Ask anybody to name the most famous buildings in London, and Westminster Abbey will almost certainly be on the list. However, only a few people will confidently be able to tell you much about it.
Some people mistake the Abbey for being the Palace of Westminster, while others don’t realise that Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are completely different buildings.
To clear any confusion, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about Westminster Abbey.
- How old is Westminster Abbey?
The first records of the Abbey date to the 960s or 970s, when King Edgar and Saint Dunstan moved a community of monks to the site. Construction on the church you can see today started in 1245 when King Henry III selected it as his burial site.
- Who designed Westminster Abbey?
Since 1245, many architects and sculptors have played a role in the design and construction of Westminster Abbey. Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano was commissioned to design the Lady Chapel in 1245. A century later, masons John of Gloucester, Henry of Reyns and Robert of Beverley were hired to bring the church to life. In 1722, Nicholas Hawksmoor designed the two Western Towers, giving it the Gothic façade that’s so recognisable today, before it was restored and renovated in the 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
- Are Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral the same?
Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are two separate buildings. Westminster Abbey is an Anglican Church, whereas Westminster Cathedral is a Roman Catholic one. The two buildings are separated by 400m not to mention almost 1,000 years of history, with Westminster Cathedral consecrated in 1910.
- Who is buried in Westminster Abbey?
For centuries, Westminster Abbey has been the burial site of notable figures from English and later British history, including 17 former monarchs and notable figures from the fields of science and literature. In total, around 3,300 people are buried or commemorated in Westminster Abbey, including Isaac Newton, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer.
- What to see in Westminster Abbey?
Some of the most popular things to see in Westminster Abbey include Poet's Corner, the Coronation Chair, the Lady Chapel, Royal Tombs and the Chapter House.
- Why was Westminster Abbey built?
Westminster Abbey was rebuilt by Henry III in 1245 as a shrine to venerate King Edward the Confessor and was selected as the site of his own burial. It also became the coronation site of Norman kings, and since 1066 all except two monarchs have been crowned in the Abbey.
Make the most of your London trip by visiting Westminster Abbey. An impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also England’s pre-eminent church and the site of every royal coronation since that of William the Conqueror in 1066. Plus, you can see the tombs of former monarchs and important figures from Britain’s history.