Westminster Abbey

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Westminster Abbey,

originally the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery (closed in 1539) in London. One of England's most important Gothic structures, it is also a national shrine. The first church on the site is believed to date from early in the 7th cent. It was erected by Æthelbert, king of Kent. Edward the Confessor began c.1050 the building of a Norman church, consecrated in 1065. In 1245, Henry III began to demolish the edifice and to build a new eastern portion, thus initiating centuries of construction. The fine octagonal chapter house was built in 1250, and in the 14th cent. the cloisters, abbot's house, and principal monastic buildings were added. The nave was completed in the 16th cent. Early in the 16th cent. Henry VIII finished the Lady Chapel, dedicated to Henry VII. This chapel, in Perpendicular style, is noted for its superb fan vaulting. The two western towers were built (1722–40) by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. In the late 19th cent. Sir George Gilbert Scott supervised extensive restoration. From that time memorial statues by many academic Victorian sculptors have been added to the decor. The present church is cruciform in plan; both nave and transept have side aisles. The choir is apsidal in plan, and its ring of chapels exhibits the only complete chevet in England. French influence is also seen in the height of the nave, the loftiest in England, and in the strongly emphasized flying buttresses. Nearly every English king and queen since William I has been crowned in Westminster, and it is the burial place of 18 monarchs. England's most notable statesmen and distinguished subjects have been given burial in the Abbey since the 14th cent. In the Poets' Corner in the south transept rest the tombs of Chaucer, Browning, Tennyson, and other great English poets.


See descriptive and historical works by W. R. Lethaby (1906 and 1925), H. F. Westlake (1923), A. E. Henderson (1937), L. E. Tanner (1953), and E. Carpenter (1966); Council of Christians and Jews, The Corners of the Earth … Westminster Abbey in the 900th Anniversary Year (1966).

Westminster Abbey

abbey filled with tombs and memorials of famous British subjects. [Br. Hist.: EB, X: 632–633]
References in periodicals archive ?
The Walker Art Gallery is exhibiting the delicate preparatory sketches for Daniel Maclise's Death of Nelson, designed for Westminister Abbey.
As the Queen led commemorations at Westminister Abbey and a million poppies were dropped from the air on The Mall, the spirit of the blitz was alive.
Some began camping outside Westminister Abbey at the weekend.
Dr Lily and the director of the clinic Man Fong Mei, were invited to the funeral in Westminister Abbey where they sat 10 seats behind the Queen.
They will host a public screening of the royal nuptials at London's Westminister Abbey on April 29 followed by a buffet.
We in Westminister Abbey saw that, within the framework of national tribute, was the picture of a family's personal grief.
11.18 The procession will begin its route from the North door of Westminister Hall to the Great West door of Westminister Abbey.
Ray will also attend the funeral ceremony at Westminister Abbey on Tuesday.
Gordon would be happy moving in to the flat he has owned since 1992 in Great Smith Street near Westminister Abbey. But Sarah wants to enjoy the trappings of being the Chancellor's wife and will be more reluctant to part with the kudos of such an elegant home - even for the Prime Minister and his family.
Anyone hoping to organise a street celebration to mark the big day when Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot at London's Westminister Abbey on April 29 needs to register their interest with the council.
But yesterday he also managed to walk, with the aid of a crutch, into Westminister Abbey to be presented with his award by the Duchess of Kent.