Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
© PhotoDisc

One of the most interesting and historic religious buildings in England; and architecturally one of the masterpieces of the Middle Ages. Its origins go back to the founding of an Augustinian monastery by Saint Dunstan c.AD960, Edward the Confessor added a new Abbey church consecrated 1065, of which only two fragments remain, the Chamber of the Pyx, and the undercroft.

Rebuilding in the Gothic style began under Henry III in 1245, the Choir and east end being rededicated 1269. Its creators Henry of Rheims, John of Gloucester and Robert of Beverley moulded the ethereal simplicity of Early English architecture with French Gothic ideas - most easily seen in the radiating apse chapels. The nave (at 102ft England's highest Gothic vault) was completed in keeping with the original style during the late 13th and early 14th centuries partly under Henry Yevele, architect of Westminster Hall and Canterbury Cathedral nave. Major additions to the medieval work are: firstly the resplendent Henry VII Chapel 1503-19 - a high point in late perpendicular architecture with its carving and profuse decoration, (including banners of Knights of the Order of the Bath), culminating in an awe inspiring fan vault roof; secondly the twin West Towers - 18th century additions by Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil of Wren.

Until George III most of the Kings of England were buried within its precincts. Almost all have been crowned here; the only two exceptions being Edward V, who was murdered before he could be crowned, and the Duke of Windsor, Edward VI, who abdicated in 1936.

Many famous men are buried in the Abbey, there is the well-known Poets Corner, and the grave of the Unknown Warrior. The Abbey Museum in the outstanding Norman Undercroft shows the history of the building and a remarkable collection of Royal and Noble effigies and death masks.

Admission charge for sightseers.

See Also: Westminster (District)

Opening Hours:
Nave, Royal Chapels, Poet's Corner, Choir and Statesmen's' Aisle, Chapter House and Museum open Monday to Saturday
Cloisters open daily
Open on Sunday for services only

Telephone: 020 7222 5152

Address: 20 Dean's Yard, SW1P 3PA

Website: Westminster Abbey

Nearby Stations: Westminster Station

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