London’s Westminster Abbey Blew My Mind
I will admit that I didn’t have much prior knowledge about Westminster Abbey before setting foot into the building. I was familiar with the name and knew it was a pretty church. That’s about it, and I am ashamed that I didn’t know more before-hand. However, I don’t believe any amount of knowledge could have prepared me for the incredibly intricate architecture, the elaborate tombs and memorials, and the sheer history represented in this one building.
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First off, photography is not allowed inside the building, so you’ll have to take my word for this or search for images, but the entire building is overwhelmingly gorgeous. The architecture is mostly Gothic (think of Notre Dame), which means there are amazing details everywhere you look including intricate rose windows, flying buttresses, and ribbed vaulting in the ceiling.
My first bit of advice would be to remember to look up. The walls are so high and have elegant columns, sculpted details, and stained glass windows before you finally reach the beautiful ribbed arches in the ceiling. Honestly, it’s so overwhelming that it’ll take your breath away. Everywhere you look is absolutely full of grandiose art whether it’s sculpture, painting, architecture, or furniture.
Construction of the church as it stands today began in 1245, but the first church on this site was built over a thousand years ago. I’ve said it before, but Americans just don’t get to see that kind of history in our buildings. Our oldest church buildings include the Cathedral de San Juan Bautista in Puerto Rico, built in the mid 1500’s and the Jamestown Church, completed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1647. Those are quite historic, but can’t beat Westminster Abbey. Just think about it….America wasn’t even a country until 1776, five hundred years AFTER the construction of the current version of Westminster Abbey.
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The abbey is still a working church, and all are welcome to attend services (there are multiple on every day of the week). In fact, during our audio tour, we noticed everyone with head’s bowed and realized prayer was being said over a speaker. Joining in the prayer in this church was a touching experience, but we almost missed it because of our headphones.
Westminster was the site of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, and Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011. I also read on the Vanity Fair website that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have permission to wed there as well.
Don’t miss the coronation chair! At the end of our tour, just as we were about to leave the church, we were able to see the actual coronation chair. I would definitely call it more of a throne than a plain ol’ chair because it is pretty special. It is believed to have been made around 1297 and is still used for coronations today.
Besides having a chair from 1297, the abbey is also home to Britain’s oldest surviving door, made in about 1050. This wooden door definitely does not call attention to itself, so be sure to look out for it.
In Britain, it is a great honor to be buried or memorialized in Westminster Abbey, and who wouldn’t want to be remembered in a place this beautiful? From kings and queens to lords and ladies, writers and actors to musicians and scientists, the revered are buried or memorialized here. There are also those that were just rich enough to afford it.
King Henry III was buried at Westminster in 1272, Edward I in 1308, and Edward III in 1377. These are some of the earliest burials at Westminster Abbey, just to give you an idea of how far back these dates go. I was absolutely shocked, not only at seeing these early dates, but just knowing that I was actually looking over these numerous former kings and queens of England.
Queen Elizabeth I was buried here in 1603, with her coffin on TOP of her half-sister Mary’s. Other notable persons buried at Westminster Abbey include Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Sir Isaac Newton (you may have seen this tomb in The DaVinci Code), the Unknown Warrior, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and Laurence Olivier.
The church is also home to many memorials, an honor though the person is buried elsewhere, including Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Winston Churchill, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, C.S. Lewis, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and, above the Great West Door, statues commemorate 20th century martyrs including Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you get why this place blew me away? I was awe-struck in every direction I looked and completely overwhelmed with the history and “celebrity” of the people buried here. I had no expectations of spending a lot of time in this building or enjoying the tour, but I can honestly tell you that I was wonderfully mistaken, and this is one place that impressed me beyond belief.
Is Westminster Abbey on your must-see list? Have you visited any other historic buildings that were amazingly impressive? Have you visited Westminster Abbey? What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a message in the comments below!
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Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and three fur babies. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
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