King Edward first built the Confessor Westminster Abbey in 1045. Located in Westminster London West of the Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey is one of the most iconic structures in Britain. Since 1066, Westminster Abbey has been the coronation site for every British monarch and carries many other English traditions as well. Over the years, Westminster Abbey has served as a church, a burial site, and even a monastery. Today, travelers can tour the site for a look at who is buried in Westminster Abbey and a view of one the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.
Westminster Abbey history offers fascinating tidbits for historians and general tourists alike. When King Edward built the cathedral, it was on the site of what was once a site for Benedictine monks. King Edward built the structure as a church to St. Peter, in repentance of his failure to make good on his promise to go on a pilgrimage. The Pope at the time agreed that the building of the church would be a suitable penance. Though the current structure does not reflect the original church, drawings of the plan have been discovered.
Westminster Abbey history goes on to record the rebuilding of the cathedral by Henry III in order to create a proper burial spot for his remains. After the reconstruction, the Abbot was filled with learned monks and was often employed in royal service. Henry VIII would later seize the cathedral in 1534 when monasteries were dissolved nationwide. Since the Abbey had been used for royal services, the structure was saved from physical destruction and eventually commissioned as a Royal Peculiar by Queen Elizabeth I. Though Westminster Abbey history reflects the cathedral's changing of hands over the year, the church remains a Royal Peculiar to this day, meaning that it is directly responsible to the sovereign, rather than to a diocesan bishop.
The two impressive towers that grace the current cathedral were added in 1722 and 1745, and the cathedral continued to be a main center in England for learning and discussion. Until the 19th century, the Abbey was the third seat of learning in England (after Oxford and Cambridge). Interestingly, portions of the King James Bible were translated here at Westminster, and in the 20th century the New English Bible was also translated at the Abbey. The Abbey continues to serve as a place for royal ceremonies such as coronation, and remains one of the most famous burial sites in the world.
Though today the royal family burial site is Windsor Castle, for many early years Westminster Abbey was the main burial site for monarchs and their families. Henry III is buried in Westminster Abbey, as well as many famous authors and influential English subject. Chaucer, Tennyson, Dickens are all buried in Westminster Abbey, and there are memorials to many other figures such as Shakespeare, Keats, and Elliot.
Westminster Abbey today is available for tours throughout the year. Tours will take guests past the coronation throne; still used to crown monarchs to this day. Guests will also see monuments and burials sites for the many famous figures laid to rest at the Abbey. Westminster Abbey tickets can be purchased online in advance, or in person at the main Westminster Abbey tickets office. Westminster Abbey tickets range in price from about $9- $30 for a family. Travelers planning to do a lot of sightseeing might consider purchasing the London Pass, which offers discounted tickets to 50 of London's most popular tourist attractions.