Westminster AbbeyA World Heritage Site that's seen 1,000 years of history
The (up to) 1,000-year-old Abbey has around 1.5 million visitors a year, even with a ticket you’ll queue to get in – and inside it can be so crowded that you’ll struggle to get a sense of its stillness and serenity.
However, pay the extra £5 for Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries access and you’ll soar up to the roof (via a lift), for the best bird’s-eye view of he Abbey interior along the black and white diamond-tiled aisle from the altar to the main Western door, a prime camera angle view that you’ll recognise if you’ve ever watched a coronation (every one since 1066 has been here) or royal wedding (16 so far) on TV.
Up in the Triforium, or upper gallery, there’s a lot to take in. As well as the architecture itself, built by Henry III of Purbeck marble, and the diagonal wooden beams – duck! – added by Sir Christopher Wren in 1699 to support the new roof, is a quirky assortment of the Abbey’s treasures. Along with a Magna Carta, one of only 24 originals, there’s the framed marriage licence of Wills and Kate - fancier than most as it’s an illuminated manuscript and refers to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Douglas. There are several examples of funeral effigies, which were laid on top of the coffin for a public procession, including Edward III (1377), with dog-hair eyebrows, Admiral Nelson, and the favourite lady-in-waiting of Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort of Charles II (and her stuffed grey parrot, the world’s oldest).
Near the Galleries entrance is an archaeological viewing pit: five steps down into history and the original foundations of Henry III’s abbey church. Here, too, is Poets’ Corner, with memorial stones for all kinds of creators: Ted Hughes, Handel, Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Samuel Johnson, CS Lewis… If you’re seeking the Abbey’s spiritual side, on the hour a recorded announcement requests visitors be still and pray, because the Abbey is ‘primarily a place of worship’, and twice a day there’s a 10-minute service in the chapel of Edward the Confessor.
If you're looking for beauty, history and a sense of awe this is the place for you.
Credit: Uwe Aranas / Shutterstock.com
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