When planning my adventure in London, Westminster Cathedral hadn’t exactly been on my must-see list. It wasn’t even mentioned in most of the travel books I had. By chance, a book I bought at the last-minute had a two sentence description of the Westminster Cathedral next to the twelve sentence description of Westminster Abbey. The book also marked its location on a map alongside Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Seeing as it was conveniently located near Buckingham Palace, I added it to my if-there-is-time list. I was glad that I did as my visit to Buckingham Palace was short-lived and it was nice to have a place to go nearby without having to change my entire route. Even if you don’t plan to go inside the Westminster Cathedral, at least take a good look at the outer neo-Byzantine architecture before hopping on the bus to Westminster Abbey. The exterior of Westminster Cathedral has a striking appearance unlike any other cathedral in London. With its orange and white stripes, it sort of reminded me of an orange tabby cat with its tower straight up like a tail.
According to the Westminster Cathedral website, the words above the entrance DOMINE · JESU · REX · ET · REDEMPTOR PER · SANGUINEM · TUUM · SALVA · NOS means Lord Jesus, King and Redeemer, save us by your blood. There’s also a nice video tour of Westminster Cathedral on Youtube that I find to be much more interesting, humorous, and informative than the audio tour.
That feeling of walking into the cathedral and standing under the expansive high domes is beyond expression. The peculiar thing about the domes of Westminster Cathedral is that when you look up, it’s like looking into a dark abysmal pit. I had expected a bright beautiful dome such as the one I had seen in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but instead was greeted by a blackened one. I wondered if there had been a fire, but apparently it’s just discoloration. It’s supposed to be covered in mosaic but the cathedral is not yet finished.
The cathedral was fairly empty so I was able to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the cathedral without being pushed along in a current of other tourists.
In accordance to the neo-Byzantine architectural style, the Westminster Cathedral is known for its marble and mosaics. It was interesting to see the collection of different colored marbles brought from around the world. The intricate detail of the pillar capitals were lovely but I wonder why they were made from a different material rather than using the marble.
The two elements of the Westminster Cathedral that stood out to me are the mosaics and the use of patterns. The mosaics were so elaborate in detail that I wished I could go up closer to take a good look.
I loved the interwoven pattern of the ceiling here, but found the symbolic bird figure a little simple in style compared to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus who are depicted in detail below. I also thought that Joseph’s hand looked much too large, but maybe that’s just me.
The Lady Chapel was the highlight of my visit to Westminster Cathedral. The glittering golden mosaic utterly took my breath away. Just think about the work that must have gone into this! I don’t even think I have the patience to make a mosaic on a single sheet of paper let alone the ceiling of a chapel. I love the archways to the right and how the natural light illuminates the mosaic detail on the inner surface. I wonder how anyone can actually concentrate on praying here. I think I would be forever lost gazing up at the mosaic; mesmerized by its beauty.
Two other elements that I found to be part of all of the cathedrals I visited this past summer were candles and choral music. I hadn’t really connected candles with prayer before, but it seems like a nice sort of ritual to do for prayer or meditation. I keep hearing good things about meditation and how it can increase your happiness. Perhaps I’ll see if I can get the Westminster Cathedral’s choir cd and spend some time in meditation and prayer. I could use a happiness boost or two!