Westminster Abbey is one of the most popular landmarks in London. Over 1 million visitors explore this magnificent church with more than 1000 years of heritage each year, either independently or with a qualified Blue Badge Tourist Guide.
Here are 10 interesting facts about this iconic building:
1.The Sovereign owns it, not the Church of England – the Royal Peculiar
Despite its name, Westminster Abbey is not an abbey. Because it belongs to the Sovereign and not to the Church of England, it falls into the category of ‘Royal Peculiar’. Its official name is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter. Westminster Abbey was originally used by Benedictine monks as a monastery, hence its name. To this day, this nickname persists.
2. Oldest door in the world
Anglo Saxon doors dating back to 1050 are the only ones surviving in Westminster Abbey. Based on tree-ring dating, the door was built from a single tree in Hainault. It is estimated that the tree grew between 924 and 1030. It was also discovered that the hide covering the door might be human skin. Legend says that the skin that was nailed to the door was used to prevent criminals from breaking in.
3. It’s been the site of many royal weddings
In addition to coronations, Westminster Abbey hosts royal weddings. Royal weddings have been 17 so far, the most recent being Prince William and Catherine Middleton. In 1947, Queen Elizabeth II (Princess Elizabeth at the time) got married to Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.
4. The stolen Stone of Destiny
Westminster Abbey got the Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, in 1296. Edward I had the stone taken from Scotland and kept under the coronation chair for hundreds of years. Four Glasgow students broke into the Abbey and stole the Stone of Destiny on Christmas Eve 1950. In 1966, the stone was found buried in a field in Kent and returned to Scotland.
5. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
There’s no doubt that Westminster Abbey is one of the most important and oldest buildings in the country. It’s been used for coronations, royal weddings, and as a final resting place for British monarchs and other famous people for centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 recognized the church’s significance to Britain’s history.
6. Over 3500 people are buried here
Originally, the abbey was going to be the resting place for all the kings. In its later years, anyone who could afford to be buried there was given a spot. It’s home to many famous tombs, like Sir Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Stephen Hawking, George Frederick Handel, Charles Dickens, and many more.
7. It’s the end of the world according to Cosmati Pavement
Throughout the Abbey, there is a Cosmati pavement on the sanctuary floor. Pavements made of porphyry and mosaics predict when the world will end – in 19,683 years. The brass lettering also tells us the pavement was created in 1268, where it came from – Rome, and who was the ruler at that time – Henry III.
8. Many royal weddings took place here
It is also known for hosting royal weddings in addition to being the official church for coronations. As of now, there have been 17 royal weddings, the most recent being that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. In 1947, even Queen Elizabeth II (Princess Elizabeth at the time) married Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.
Whether you are a history buff or just looking for an interesting place to visit, Westminster Abbey is a must-see destination in London. With its rich history and stunning architecture, this iconic building is sure to leave a lasting impression.