Happy Tourist: Why Visit Westminster Abbey?

We at Happy Tourist realise just how lucky we are to have our base surrounded by such amazing iconic and historical buildings in London. For anyone wishing to visit the city that has an interest in history, then we highly recommend a visit to Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey has actually been in existence for more than a thousand years of British history. The church is well known for its outstanding architectural design and beauty, and with its deep historical connections with parliament and UK government, it has a history that is unrivalled by any other church in the world.

More than a dozen royal weddings have taken place at the Abbey over many centuries. In April 2011, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was held there.

The history of Westminster Abbey

History buffs visiting Westminster Abbey will be thoroughly delighted at the rich background of the Abbey that has a very interesting back story. Originally a monastery founded in Catholic Christendom, it later managed to repurpose itself as a very powerful symbol of Protestant faith.

The Abbey was thought to have been founded by a group of monks as early as AD 604, but the Abbey was not of any great significance until its re-founding by Bishop Dunstan of London and King Edgar, in 959.  With long historic ties to the monarchy, the Abbey is known as the place where every new monarch has been crowned since 1066, with only two exceptions.

William the Conqueror was crowned here on Christmas Day in 1066 and the tradition of crowning of our monarchs in the abbey was established, a practice which continues to the modern-day.

A quirky fact to know about the Abbey is that it only briefly had a bishop during the 1540s. Before this, the Abbey was presided over by an abbot. However, on its re-founding by Elizabeth I in 1560, the Abbey was proclaimed to be a royal peculiar, since then it has remained outside the jurisdiction of the Church of England, and so not subject to their rules and regulations.

The tomb of the Unknown Warrior

When you visit Westminster Abbey, you will be able to marvel at the many royal tombs that can be found here, but the one big draw that brings tourists flocking to the Abbey is the grave of an ordinary man – the Unknown Warrior.

The tomb has become very significant in the consciousness of the people and has come to represent the millions who lose their lives in wars and conflicts the world over.

The burial place for monarchs

Westminster Abbey has become the established burial place for monarchs, their consorts and sometimes their children too, since the time of Henry III. Over 3,000 famous people have been buried in Westminster Abbey over the centuries, not all of them royalty.

You can see the tombs of Charles Dickens, David Livingstone and Charles Darwin, as well as several well known British poets.

Some of the more notable monarchs to be found here are Queen Elizabeth (1603); Mary, Queen of Scots (reburial in 1612); James I (1603) and James VI (1625). George II was the last monarch to be buried in the abbey, in 1760.

The Abbey today

Westminster Abbey remains a very royal setting for ceremonials, but also very popular for tourists to visit.

The large Gothic style church has a mix of early French and English style architecture and has been added to and expanded over its long history. A visit here hold many treasures and because it sits just across the street from the Houses of Parliament and close to Buckingham Palace, it is a place that should be on your ‘to-do’ list when visiting London.

You can seek out a bit of peace in Westminster Abbey’s College Garden – one of the oldest established gardens in England. The original garden was put to use to grow food and medicinal herbs for the monks that used to live there. Do not hesitate to contact our friendly team at Happy Tourist to help arrange your itinerary for your next visit to London.