Westminster Abbey is another one of those places in London that is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. I read that it was Benedictine monks who first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day. Even today there are still monks around walking through the Abbey and holding daily services.
The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is also the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. The Abbey survived for two centuries until the middle of the 13th century when King Henry III decided to rebuild it in the Gothic architecture style. Under the decree of the King of England, Westminster Abbey was designed to be not only a great monastery and place of worship, but also a place for the coronation and burial of monarchs. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII who were never crowned. It has even been the setting for sixteen royal weddings. It must be a weird feeling knowing that you start and end your reign over a Kingdom in the same building.
The Abbey is filled with past Kings, Queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains all buried or entombed in one place. I read somewhere that this Abbey is the Biggest “tomb” in London.
I joined the crowd waiting to enter the 700 year old Abbey last April and wished that I had a whole day to spend inside, there was so much to see and learn.
Once inside we got ourselves audio guides that I think is a must otherwise we would have missed out on so much detail and would have had to read up on all the different statues and monuments that fill this amazing church.
Walking through the Abbey felt like I was walking through a treasure house of paintings, stained glass, mosaic and tombs. Around the main shrine of the Abbey are buried a cluster of medieval kings and their consorts including Henry III, Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. The Abbey contains over 600 monuments and wall tablets and over three thousand people are buried here.
Unfortunately photography is not permitted within the Abbey Church, only in the cloisters.
In the floor, just inside the great west door, in the centre of the nave, is the tomb of The Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in the abbey on 11 November 1920. There are many graves on the floors of the abbey, but this is the only grave upon which it is forbidden to step. It felt weird knowing that while you are walking through this beautiful building you are actually walking on top of graves and the remains of famous people. Gives new meaning to the saying “someone just walked across my grave” when you get cold shivers.