Westminster Abbey has been the most important cathedral for centuries in the UK, mainly because of its association to the royal family. Since 1066 all the coronations of the queens and kings have been held here (with the only exception being Henry III who couldn’t make it to London because of the French occupation in the city around that time). Another feature of this abbey is that, it was home to numerous royal weddings, including the recent marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
But what importance does this abbey hold other than being home to weddings and coronations? When I visited the abbey recently and had a chance to talk to the Dean of Westminster Abbey Sally Dawson, I had the opportunity to learn many interesting facts about this structure. Here’s a transcript of our chat that day:
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of this abbey, why is it so important to the royal family?
Scientific research shows us that the first abbey was first founded in the time of Mellitus, around 600s. It was called St. Peter’s abbey, inspired by a sighting of St. Peter near the church. However the present day Westminster Abbey was initialised by Henry III in 1245 on the ruins of St. Peter’s abbey. The importance of the abbey most definitely comes from the close proximity to Westminster Palace and numerous Norman kings demanding their bodies to be buried in this cathedral.
The abbey is constructed in Anglo-French Gothic architectural style and it was a shrine to Saint Edward the Concessor. A lot of features of this building are undeniably Gothic, the stained glasses the flying buttresses and the pointy spires. Many similarities to Notre-Dame de Paris can be drawn.
Finally, what sort of reconstructions and plans are ahead for this abbey?
Three years ago we announced the next 250 years reconstruction plans for the abbey, which is available online, a corona was intended to be built but after some exploratory work we can say that construction of this corona is suspended indefinitely.
Thank you very much Ms. Dawson for your time.
Admission is £15 for adults and £13 for concessions.