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.
Although I didn’t have the chance to go inside Truro Cathedral, I was quite impressed by looking at it from the outside and reading about its history. It’s undeniably beautiful and adds a very nice feel to the already charming little (and only) city of Cornwall, Truro.
Having our cups of coffees and throwing some guesses about the age of this cathedral and then finding the truth surprised me and my friends. Although the building looks ancient, it was actually built in 1887. The pub that we were having our coffees was at least 300 years older than this cathedral. But does this mean that it’s not significant? Of course not. Actually this is one of the few cathedrals in Cornwall and one of three cathedrals in the UK with three spires. It was also the first to be built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral (1220). Built in Gothic revival style, this cathedral is now under heavy restoration and is trying to raise money for the big renewal of the main spire.
If you have time to spend in Truro I feel like this is a must, but it’s probably not significant enough to go out of your way especially for this cathedral.