One of the most recognisable churches in the world, Westminster Abbey has been the site of crowning, celebrations and memorials for more than nine centuries.
While some may bypass the Heritage listed Westminster Abbey on their holidays in London, waving it off as just another church, they are missing out on one of the city’s most impressive cultural icons. Formally known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter, Westminster Abbey is what is known as a Royal Peculiar – a place of worship under the authority of the British monarch rather than of a bishop. Westminster has been the site of royal coronations since the early 11th century, from King Harold to our present day Queen Elizabeth II. Keep an eye of for King Edward’s Chair, the official coronation throne which has seen a lot of wear over the years. More recently, Westminster Abbey was seen by millions when Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011.
There is a darker but nevertheless intriguing side to Westminster Abbey. The abbey has long been a burial site for monarchs and aristocrats, with nearly all royals buried there until the 1700s. The practice widened to include figures of note, including noted physicist Isaac Newton and the father of evolution, Charles Darwin.
The Poets’ Corner, the south transept of Westminster Abbey, is a monument and mausoleum to a number of playwrights, poets and writers who contributed significantly to British culture over the centuries. Starting with Chaucer in 1556, great talents have been commemorated with stone slabs, statues and stained glass inscriptions. Lovers of literature can visit the graves of authors Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the memorials of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare.