I missed Westminster Abbey on my first trip to London, so seeing was a high priority this time. My sister-in-law Renee and I were the only able to actually tour the historic church.We passed the Jewel Tower on our walk to the abbey, but we didn’t have time to go in. This tower is a remnant of the old Palace of Westminster, most of which was destroyed by fire in the 19th century. Originally built to house the personal treasure of Edward III, it later became the archive for the records of the House of Lords.
I’m using images from bigstockphoto.com today, because the building was surrounded by scaffording during out visit. According to their website, they are building a new museum and gallery in the Medieval triforium, which is found seventy feet above main floor. When completed, visitors will have panoramic views of Westminster and into the interior of the church. This is what it looks like without the scaffolding.
We had to wait at least twenty minutes in line to get in, but the wait was so worth it. The price of admission includes an audio guide that explains the many points of interest inside. The abbey is fascinating, with lots of side chapels of interest. The building is over a thousand years old and has been the coronation church of the British monarchy since William the Conqueror in 1066. The abbey started life as a Benedictine monastery, but was rebuilt in the Gothic style between the 13th and 16th centuries. (It takes a very long time to build a Gothic cathedral.)
Many famous people are buried inside. Poet’s corner was fascinating with its collection of burial spots and plaques commemorating Britain’s great writers and poets. One of the most interesting side chapels is where Elizabeth I is buried along with the remains of two of her greatest rivals, who also happened to be relatives. I refer to her half-sister Mary Tudor, aka Bloody Mary, and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth had beheaded. I find it fascinated that the three are still linked in death as they were in life. More amicably, one would hope.
The tour ends at the cloisters where there is a small museum before you get to the obligatory gift shop. This is my photo of the cloisters. It was quieter here and less crowded. I expect this was part of the old monastery, since the cloister is a feature of the monastic life.
As much as I enjoyed touring the Abbey, I still think St. Paul’s is my favorite London church.
Oh, yes, I had the =most= moving experience attending a worship service at Saint Paul’s one day, many years ago! Oddly, it was one of those life-imitates-art moments: afterward I realized my feelings were very similar to those I had ascribed to the heroine in DAWNFLIGHT–which of course made it all the more special for me. 🙂
For your next trip to London, however, I do recommend that you attend Sunday morning worship at the chapel inside the Tower of London. It is (as far as I know, still) open to the public and is one of the best-kept secrets of the city because visitors get to enter free, and you have a few minutes to snap a few people-free pictures of the buildings before the Beefeaters hustle you out. This is the chapel where, for instance, Anne Boleyn prayed before she was executed, and it’s another place where you’re simply breathing in a millennium of history.
Kim, I had a moving experience in St. Paul’s, too, but it was in the American Chapel. Truly lovely.
Thanks for the suggestion re chapel at the Tower of London. Somehow we missed the chapel on this last trip. I’d like to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey, too. I hope to get back to London at some point in the future. It won’t be next year. That’s reserved for the Continent. 🙂
We weren’t able to see St. Paul’s, and I feel we really missed something. When you were at Westminster Abbey, did they warn you to watch out for pickpockets? Especially where people do gravestone rubbings? We all clutched our purses and wallets to our bosoms.
It was a little nerve wracking, but no one on our tour was accosted.
St. Paul’s is amazing. So beautiful. I hope you’ll have another chance to see it.
We heard some warnings about pickpockets, but I use a fanny pack so I don’t worry about it as much as if I carried a purse. And we didn’t go in the area where people do gravestone rubbings.