Over the month we spent in London we visited a lot of the typical tourist sites, but Westminster Abbey was our favorite.
Coming in, I knew it was a big church where a lot of famous people were buried, but that’s about it.
Until we walked in, I could never have imagined the massive scale of the building, just how many famous people are buried there or that they are buried in virtually every nook and cranny of the building, not, as I’d previously thought, in a cemetery out back. There are commemorative stones lining the walls, massive tombs/monuments to rulers in nearly every room and incised slabs embedded in most floors. It is literally impossible to walk through the Abbey without stepping on graves, many graves.
It’s a bit surreal being surrounded by the kings and all, coming from a tradition that has a lot more separation of its church and government. Burying your country’s former leaders inside the church is quite a foreign tradition. Really burying anyone physically inside the church building is a bit foreign to me.
It is a grand building with a tremendous sense of history. Its where royal coronations have occurred since 1066 and royal weddings since 1100. Its where famous Brits have been buried for the last 1000 years. It has been in continuous use through that entire period which I find amazing. But despite its size and the tourist traffic it receives on a daily basis, a tremendous sense of comfort and peace prevails inside.
You aren’t allowed to take photos inside which is a shame, but I found a few online that will give you an idea of the scale of things at least.
A unique and especially meaningful part of our visit to the Abbey was a visit to the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, usually closed to the public except on special tours. Surrounded by the tombs of former kings of England, about 30 of us celebrated Holy Communion. This happens every weekday at 12:30 and anyone is welcome. The room is set in the center of the largest hall in the Abbey. Its set apart and private, but not walled off, so between the tombs of kings and monuments, you catch glimpses of tourists browsing about. You feel altogether set apart, but still connected to the whole building, a bit like a calm in the storm. An appropriate atmosphere for communion I think.
Here are a few more of our photos from our trip to the Abbey.