Abbey is world-famous as the setting for coronations and other
great pageants, and the resting place of Britain's monarchs.
The building is a Gothic masterpiece,
with a mix of architectural styles.
The first abbey church was established
as early as the 10th century, when St Dunstan brought a group
of Bendictine monks to this area. In 1050 Edward the
Confessor began a new church on the site, dedicated to St
Peter. Of the original abbey, only the Pyx Chamber,
which was once the royal treasury, and the Norman undercroft
The present building, begun in
1245, is mainly Early English. The nave, 35 feet wide,
is comparatively narrow, but it is the highest in England
at 102 feet. Massive flying buttresses help transfer
the great weight of the nave.
In 1376 Henry Yevele, master
of the English perpendicular style, began to rebuild the nave,
and the cloisters, linking the church to the other Abbey buildings,
were mainly constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The octagonal Chapter House,
built 1253, is noted for
its 13th century tiled floor and has vaulting supported on
a single pier. In 1269 the body of Edward the Confessor
was moved to a new shrine in St Edward's Chapel.
The Lady Chapel, built in 1503
-12, has a vaulted ceiling and choir stalls dating from 1512.
In 1540 the Abbey was dissolved
by Henry VIII but its role as the royal coronation church
meant that it was one of the few monastic buildings to escape
the destruction of the mid-16th century. The Abbey's
West Front Towers, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, completed
the building in 1745.
Since it was consecrated in 1065
the abbey has been bound with British royalty. With
two exceptions, every king and queen in England since William
the Conqueror (1066) has been crowned in Westminster Abbey.
The royal Coronation Chair, dating from 1296, is kept in St
Edward's Chapel. The last monarch to occupy the Coronation
Chair was Queen Elizabeth II, who was crowned here in 1953.
Many English monarchs were also
buried here. St Edward's Chapel has the tombs of a number
of England's medieval monarchs. Henry VII's Chapel houses
the huge tomb of Elizabeth I, and the body of her sister (Bloody)
Mary I lies beside her.
The Abbey also houses monuments
to many of Britain's most illustrious public figures.
'Poet's Corner', in the South Transept, contains memorials
to famous literary figures.
Three chapels on the east side
of in the North Transept house some of the Abbey's finest
monuments, including Roubiliac's monument to Lady Nightingale,
Westminster Abbey is a living
church, not a museum.
Worship is offered in the Abbey
every day of the year. Each hour visitors are invited
to pause for one minute to pray or meditate.