothic style with an octagonal crypt below. A pier of eight shafts carries the vaulted ceiling. To the sides are blind arcading, remains of 14th-century paintings and numerous stone benches above which are innovatory large 4-light quatre-foiled windows. These are virtually contemporary with the Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle
La Sainte-Chapelle is the only surviving building of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including the Crown of Thorns - one of the most important relics in medieval...

, Paris. The chapter house has an original mid-13th century tiled pavement. A door within the vestibule dates from around 1050 and is believed to be the oldest in England. The exterior includes flying buttresses added in the 14th century and a leaded tent-lantern roof on an iron frame designed by Scott. The Chapter house was originally used in the 13th century by Benedictine monks for daily meetings. It later became a meeting place of the King's Great Council and the Commons, predecessors of Parliament.

The Pyx Chamber formed the undercroft of the monks' dormitory. It dates to the late 11th century and was used as a monastic and royal treasury. The outer walls and circular piers are of 11th-century date, several of the capitals were enriched in the 12th century and the stone altar added in the 13th century. The term 'pyx' refers to the boxwood chest in which coins were held and presented to a jury during the Trial of the Pyx
Trial of the Pyx
The Trial of the Pyx is the procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to required standards. Trials have been held from the twelfth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year; the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD...

, in which newly-minted coins were presented to ensure they conformed to the required standards.

The Chapter house and Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey are in the guardianship of English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

, but under the care and management of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. During the last year, English Heritage have funded a major programme of work on the Chapter, comprising repairs to the roof, gutters, stonework on the elevations and flying buttresses, and repairs to the lead light.

Museum



The Westminster Abbey Museum
Westminster Abbey museum
The Westminster Abbey Museum is located in the 11th-century vaulted undercroft beneath the former monks' dormitory in Westminster Abbey, London, England. This is one of the oldest areas of the Abbey, dating back almost to the foundation of the Norman church by Edward the Confessor in 1065...

 is located in the 11th-century vaulted
Vault (architecture)
A Vault is an architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. The parts of a vault exert lateral thrust that require a counter resistance. When vaults are built underground, the ground gives all the resistance required...

 undercroft
Undercroft
An undercroft is traditionally a cellar or storage room, often brick-lined and vaulted, and used for storage in buildings since medieval times. In modern usage, an undercroft is generally a ground area which is relatively open to the sides, but covered by the building above.- History :While some...

 beneath the former monks' dormitory in Westminster Abbey. This is one of the oldest areas of the Abbey, dating back almost to the foundation of the Norman church by Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

 in 1065. This space has been used as a museum since 1908.

Exhibits


The exhibits include a unique collection of royal and other funeral effigies
Effigy
An effigy is a representation of a person, especially in the form of sculpture or some other three-dimensional form.The term is usually associated with full-length figures of a deceased person depicted in stone or wood on church monuments. These most often lie supine with hands together in prayer,...

 (funeral saddle, helm and shield of Henry V), together with other treasures, including some panels of mediaeval glass, 12th-century sculpture fragments, Mary II's coronation chair and replicas of the coronation regalia
Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
The collective term Crown Jewels denotes the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign of the United Kingdom during the coronation ceremony and at other state functions...

, and historic effigies of Edward III, Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth I, Charles II, William III, Mary II and Queen Anne.

Later wax effigies include a striking likeness of Horatio, Viscount Nelson, wearing some of his own clothes and another of Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, modelled by the American-born sculptor Patience Wright
Patience Wright
Patience Lovell Wright was the first recognized American-born sculptor. She chiefly created wax figures of people. She loved to write poetry and was also a painter....

. During recent conservation of Elizabeth I's effigy, a unique corset
Corset
A corset is a garment worn to hold and shape the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic or medical purposes...

 dating from 1603 was found on the figure and is now displayed separately.

A recent addition to the display is the late 13th-century Westminster Retable
Westminster Retable
The Westminster Retable, the oldest known panel painting altarpiece in England, is estimated to have been painted in the 1270s in the circle of Plantagenet court painters, for Westminster Abbey, very probably for the high altar. It is thought to have been donated by Henry III of England as part of...

, England's oldest altarpiece. It was most probably designed for the High Altar of the Abbey, although it has been damaged in past centuries. The panel has been expertly cleaned and conserved.

Development plans


In June 2009 the first major building work at the Abbey for 250 years was proposed. A corona
Crown steeple
A crown steeple, or crown spire, is a traditional form of church steeple in which curved stone flying buttresses form the open shape of a rounded crown...

—a crown-like architectural feature—was intended to be built around the lantern over the central crossing
Crossing (architecture)
A crossing, in ecclesiastical architecture, is the junction of the four arms of a cruciform church.In a typically oriented church , the crossing gives access to the nave on the west, the transept arms on the north and south, and the choir on the east.The crossing is sometimes surmounted by a tower...

, replacing an existing pyramidal structure dating from the 1950s. This was part of a wider £23m development of the Abbey expected to be completed in 2013. On 4 August 2010 the Dean and Chapter announced that, "[a]fter a considerable amount of preliminary and exploratory work", efforts toward the construction of a corona would not be continued.

See also


  • Abbot of Westminster
  • Dean and Canons of Westminster
    Dean and Canons of Westminster
    The Dean and Canons of Westminster are the ecclesiastical body of Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England and royal peculiar in Westminster, England. They meet in Chapter and are also known as the Dean and Chapter of Westminster....

  • List of churches in London
  • List of Deans of Westminster
  • The Abbey
    The Abbey (documentary)
    The Abbey — or The Abbey with Alan Bennett — is a three-part BBC TV documentary written and hosted by playwright Alan Bennett and directed by Jonathan Stedall. It is a personal tribute to, and tour of, Westminster Abbey....

    , a 1995 BBC TV documentary film
  • The Unknown Warrior
    The Unknown Warrior
    The British tomb of The Unknown Warrior holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London on 11 November 1920, simultaneously with a similar interrment of a French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in...

  • Westminster Abbey Burials and Memorials
    Westminster Abbey Burials and Memorials
    Honouring individuals with Burials and Memorials in Westminster Abbey has a long tradition. Henry III rebuilt Westminster Abbey in honour of the Royal Saint Edward the Confessor whose relics were placed in a shrine in the sanctuary and now lie in a burial vault beneath the 1268 Cosmati mosaic...


External links