Westminster Abbey Facts

Westminster Abbey Facts | Interesting Facts About Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the most important Gothic Catholic buildings in the whole of England. Since 1066, it has been the official coronation church and the final resting place of many significant individuals and monarchs in Britain’s history. Aside from being a place of worship, the abbey has become a treasure chest of artifacts, attracting thousands of visitors every single day. 

Westminster Abbey Overview

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Westminster Abbey Facts

westminster abbey

It belongs to the Sovereign, not the Church of England - Royal Peculiar

Although it is named Westminster Abbey, the church isn’t officially an abbey. It falls into the category of ‘Royal Peculiar’ because instead of belonging to the Church of England, it belongs to the Sovereign. Its official name is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter. However, in its early days, it was used by Benedictine monks as a monastery, hence the name Westminster Abbey. This nickname has stuck around to this day.

royal tombs westminster abbey
coronation chair westminster abbey
nave westminster abbey

Many royal weddings took place here

Other than being the official church for coronations, Westminster Abbey is also known to host royal weddings. So far there have been 17 royal weddings, the most recent of which was that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Even the current Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II (Princess Elizabeth at the time) was married to Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey in 1947.

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westminster abbey interiors

Cosmati Pavement predicts the end of the world

The sanctuary floor inside the Abbey is decorated with a Cosmati pavement. Made with thousands of cut pieces of porphyry and mosaic, the pavement is believed to have calculated when the world will end - in 19,683 years. You can also notice the brass lettering on the pavement, giving us the date the pavement was created - 1268, where it came from - Rome, and who the ruler was at that time - Henry III.

coronation chair showing stone of scone westminster

The stolen Stone of Destiny

In 1296, the Stone of Destiny or the Stone of Scone, as it is known in Scotland, was brought to Westminster Abbey. Edward I had the stone removed from Scotland to be kept under the coronation chair for hundreds of years to come. On Christmas Eve in 1950, four students from Glasgow broke into the Abbey and stole the Stone of Destiny. Eventually, the stone was found buried in a field in Kent after which it was returned to Scotland in 1966.

westminster abbey night

It is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Westminster Abbey is one of the most significant and oldest buildings in the country. For centuries, it has been used for many important purposes including coronations, royal weddings, and as a final resting place of British Monarchs and other renowned individuals. The church’s significance to the history of Britain was formally identified when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Westminster Abbey Facts

Q. When was Westminster Abbey built?

A. The construction of the current building of Westminster Abbey began in 1245 and was halted after the death of King Henry III. The nave remained incomplete until it was constructed in the 14th century.

Q. How big is Westminster Abbey?

A. Westminster Abbey is spread across 32,000 sq. ft.

Q. Are there any bells at Westminster Abbey?

A. Yes, there are 10 bells at Westminster Abbey that ring whenever the abbey is conducting services.

Q. Why is Westminster Abbey called the Royal Peculiar?

A. Westminster Abbey is a working church. However, it belongs to the Sovereign instead of the Church of England. Which means that it functions independently of the Church of England, giving it the name Royal Peculiar.

Q. How many people are buried at Westminster Abbey?

A. Westminster Abbey is the final resting place for more than 3300 people, including 17 British Monarchs, some famous scientists, poets, artists, authors, politicians, and many more.