Westminster Abbey stretches across 32,000 sq.ft and is a vast monument. With all of its many elements, it can’t just be called a Royal Church. Also known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, this abbey is the most notable religious building in the entire United Kingdom.
After William the Conqueror was coronated at Westminster Abbey in 1066, all the Royal coronations have taken place here. The Westminster Abbey is the burial site for more than 3300 people of the past, boasting a rich and eventful history. Before you plan a visit, read further to find out more about what is inside Westminster Abbey.
Apart from being the final resting place for more than 3000 people, this grand church is also sometimes called "Britain's Valhalla", similar to the great, majestic hall located in Asgard in Norse Mythology.
The Cloisters were once the busiest parts of the abbey as this is where the monks spent most of their time. This is where they meditated, exercised and they also head to the other monastic buildings through here. The current cloisters in the building date from the 13th to 15th centuries as they had to be reconstructed after a fire in 1298. There is also a memorial fountain in the cloister garth that pays respects to Lancelot Capability Brown, an English landscape architect known as the last of the greats from the 18th century.
If the Cloisters were where the monks meditated, the Chapter House was where they gathered with the abbot to pray or ‘hold chapter’. The construction of the Chapter house was completed around 1255 as a part of Henry III’s rebuilding of the abbey. It is the largest one of its kind and is octagonal-shaped with tiered seating to hold up to 80 monks. It has a central pillar that fans out to form a vaulted ceiling.
Because of the death of Henry III, the reconstruction of the abbey stopped mid-way and the old nave made with Norman architecture remained attached to the new building. The reconstruction then began in 1376 and took almost 150 years to complete. The new design closely resembled the old design, but the decoration wasn’t as lavish as the eastern part of the abbey. It is situated at the western end of the abbey and also holds many graves and memorials, including Charles Darwin, Sir Winston Churchill, and Stephen Hawking.
Westminster Abbey is home to many memorials on the site. But there is also one dedicated site to Christian martyrs who gave up their lives because of their beliefs. This includes victims of Nazism, religious prejudice, and communism in the 20th century. Each statue is carved from limestone, all of which sit atop the West door, a place that had remained empty since the middle-ages. Unveiled in 1998, the statues include Dr Martin Luther King Jr, St Oscar Romero, Manche Masemola and many more.
One of the oldest surviving parts of Westminster Abbey, the Pyx Chamber is a low vaulted room that is a part of the Undercroft. It lies off the East Cloister underneath the monks’ dormitory. It gets its name from “Trial of Pyx”, a trial that melted down measured silver to show that the coinage was pure. It may have been used as a sacristy (storage for religious objects) during Henry III. Later on, a large medieval chest used to hold vestments, and other chests included important documents like foreign policies and treaties.
One of the most precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world, the Coronation Chair sits in St George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey. For coronations, the chair is placed facing the High Altar and has been in use since 1308. King Edward I gave the order to make a chair enclosing the famous Stone of Scone, a stone upon which many Scottish monarchs sat for hundreds of years. This chair has been used for 38 coronations for the reigning monarchs and also 14 queen consorts who had separate coronation ceremonies.
Located 16 meters above the abbey floor, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries allow you to experience amazing views of the Palace of Westminster and the Chapter House on your way up. It holds some of the most prized possessions of the abbey, including the Liber Regalis, a 14th century guide to coronations and funerals, Henry VII's effigy head, a life-like effigy that is the only thing surviving the King's funeral, the Royal Marriage License of Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, and much more.