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History | Westminster Abbey

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History

1,000 years of history

As well as being a place of worship, Westminster Abbey has become a treasure house of art, textiles and other artefacts. This is also where some of the most significant people in Britain's history are buried or commemorated.

Find out more about the Abbey’s history

In this section

Key parts of the Abbey

Lady Chapel

A glorious example of late medieval architecture built by Henry VII, which is the burial place of 15 kings and queens including Elizabeth I, Mary I and Mary Queen of Scots.

An architectural wonder

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Key parts of the Abbey

Poets' Corner

More than 100 poets and writers, including Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens and Philip Larkin, are buried or remembered here.

From Chaucer to Larkin

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Key parts of the Abbey

Royal tombs

There are 30 kings and queens buried in the Abbey, the first of whom was Edward the Confessor whose magnificent shrine stands at the centre of the church.

Royal tombs and chapels

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Key parts of the Abbey

The Quire

Since the 10th Century, music has been a key part of our tradition of worship. The quire is where the Abbey choir sings from at our daily choral services.

Inside the quire stalls

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Key parts of the Abbey

The Cloisters

A busy thoroughfare dating from medieval times, the cloisters were also a place where the Abbey's monks engaged in meditation, exercise and rituals.

A medieval workplace

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Key parts of the Abbey

Chapter House

Dating from the 13th Century, this is where the Abbey's monks 'held chapter'. It features an imposing central pillar fanning out to a vaulted ceiling and wall paintings showing scenes from the Bible.

The monks' meeting place

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Key parts of the Abbey

Abbey gardens

Behind the walls of the Abbey precincts are gardens which have been in cultivation for over 900 years. In monastic times, they were used to grow food and to provide a space for quiet meditation.

Westminster's hidden gardens

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Key parts of the Abbey

Pyx Chamber

One of the oldest surviving parts of Westminster Abbey, built around 1070. It still possesses many medieval features including tiles from the 11th century.

Down into the chamber

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Key parts of the Abbey

Modern Martyrs

Ten statues to 20th Century Christians who gave up their lives for their beliefs, including Dr Martin Luther King Jr and St Oscar Romero.

Heroes remembered

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Royalty and famous people

More than 3,300 people are buried and many others commemorated at Westminster Abbey. This has also been the setting for every coronation since 1066, and for many other royal occasions, including 16 weddings.

Royalty

Famous people / organisations

Abbey bells

Abbots and deans

Benedictine monks

Coronation Chair

Cosmati pavement

Misericords

Oil paintings

Order of the Bath

The Queen's Window

Retable

Stained Glass

Wall paintings

Architecture

Although Westminster Abbey was founded in 960AD, the building we see today dates from the reign of Henry III in the 13th century – and it’s been added to ever since.

Learn more about our architectural history

War damage

The Abbey suffered damage during World War Two, but daily worship continued.

How the Abbey survived

The Royal Air Force Chapel

A chapel dedicated to the men of the Royal Air Force who died in the Battle of Britain.

Discover more

Jerusalem Chamber

Cheyneygates

College Hall

I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.

Pamela - Rector's Secretary

Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Useful links

Contact us

The Chapter Office
Westminster Abbey
20 Dean's Yard
London
SW1P 3PA +44(0)20 7222 5152 [email protected]

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