The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster or as its commonly called Westminster Abbey is one of the most well known churches in the Western world. A gorgeous example of Gothic architecture, it is been a sought after location for coronations and burials of many British monarchs over the centuries. Situated next to the Houses of Parliament in the heart of London, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
In the middle of the 10th century, Benedictian monks came to this site, creating a practise of worship that continues to date. It was said, a vision of St. Peter was seen on the River Thames near the location. A stone abbey was initially built by Edward the Confessor in 1045 as part of his palace and it was also the site of last coronation prior to the Norman conquest of England. In the late 13th century, King Henry II started constructing the present church on its present site for his burial. It was eventually completed by the architect Henry Yevele in the reign of King Richard II. Large parts of the church were later added by subsequent kings and various architects, and it was finally completed in 1745.
Westminster Abbey has also been the site of many coronations of the British Royal Family. The first coronations were of King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066. King Edward’s Chair, the throne were many an English sovereign has been crowned is also housed in the Abbey along with the Stone of Scone upon which the Scottish Kings have been crowned.
The Abbey has a long standing tradition as a setting for many Royal weddings; the first wedding being of King Henry I of England to Sanchia of Provence in 1100 to most recently, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge to his bride Catherine Middleton.
Relics of many of the Royal Family are also housed in the Abbey. King Henry III reconstructed the Abbey in honour of Edward the Confessor and placed his relics in a shrine in the sanctuary. However, the more famous monarchs such as Henry VIII and Queen Victoria are buried elsewhere.
The British Royal Family were not only the famous people buried in the Abbey. Poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer was buried here, along with William Blake, Robert Burns, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen among others and the subsequent area was dubbed the “Poet’s Corner”.
Other highlights of Westminster Abbey include the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, an anonymous British soldier who was killed in World War I. He is the only grave where visitors are forbidden to step on.
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