Westminster AbbeyCategory: Culture
History. Architecture. The Chapel of Henry VII. Tombs and Memorials. Poets’ Corner. Memorials of Warriors
It is safe to say that the three most famous buildings in England are Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Westminster Abbey is a fine Gothic building, which stands opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is the work of many hands and different ages. The oldest part of the building dates from the eighth century. It was a monastery — the West Minster. In the 11th century Edward the Confessor after years spent in France founded a great Norman Abbey. In 200 years Henry III decided to pull down the Norman Abbey and build a more beautiful one after the style then prevailing in France. Since then the Abbey remains the most French of all English Gothic churches, higher than any other English church (103 feet) and much narrower. The towers were built in 1735-1740. One of the greater glories of the Abbey is the Chapel of Henry VII, with its delicate fan- vaulting.
The Chapel is of stone and glass, so wonderfully cut and sculptured that it seems unreal. It contains an interesting collection of swords and standards of the “Knights of the Bath”. The Abbey is famous for its stained glass.
Since the far-off time of William the Conqueror Westminster Abbey has been the crowning place of the kings and queens of England. The Abbey is sometimes compared with a mausoleum, because there are tombs and memorials of almost all English monarchs, many statesmen, famous scientists, writers and musicians.
If you go past the magnificent tombstones of kings and queens, some made of gold and precious stones, past the gold-and-silver banners of the Order of the Garter, which are hanging from the ceiling, you will come to the Poets’ Corner. There many of the greatest writers are buried: Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling. Here too, though these writers are not buried in Westminster Abbey, are memorials to William Shakespeare and John Milton, Burns and Byron, Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray and the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Here in the Abbey there is also the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, a symbol of nation’s grief. The inscription on the tomb reads: “Beneath this stone rests the body of a British Warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land…”
In the Royal Air Force Chapel there is a monument to those who died during the Battle of Britain, the most famous and decisive air battle over the territory of Britain in the Second World War.