Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Friday, 8 August 2014

Westminster Abbey. (Part Two.)

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

The Great North Door,
Westminster Abbey.
Photo: 10 November 2009.
Source: Own work.
Author: Telemaque MySon.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Confessor's Shrine subsequently played a great part in his Canonisation. The work continued between 1245 and 1517 and was largely finished by the architect Henry Yevele, in the reign of King Richard II. King Henry III also commissioned a unique Cosmati Pavement in front of the High Altar (the Pavement has recently undergone a major cleaning and conservation programme and was re-dedicated by the Dean at a Service on 21 May 2010).

King Henry VII added a Perpendicular Style Chapel, dedicated to The Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1503 (known as the Henry VII Chapel). Much of the stone came from Caen, in France (Caen stone), the Isle of Portland (Portland stone) and the Loire Valley region of France (tuffeau limestone).

In 1535, the Abbey's annual income of £2,400 – £2,800 (£1,280,000 to £1,490,000 as of 2014), during the Assessment attendant on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, rendered it second in wealth only to Glastonbury Abbey.

King Henry VIII assumed direct Royal Control in 1539 and granted the Abbey the status of a Cathedral by Charter in 1540, simultaneously issuing Letters Patent, establishing the Diocese of Westminster. By granting the Abbey Cathedral Status, Henry VIII gained an excuse to spare it from the destruction or dissolution which he inflicted on most English Abbeys during this period.

Westminster Diocese was dissolved in 1550, but the Abbey was recognised (in 1552, retroactively to 1550) as a second Cathedral of the Diocese of London until 1556. The already-old expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul" may have been given a new lease of life when money meant for the Abbey, which is dedicated to Saint Peter, was diverted to the Treasury of Saint Paul's Cathedral.

English: The Great West Door,
Westminster Abbey.
Deutsch: Westportal der Westminster Abbey.
Photo: 16 September 2009.
Source: Own work.
Author: Cum Deo.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Abbey was restored to the Benedictines, under the Catholic, Mary I of England, but they were again ejected, under Elizabeth I, in 1559. In 1560, Elizabeth re-established Westminster as a "Royal Peculiar" – a Church responsible directly to the Sovereign, rather than to a Diocesan Bishop – and made it the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter (that is, a Church with an attached Chapter of Canons, headed by a Dean.) The last of Mary's Abbots was made the first Dean.

It suffered damage during the turbulent 1640s, when it was attacked by Puritan iconoclasts, but was again protected, by its close ties to the State, during the Commonwealth period. Oliver Cromwell was given an elaborate funeral there in 1658, only to be disinterred in January 1661 and posthumously hanged from a gibbet at Tyburn.

English: The Liber Regalis, showing Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.
Čeština: Liber Regalis - Richard II. a Anna Lucemburská.
Date: 14th-Century.
Author: Unknown English painter.
(Wikimedia Commons)

On her arrival, in December 1381, Anne of Bohemia was severely criticised by contemporary chroniclers, probably as a result of the financial arrangements of the marriage, although it was quite typical for Queens to be viewed in critical terms.

The Westminster Chronicler called her "a tiny scrap of humanity", and Thomas Walsingham
related a disastrous omen upon her arrival, where her ships smashed to pieces
as soon as she had disembarked.

Nevertheless, Anne and King Richard II were married in Westminster Abbey on 22 January 1382. Tournaments were held for several days after the Ceremony, in celebration. They then went on an itinerary of the Realm, staying at many major Abbeys along the way.

In 1383, Anne of Bohemia visited the City of Norwich, where, at the Great Hospital, a ceiling comprising 252 black eagles was made in her honour.

Anne's wedding to Richard II was the fifth Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey, and was not followed by any other Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey for another 537 years.

They were married for twelve years, but had no children. Anne's death from plague, in 1394, at Sheen Manor, was a devastating blow to Richard, whose subsequent unwise conduct lost him his Throne.

Richard married his second wife, Isabella of Valois, on 31 October 1396.

English: Chapter House,
Westminster Abbey,
Deutsch: Kapitelhaus der Westminster Abbey in London.
Photo: 12 February 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: Aiwok.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Abbey's two Western Towers were built between 1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor, constructed from Portland stone, to an early example of a Gothic Revival design. Purbeck marble was used for the walls and the floors of Westminster Abbey, even though the various tombstones are made of different types of marble. Further rebuilding and restoration occurred in the 19th-Century under Sir George Gilbert Scott.

A Narthex (a Portico or Entrance Hall) for the West Front was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the Mid-20th-Century, but was not built. Images of the Abbey, prior to the construction of the Towers, are scarce, though the Abbey's official website states that the building was without Towers, following Yevele's renovation, with just the lower segments, beneath the roof level of the Nave, completed.

Until the 19th-Century, Westminster was the Third Seat of Learning in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. It was here that the first third of the King James Bible Old Testament and the last half of the New Testament were translated. The New English Bible was also put together here in the 20th-Century. Westminster suffered minor damage, during the Blitz, on 15 November 1940.

Illustration by Herbert Railton (1857-1910).
South Aisle of the Choir,
from A Brief Account of Westminster Abbey
(1894) by W.J. Loftie.
Date: 16 November 2009.
Source: Own scan of illustration in old book.
Author: Man vyi.
(Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1990s, two Icons, by the Russian Icon painter, Sergei Fyodorov, were hung in the Abbey. On 6 September 1997, the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was held at the Abbey. On 17 September 2010, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope to set foot in the Abbey.

As indicated above, since the Coronations in 1066 of both King Harold and William the Conqueror, Coronations of English and British Monarchs were held in the Abbey. King Henry III was unable to be Crowned in London, when he first came to the Throne, because the French Prince, Louis, had taken control of the City, and so the King was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral. This Coronation was deemed by the Pope to be improper, and a further Coronation was held in the Abbey on 17 May 1220. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the traditional Cleric in the Coronation ceremony.

King Edward's Chair (or Saint Edward's Chair), the Throne on which English and British Sovereigns have been Seated at the moment of Coronation, is housed within the Abbey and has been used at every Coronation since 1308. From 1301 to 1996 (except for a short time in 1950, when it was temporarily stolen by Scottish nationalists), the Chair also housed the Stone of Scone, upon which the Kings of the Scots are Crowned. Although the Stone is now kept in Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle, at future Coronations, it is intended that the Stone will be returned to Saint Edward's Chair for use during the Coronation ceremony.



  1. Westminster Abbey was the location of the only recent Catholick Coronation rite; that of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen by the Grace of God; a rite that goes back in essentials to the days of St Edward the Confessor.

  2. Thank You, Patricius, for your most welcome Comment.

    Good to hear from you and most grateful for your erudite contribution to this Post.

  3. I correct myself. The English Coronation rite goes back to St Dunstan, the Coronation Oath goes back to St Edward the Confessor.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...