Westminster Abbey is steeped in history. Benedictine monks first came to this site in 960 and established a tradition of daily worship that continues to the present.
The Abbey has been Britain’s Coronation Church for her royalty since 1066. Monarchs from William the Conqueror through to the current Queen Elizabeth II have been crowned here. Royal Weddings have occurred here – such as that for Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Seventeen monarchs are buried here. Other notable funerals and burials have also take place here –
The present structure, begun by Henry III in 1245, is an important Gothic styled building, with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon saint still at its heart.
Did You Know?
A treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artifacts, Westminster Abbey is also the place where some of the most significant people in the nation’s history are buried or commemorated. Taken as a whole the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.
It is on this site and in the current building itself that major portions of the 1611 King James Bible were translated.
Westminster Abby, until the 19th century, was considered the third highest seat of learning in England, behind only Oxford and Cambridge.
The honor of being buried in the Abby has historically been limited to members of the Abby and Royalty. Edward the Confessor is the first member of the Royal Family to be interred here – it was he who fought and was defeated by William the Conquer at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
Most of Britain’s monarchs have been laid to rest here from Edward the Confessor all the way through to King George II. There are a few exceptions, such as Henry VIII and Charles I. After George II, Windsor became the primary burial site for the Royal Family.
The practice of burying national figures in the Abbey began with the internment of Admiral Robert Blake and Oliver Cromwell, circa 1657. It has spread to include military leaders, political figures, notable medical and scientific contributors as well as poets and authors. Frankly, the list reads like a Who’s Who for Britain’s history over the last 1,000 years:
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Here, the President of Malawi lays a wreath where David Livingstone (the famous Scottish missionary) is buried:
It is worth mentioning that Westminster Abbey contains a grave to “The Unknown Warrior”, the resting place of an unknown WWI soldier. It is the only grave where it is forbidden to step.
Westminster Abbey is but a short walk from the London Parliament and Big Ben. Buckingham Palace is a bit of a longer walk or a short “Black cab” ride away. The Imperial War Museum, St. James Park, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are all must-see places.