Westminster Abbey is an architect’s dream with its stunning Gothic architecture. The abbey is an important historical building where monarchs were crowned in a coronation ceremony. It also houses the tombs of Kings and Queens as well as countless memorials of famous figures. If I were to write a top 10 list for things to see in London, Westminster Abbey would be high on the list without question!
Upon arriving at Westminster Abbey I spent a good amount of time walking around the building and drinking in the architecture. One thing I love about cathedrals in general is how decorative they are! The entire structure was ornamental and I was really impressed to see how it all fit together. You have this sort of harmony between the pointy elements and the curves, along with all the floral patterns in the arches and steeple-thingees.
This is right above the doorway and you can see the amount of intricate work that has gone into it. You can notice that the top of the arc is pointed which is another characteristic of Gothic architecture. The way some parts of the arc have this carved exterior and seemingly hollow interior reminds me of some of the ivory work I saw at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan.
Then of course you have the iconic flying buttress of Gothic architecture that holds it all together. This is the north side of the building which is also where the entrance is. If I remember correctly there was a security guard that checked my bag before entering and this was rather common practice for many places throughout Europe. There was a separate line for London Pass holders, but there was still a bit of a wait inside. There was a ticketing process where I got a ticket with “GBP 0.00” printed on it. If you like collecting tickets from your travels it could be considered as a plus, but if you’re short on time it might feel a bit unnecessary. Unfortunately, I don’t have a single photo of the interior of the chapel. Photography was not allowed and it was to my greatest agony that I had to behold such splendors without being able to take a picture of them. The fan vault ceiling of the Lady chapel is one of the most magnificent work of architecture that I have laid eyes on. The splendor, the utter beauty of it is so awe-inspiring that it was pure torture not being able to capture that moment with my camera. It stopped me right in my tracks and I stood there quite amazed at what I saw. It was the first time I had seen a fan vaulted ceiling and since then it has taken place as my favorite type of architecture. Here is a link to a photo of the fan vault ceiling I found on Flickr by Miguel Segura.
Other memorable parts of the Westminster Abbey include the grave of the unknown warrior, the high altar and the coronation chair, chapels that hold the tombs of Edward I, Henry III, Henry VII, Oliver Cromwell, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward III, and Richard II. For me, the fascinating thing about seeing all these tombs were that they were indoors. The graveyards I saw in passing in the States were all outdoors. Apparently some of the presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have tomb sites, but I have never seen them in person. In Korea, traditional graves are outdoors. Whereas the ground above the graves in the States are flat, the ground above the Korean grave is like a small grassy mound that looks like a miniature hill. There is an ancestral tablet that symbolizes their soul that is then placed in a shrine, but the tomb still remains very much outdoors. So I was surprised to see so many tombs inside the chapels and effigies set upon them.
Poet’s Corner was the most amusing part of the abbey. Apparently it all started with Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of Canterbury Tales. He was buried at Westminster Abbey because he was a clerk at Westminster Palace but when a poet called Edmund Spenser was buried next to Geoffrey Chaucer, other poets followed suit. Some of the names I recognized were William Shakespeare,Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, T.S. Eliot, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, John Keats, John Milton, Percy Shelley (but not Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein), and C.S. Lewis. Not that I have read all of their original works, but perhaps I’ll get around to that eventually! Some non-writers that were also buried in Westminster Abbey are George Handel, the Baroque composer, Isaac Newton, and ironically, Charles Darwin.
After returning the audio guide I found myself in the cloisters. The ceiling of the abbey was similar to the ceiling of the the cloisters only much higher and beautifully decorated.
The cloisters had a peaceful atmosphere with the light flooding in through the windows of sorts. From here you could sit and look out into the cloister garth and see the backs of the west towers. It was nice to sit and rest for a while as I’d been walking all morning. During the two weeks I was in Europe, I taped my feet every morning and didn’t get a single blister. Still my legs and feet ached from being unaccustomed from walking all day long.
To the side there was the Chapter House where photography appeared to be allowed. It wasn’t much of a comfort though, as it paled in comparison to the interior of the abbey.
The Chapter House ceiling was different from the main part of the abbey and it reminded of a great big lily pad.
This is part of the paintings on the wall inside the Chapter House. Apparently they depict scenes from the book of Revelations in the Bible. The colors are faded and I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been some restoration work on it.
Upon leaving the Westminster Abbey I was delighted to find another post box! This one was a bit bigger than the round pillar one I found at Earl’s Court. I think it was more exciting to find a post box in London than it was to find a phone box.
I wasn’t able to find a comprehensive video tour for Westminster Abbey like the one I had mentioned on my Westminster Cathedral post, but I found an interesting documentary and an incredible virtual tour where you can see the beautiful interior of Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Lady Chapel in the virtual tour but it’s still worth taking a peep!