Westminster Abbey, located near the Houses of Parliament, is more of a historical site than a religious site. Since 1066 every royal coronation, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII, has taken place in this church.
The abbey also serves as the burial ground for numerous politicians, sovereigns and artists. The abbey is stuffed with tombs, statues and monuments. Many coffins even stand upright due to the lack of space. In total, approximately 3,300 people are buried in the church and cloisters. Some of the most famous are Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and David Livingstone.
A church stood here already in the eight century, but the history of the current abbey starts in 1050, when King Edward The Confessor decided to build a monastery. Only a small part of this Norman monastery, consecrated in 1065, survived. The only representation of this original building is shown on the Bayeux Tapestry.
Most of the present building dates from 1245 to 1272 when Henry III decided to rebuild the abbey in the Gothic style. The building was later significantly expanded: the Chapel of Henry VII was added between 1503 and 1512, while the two West Front Towers date from 1745. The youngest part of the abbey is the North entrance, completed in the nineteenth century.
The abbey’s nave is England’s highest. In the nave you find the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, a World War I soldier who died on the battlefields in France and was buried here in French(!) soil. Nearby is a marble memorial stone for Winston Churchill. His body is not, like many fellow prime ministers, buried in the abbey, but in Bladon.
The Cloister was originally built in the thirteenth century. It was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire in 1298. The cloister was used by the Benedictine monks for meditation and exercise.
The beautiful octagonal Chapter House is one of the largest of its kind in England. It has an original tile floor dating from 1250 and its walls are decorated with fourteenth-century murals.
Henry VII Chapel
The Henry VII Chapel (aka Lady Chapel), built 1503-1512, is one of the most outstanding chapels of its time, with a magnificent vault. The chapel has a large stained-glass window, the Battle of Britain memorial window. The window, which dates from 1947 and replaces an original window that was damaged during World War II, commemorates fighter pilots and crew who died during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
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