Church of the Week: Westminster Abbey

This week's church is Westminster Abbey (whose formal name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster). It is a Gothic monastery church that is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English monarchs. However, it is neither a cathedral nor a parish church, but is actually OWNED by the royal family.

According to tradition, a shrine was first founded here in 616 on a site then known as Thorney Island. It was said to have been miraculously consecrated after a fisherman on the River Thames saw a vision of Saint Peter. While the existence of this shrine is uncertain, the historic Abbey was built by Edward the Confessor between 1045 and 1050 and was consecrated on December 28, 1065. Its construction originated in Edward's failure to keep a vow to go on a pilgrimage; the Pope suggested that he redeem himself by building an abbey.

The original abbey, in the Romanesque style that is called "Norman" in England, was built to house Benedictine monks. It was rebuilt in the Gothic style between 1245-1517. The first phase of the rebuilding was organized by Henry III, in Gothic style, as a shrine to honor Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for Henry's own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave in England. The work was largely finished by the architect Henry Yevele in the reign of King Richard II.

The lovely Robin and I visited the church during our 1995 trip to England with Aubrey and Aaron.

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