Westminster Abbey, the most famous church in Great Britain. It stands on low ground on the left bank of the Thames in the City of Westminster, a borough of London. Westminster Abbey is the scene of royal coronations, marriages, and burials. Every coronation since the Norman Conquest of 1066 has taken place here. Many famous persons are buried here, and others have monuments in the church.
Westminster Abbey is officially called the Collegiate Church of St. Peter. It was originally the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery. The building adjoins the Houses of Parliament in Westminster borough near the north bank of the Thames. The Gothic structure is grandiose in size and appearance. It is built in the form of a Latin cross. The twin towers at the front on the west are 225 feet (69 m) high. The total length of the church exterior is 531 feet (162 m). The body of the building is 102 feet (31 m) high. The transept (which forms the cross) is 203 feet (62 m) long and 80 feet (24 m) wide.
At the eastern end of the church eight chapels form a semicircle. The most important of these is the chapel of Henry VII; it is larger than many cathedrals. Its ceiling is notable for its elegant fan tracery (ornamental work).
The coronation chair of British monarchs is in the choir of Westminster Abbey. Beneath the chair is the historic Stone of Scone. Thirteen kings and five sovereign queens are buried in Westminster Abbey. There are tombs of statesmen, soldiers, courtiers, and, in the Poets' Corner, many of England's greatest poets. Also in the Poets' Corner are busts honoring a number of literary figures not buried there. (For picture,
According to tradition, the first church on the site was built in 616. About 1050 Edward the Confessor began building a new church. In the 13th century Henry III rebuilt the church and made additions, and his successors continued the work during the next two centuries. The chapel of Henry VII was built between 1502 and 1520. Sir Christopher Wren designed the western towers, which were completed in 1740 after his death. Extensive repairs were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Damage caused by air raids during World War II was repaired.