Sunday, September 25, 2005

15 Aug 05: Westminster Abbey

Confession time: I have no more entry in my tour journal to fall back on starting this very moment. I have only managed to log in entries up till the morning of 15 Aug 05. As such, whatever you read from now about my trip to the UK will be based on the best of my recollections.

Special thanks to the loyal patronage from readers like Mistipurple. It makes me feel more motivated to continue writing.

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In the morning of 15 Aug 05, I visited the Westminster Abbey.

As I have said in my last post, I was glad that I requested to join the verger tour. That was an extra 4 pounds but was well-worth it. I might have missed the important highlights of the Westminister Abbey if I did not join verger tour.

Now, what is a verger? "A verger is a committed lay minister within the Church who assists the clergy in the conduct of public worship, especially in the marshalling of processions." Source: http://www.vergers.org/default.php?page=whatis

The verger gave us a brief account of the history of the Westminster Abbey. By the end of the account, I know that there are two important persons I should associate with the Abbey: King Edward III (later known as St Edward the Confessor) and King Henry III.

In short, the historic Abbey was built by St Edward the Confessor between 1045-1050. Its construction originated in Edward's failure to keep a vow to go on a pilgrimage; the Pope suggested that he redeem himself by building an Abbey (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Abbey). The Gothic style part of the Abbey which we now see was rebuilt between 1245-1517, with the first phase of the rebuilding organised by King Henry III. To find out more of the history of the Abbey, you may refer to the following URLs:




The north entrance of the Westminster Abbey
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After gaining insight to the history of the Abbey, we started the tour proper. If it helps, here is an online floor map of the Abbey: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/tour/.

For now, we have to count on our imagination. No photography is allowed in the Abbey, as such, I have no photograph of the interior of the Abbey to show you. But if you check out the Westminster's offical site, you should be able to view some pictures of the various parts of the abbey.

The Edward the Confessor's Chapel was under conservation works when I was there, so I did not get to view the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor. The tour group also walked past and paid respect (I wonder if this was the right word to use?) to the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I.

We also visited the Lady Chapel. It is a magnificient piece of architecture. To view and read more about the Lady Chapel, go to http://www.westminster-abbey.org/tour, and click on "The Lady Chapel".

We also saw the Coronation Chair, and I stood pretty close to it. It is such a shame to see that the Coronation Chair shows signs of being vandalised. In the past, the security was loose, and people could even sit on it. Some vandalised it by carving their initials on it. While we were looking at the Coronation Chair, the verger also gave us an account of the Stone of Scone. I have this conclusion: it is the meaning that we have bestowed onto a piece of object that would make it invaluable. What may seem an ordinary stone to a layperson is transformed to an object of great significance because of the story that man has told of it.

One should not miss The High Altar when one is at the Abbey. If I have remembered correctly, a platform known as the theatre of coronation would be extended from near the High Altar of the Abbey during the rare occurrence of a coronation. The verger told us we were standing very close to where the coronation would take place. The Choir which was nearby the High Altar was beautifully too.

The Abbey is not just about Kings and Queens. There is a Poets' Corner. Some of the most famous to lie and rest in the Abbey include the poets John Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning and John Masefield. Many writers, including William Camden, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy are also buried here. (Source: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/tour).

The tour ended, if I am not wrong, with the grave of the Unknown Warrior. Thereafter, we could choose to continue following the verger to the Abbey's Museum. I did. He led us through the Cloisters and to the Museum.

A rewarding trip to the Abbey, I must say. I felt I have learnt a lot about the Abbey in the few hours that I was there. I spent a little longer than I had wanted to, but that was fine. It was slightly past lunchtime when I left the Westminster Abbey. I chose to eat a piece of muesli bar to keep myself from feeling the hunger pangs.

2 comments:

mistipurple said...

wow so rich in history. you are privileged to have been there.

Simple American said...

I love visiting churches. So much history in many of them.