A UNESCO Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey is a beautiful medieval Gothic church in London. It is home to a wide range of tombs, statues, and memorials. The Abbey has been the site for several popular Royal events as well. With a rich history and stunning architecture, Westminster Abbey is one of the top attractions to visit in London.
In 1245, King Henry III started construction for a new church in a new Gothic style dedicated to St Edward the Confessor. The three masons supervising the construction of the church were Robert of Beverly, John of Gloucester, and Henry of Reyns. Henry, the architect, took inspiration from new cathedrals Amiens, Reims, and Chartres, to add apse with radiating chapels. He used Gothic features such as ribbed vaults, pointed arches, rose windows, etc. You will also find a few English features in the building such as a single aisle and a long nave with projecting transepts.
Westminster Abbey has the highest Gothic vault in England that seemed higher because of the narrow aisles. The design of the Abbey was taken from the continental system of geometrical proportion. Furthermore, a spacious area was provided between the starting of the quire and the high altar which was the ‘theatre’ for the coronation ceremony. The windows were filled with stunning ruby and sapphire glasses along with a pattern of heraldic shields.
One of the most important pieces of furniture in the world, the Coronation Chair is kept in the St. George’s Chapel of Westminster Abbey. It has been used in the coronation ceremonies for over 700 years by placing it in front of the High Altar, at the center of the Abbey. It was built in 1296 under King Edward I.
The Henry VII Lady Chapel was built by King Henry VII on the eastern side of Westminster Abbey. The chapel is home to the tombs of King Henry VII, his wife, and James. Built in the late perpendicular Gothic style, this chapel has a pendant vault fan ceiling and has been called ‘the wonder of the world’ by John Leland. Since 1725, it is the mother church of the Order of the Bath.
There are over 30 Kings and Queens buried in the Royal Tombs of Westminster Abbey. The first was Edward the Confessor whose shrine is just behind the High Altar. The church was built by Henry III whose effigy is kept near the shrine.
Poet’s Corner in the east aisle of Westminster Abbey is a pilgrimage site for literary enthusiasts. There are over 100 poets and writers buried here or have their memorials. A few of them are world-famous such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, and more.
With your Westminster Abbey tickets, you can tour around the Pyx Chamber which is one of the oldest parts of the Abbey. Built in 1070, it is a low vaulted room in Undercroft. There are two heavy oak doors from the 14th century and the medieval tiled floor from the 11th century. You will find a large curved medieval chest that stored vestments while other chests had treaties and foreign documents.
Attend one of the daily services at to listen to the Westminster Abbey Choir sing from their quire stalls. This is an old tradition that dates back to the chanting of plain songs by the monks in the 10th century. In the 18th century, the original quire stalls were replaced. This happened again in 1848 and the present quire stalls were installed then.
You can stroll around the 900-years old College Garden at Westminster Abbey too. The garden is beautifully laid out and was used to cultivate food in the early days. Currently, you will find a stone wall built in 1376, the 18th Century Westminster school dormitory, a rose garden, and a water fountain. There are two smaller gardens - Little Cloister Garden with a Victorian fountain and scented border plants, and Garth which is bordered by cloisters.
The space above the West Door had been empty since the Middle Ages. Later on, the space was filled with limestone sculptures of the Modern Martyrs and unveiled in a service attended by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998. The martyrs have been included from different continents and include victims of racism, Nazism, and religious prejudice. From Dr. Martin Luther King to Wang Zhiming, you will find statues of many leaders and activists here.
A. The construction of the Westminster Abbey building you see today was commissioned by King Henry III in 1245.
A. Westminster Abbey is located at 20 Deans Yard, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom. Find on Maps
A. After a fisherman claimed that he had a vision of a church dedicated to St Peter on the spot, a few monks gathered here to build a Benedictine Monastery in 960 AD. Later, King Edward decided to rebuild the monastery into Westminster Abbey in 1065.
A. Westminster Abbey is a treasure trove of interesting stories from British history. You can find the tombs of many English monarchs along with many other burials. You can explore the magnificent architecture of the abbey and also explore the beautiful gardens that has been under maintenance for 900 years. You can also attend a service if you wish.
A. Westminster Abbey is spread across 32,000 sq.ft. or 3000 sq. meters.