Westminster Abbey is the name of the current St. Peter’s Church in the historic center of London.The full name of the largest cathedral in the city is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster. The unrivaled beauty of the religious complex is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Main Church of Great Britain
A popular landmark in the kingdom is an example of early Gothic architecture, a symbol of the British nation. Coronations, weddings and royal funerals take place here.
The temple that contains the history of the country
The peculiarity of the building is that it is closely connected with the life of the English royal families: 38 monarchs were crowned here. In and around the building there are 3,300 burials and hundreds of busts of scientists, politicians and economic figures.
Westminster Abbey has become a pantheon where a nation honors the memory of its heroes and greats :
- Robert Burns is a Scottish poet, folklorist, whose famous quote says: “A king can make his subject a cavalier, marquis, duke and prince, but even a king cannot make him an honest man.”
- Martin Luther King Jr. is an American Baptist preacher and leader of the Black Civil Rights movement in the United States.
- Charles Darwin is a British naturalist, author of the theory of evolution and the founder of the doctrine of “Darwinism”.
- Edmund Spencer – English aristocrat, politician and military man, father of Diana, Princess of Wales.
- Henry Irving is an English theater actor, performer of tragic roles.
- Rudyard Kipling is an English writer, the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize.
- Walter Scott is a Scottish poet and novelist, historian and lawyer, founder of the historical novel.
- Jane Austen is an English writer and satirist.
- Oscar Wilde is an Irish writer and poet who is considered the wittiest Briton.
- William Shakespeare – British poet and playwright, actor, national pride of England.
- Isaac Newton is a mathematician and physicist, astronomer and mechanic who formulated the law of universal gravitation.
- John Moses Browning is a firearms designer.
- Israel Emiot is a Jewish poet and prose writer who wrote poetry in Hebrew.
Interesting! All the rulers of England and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the elder sister of the wife of Nicholas II, found peace here.
The creation of St. Peter’s Basilica
The Church of St. Peter was born for a long time and not easy. With long breaks, the building was built for 500 years (1242 – 1745). In ancient times, on the left bank of the Thames, where the Cathedral of St. Peter stands, there was a pagan temple.
In the 7th century, a building called Westminster – that is, the “Western Church”, arose here. The wooden structure sometimes disappeared in turbulent times, then it was restored again.
At the beginning of the 11th century, after another destruction, King Edward the Confessor erects a stone structure in the form of a cross. The kings liked the temple, and they “took patronage over it.” The abbey received generous donations and privileges.
In 1065, the monastery became the site of the coronation of the English rulers. The first person to be crowned here was Harold II.
Henry III initiated a major restructuring of the cathedral. The king ordered the construction of a building in the Gothic style, worthy of monarchs, which will become the site of worship, coronations and burials of monarchs. This is how the modern London Cathedral was founded in 1245.
Interesting! The church spent most of its life in a state of reconstruction, the complex was changed, and in 1512, with the creation of the tomb of Henry VII, the work of the architects ended.
The area of the church is 7000 square meters, the capacity is 2000 people.
The building is designed in the shape of a cross, to which side galleries and chapels are attached. The exterior is complemented by two 68-meter high towers. Between them are four statues symbolizing Right, Truth, Peace and Mercy. Above – 10 niches with figures of Christian martyrs of the 20th century.
In the architecture of the Church of St. Peter there are no solemn and richly decorated portals; there are no sculptures on the facade of the building. The façade is decorated with pointed arches and exquisite stone carvings that form a lace net with large rectangular cells on the surface of the wall.
On the end walls of the north and south naves, there are large round rose windows decorated with beautiful stone binding. The main entrance is on the north side.
From the south, the building is adjoined by ancient monastic buildings and grouped around a square courtyard surrounded by open arched galleries.
The galleries, built of light stone, with protruding dark edges of pointed vaults, are very picturesque. The graceful stone bindings of the arched spans, as if silvered with frost, are so airy and light.
The interior of the cathedral is stunning. Inside there is space and light pouring from all sides through huge windows. Overhead is a magnificent tent, which is formed at a great height by the ribs of the vaults.
In the eastern part of the gallery is the entrance to the Chapter Hall, which is arranged in the form of a polyhedron. This was the name of the premises where the monks gathered. Huge, all-wall lancet windows, framed by thin marble columns, are filled with bright stained-glass windows.
The 800-year-old mosaic floor is tiled. Since 1282, the House of Commons has sat here. In the dungeon – the royal treasury.
The eastern part is occupied by gravestones and sarcophagi. Here is the monumental tomb of King Edward the Confessor . The basement of the grave is decorated with smalt mosaics; in the upper part, decorated with gold, there is a sarcophagus with a two-tiered arcade with pilasters.
Further – the tombstones of the English kings and queens, the English nobility. On the monumental sarcophagi lie gilded figures made in bronze, which perpetuate the dead.
High stone canopies rise above the sarcophagi. Pointed arches, turrets and niches with sculptures placed in them – everything is richly decorated with carvings in the form of floral ornament.
Henry VII Chapel
The peculiarity of the chapel, created in the 16th century, is the giant windows with a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines and openwork vaults with a height of 20 meters. A forest of stone leaves and flowers is covered with turrets above the pillars, carved persistent arches transform the surface into a solid stone lace. Along the perimeter of the building there are sculptures and paintings .
The openwork bindings of the windows are so light that the line between the windows and the wall is erased. The main advantage of the chapel is its fan vaults with pendants: it seems that huge stone stalactites are hanging in the air, contrary to the laws of physics.
Stone patterns twist along the walls. On the sarcophagi of King Henry and his wife there is an image of a crown lying in the grass. The crown belonged to Richard III, the battle with which Henry won. He picked up the thrown crown and was crowned right there, on the bloody battlefield.
Central nave and altar
The central nave of Westminster Abbey is the highest in England, 31 meters. In the western window there are stained-glass windows depicting Isaac, Abraham, Jacob and 14 prophets. The nave is decorated with crystal chandeliers.
Interesting! In 1990, a memorial stone was laid here, dedicated to the innocent victims of repression, violence and war.
The altar, built in 1867, is made of marble, terracotta and bronze. The main decoration of the altar is a mosaic on the theme of the Last Supper. The altar floor is made up of 30,000 tiles of limestone, onyx, glass and porphyry.
On the territory of the abbey, the coronation ceremonies of monarchs ascending to the English throne took place.
On the day of the coronation celebrations, Westminster Abbey is transformed. Along the length of the cathedral, covering the statues, there are rows of elegant boxes. The coronation procedure takes place in front of the altar.
An ancient wooden throne with gilding and painting, made in the XIV century, is placed on the dais. At the bottom of the coronation chair is a Skoon stone – an incredibly valuable thing for Britain.
An outwardly inconspicuous reddish piece of sandstone was brought to London in 1296 by King Edward as a trophy after the conquest of Scotland. The trophy, a symbol of victory, which served as the headboard of the Patriarch Jacob, was called the Stone of Destiny by the British. The last time in 1953 was Queen Elizabeth II.
Not far from the abbey there is a garden laid out 900 years ago. Grasses grew here. Vegetables and fruits. Long-lived trees and plane trees have been growing here since 1849.
In the garden there are statues of saints, the Crucifixion and a fountain. The Westminster Abbey Tower Clock is the oldest tower clock in the world.