Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Westminster Abbey. (Part Four).

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

Four of the ten Christian Martyrs,
depicted in statues above the Great West Door, Westminster Abbey:
Mother Elizabeth of Russia; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr;
Archbishop Oscar Romero; and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Photo: 19 June 2006.
Source: Own work.
Author: TTaylor.
(Wikimedia Commons)

King Henry III rebuilt the Abbey, in honour of a Royal Saint, King Edward the Confessor, whose Relics were placed in a Shrine in the Sanctuary. Henry III was interred, nearby, as were many of the Plantagenet Kings of England, their wives and other relatives. Until the death of King George II of Great Britain, in 1760, most Kings and Queens were buried in the Abbey, some notable exceptions being Edward IV, Henry VIII and Charles I, who are buried in Saint George's Chapel, at Windsor Castle. Other exceptions include Richard III and Lady Jane Grey. Most Monarchs and Royals who died after 1760 are buried either in Saint George's Chapel or at Frogmore, to the East of Windsor Castle.

From the Middle Ages, aristocrats were buried inside Chapels, while Monks, and other people associated with the Abbey, were buried in the Cloisters and other areas. One of these was Geoffrey Chaucer, who was buried here, as he had apartments in the Abbey, where he was employed as Master of the King's Works. Other poets, writers and musicians were buried, or memorialised, around Chaucer, in what became known as Poets' Corner. Abbey musicians, such as Henry Purcell, were also buried in their place of work.

Subsequently, it became one of Britain's most significant honours to be buried or commemorated in the Abbey. The practice of burying national figures in the Abbey began under Oliver Cromwell with the burial of Admiral Robert Blake in 1657. The practice spread to include Generals, Admirals, Politicians, Doctors and Scientists, such as Isaac Newton, buried on 4 April 1727, and Charles Darwin, buried 26 April 1882. Another was William Wilberforce, the man who abolished slavery in the United Kingdom and the Plantations, who was buried on 3 August 1833. Wilberforce was buried in the North Transept, close to his friend, the former Prime Minister, William Pitt.

English: Ten Martyrs of the Twentieth-Century,
The Great West Door, Westminster Abbey.
The Collegiate Church of Saint Peter, Westminster, London.
Polski: Opactwo Westminsterskie w Londynie (Kolegiata św. Piotra w Westminsterze).
Italiano: La collegiata di San Pietro in Westminster (Abbazia di Westminster, Londra).
Date: July 2013.
Source: Own work.
Author: Fczarnowski.
(Wikimedia Commons)

During the Early-20th-Century, it became increasingly common to bury cremated remains, rather than coffins, in the Abbey. In 1905, the actor Sir Henry Irving was cremated and his ashes buried in Westminster Abbey, thereby becoming the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment at the Abbey.

Since 1936, no individual has been buried in a coffin in Westminster Abbey or its Cloisters.The only exceptions to this rule are members of the Percy Family, who have a Family Vault, The Northumberland Vault, in Saint Nicholas's Chapel, within the Abbey.

In the floor, just inside the Great West Door, in the centre of the Nave, is the Tomb of The Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in the Abbey on 11 November 1920. This grave is the only one in the Abbey on which it is forbidden to walk.

In 1998, ten vacant Statue Niches, at the Great West Door, were filled with representative 20th-Century Martyrs.

Westminster Abbey.
Photo: 26 May 2013.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Westminster School and Westminster Abbey Choir School are also in the precincts of the Abbey. It was natural for the learned and literate Monks to be entrusted with education, and Benedictine Monks were required by the Pope to maintain a Charity School in 1179.

The Organ was built by Harrison & Harrison in 1937, then with four Manuals and eighty-four Speaking Stops, and was used for the first time at the Coronation of King George VI. Some pipework from the previous Hill Organ, of 1848, was re-voiced and incorporated in the new scheme. The two Organ Cases, designed in the Late-19th-Century, by John Loughborough Pearson, were re-instated and coloured in 1959.

In 1982 and 1987, Harrison and Harrison enlarged the Organ, under the direction of the, then, Abbey Organist, Simon Preston, to include an additional Lower Choir Organ and a Bombarde Organ; the current instrument now has five Manuals and 109 Speaking Stops. In 2006, the console of the Organ was refurbished by Harrison and Harrison, and space was prepared for two additional sixteen feet Stops on the Lower Choir Organ and the Bombarde Organ. One part of the instrument, the Celestial Organ, is currently not connected or playable. As of 2013, the Organist and Master of the Choristers is James O'Donnell.

The Nave, Westminster Abbey.
Photo: 27 September 2006.
Source: Westminster Abbey
Author: Herry Lawford from London, UK.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Bells at the Abbey were overhauled in 1971. The Ring is now made up of ten Bells, hung for Change Ringing, cast in 1971, by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, tuned to the notes: F#, E, D, C#, B, A, G, F#, E and D. The Tenor Bell in D (588.5 Hz) has a weight of 30 cwt, 1 qtr, 15 lb (3,403 lb or 1,544 kg).

In addition, there are two Service Bells, cast by Robert Mot, in 1585 and 1598, respectively, a Sanctus Bell, cast in 1738, by Richard Phelps and Thomas Lester, and two unused Bells — one cast about 1320, by the successor to R de Wymbish, and a second Bell, cast in 1742, by Thomas Lester. The two Service Bells and the 1320 Bell, along with a fourth, small, silver "Dish Bell", kept in the Refectory, have been noted as being of historical importance by the Church Buildings Council of the Church of England.

The Chapter House was built concurrently with the Eastern parts of the Abbey, under Henry III, between about 1245 and 1253. It was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1872. The entrance is approached from the East Cloister Walk and includes a Double Doorway with a large Tympanum, above.


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