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

westminster abbey

Former Title: Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster

Location: Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom

Architects: Henry Yevele, Nicholas Hawksmoor, Sir George Gilbert Scott, 

Type of Church: Anglican Church

Opening Year: 1090

Area: 3000 m² or 32,000 sq.ft. 

Visitors per year: Over one million

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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

Resting place for more than 3500 people

Initially, the abbey was to serve as the resting place of all the Kings of England. However, in its later years, anyone who could afford to be buried in the abbey was given a spot there. Today, it contains the tombs of many renowned figures including Sir Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Stephen Hawking, George Frederic Handel, Charles Dickens, and many more. 

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coronation chair westminster abbey

A place for coronation since 1066

The Abbey has been the official coronation church for British Monarchs since the year 1066. In total, 39 coronations have taken place in the abbey, the most recent being in 1953 of the current monarch, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Even the chair from 1308 that was used for the coronations still sits inside the 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.

westminster abbey

Oldest door in the world

Westminster Abbey has the only surviving Anglo Saxon door in the whole country, dating back to the year 1050. A tree-ring dating analysis showed that the door was built from a single tree in Hainault. The tree is believed to have grown between 924 and 1030. Another discovery revealed that the hiding covering the door could possibly be human skin. According to a legend, the skin nailed to the door was used as a warning to stop people from committing crimes.

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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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