Monday 27 September 2010

Westminster Abbey

For years I have promised myself a trip to Westminster Abbey but somehow it didn’t happen. It’s like one of those things that you are always going to do soon, but soon never comes. Then I did it, beating the Pope by just one day.

I was shocked at having to pay – visiting churches is usually free both here and abroad. I was also shocked at having to pay so much. The price included an audio tour – whether you wanted it or not. I did not; preferring the experience of the abbey to detailed information. But you cannot avoid the audio tour. Tourists stand around like zombies listening to messages from strange mobile-like phones and always blocking my way. And the things that they hold leak squeaky undecipherable sounds.

To say that Westminster Abbey is impressive is an understatement: it is overwhelming. For some reason I delighted in the chapel in which Mary and Elizabeth reside. Two sisters, each the first Queen of England by name; one remembered as a small child-like figure, the younger as a reclining white marble statue with a hooked nose pointing to the heavens. Was Elizabeth a man? I examined the statue for clues but found none.

Naturally I was drawn to Poet’s Corner. It seems that Chaucer set the whole thing off, inadvertently. He was later joined by Spenser and thenceforth the southern transept became the receptacle for Poet’s remains. I searched for the memorial to William Davenant (he’s one of my Oxford Rogues), but couldn’t find it.

My favourite space was the Chapter House: so light, so tall, so fan vaulted. Its walls still have the original, detailed painted figures from 1400. And the passageway leading to it has the oldest door in Britain. I also enjoyed the open spaces: the two cloisters and the college gardens with glimpses of the parliamentary buildings.

Oddly, perhaps, I was most moved by the grave of the unknown warrior. Not by the grave itself, but by the concept.


  1. I want comments, please give me comments

  2. Are you launching a blog that sells books or are you launching a blog about book shops? SMILE

  3. I agree it's horrendous to charge for getting into a holy place. However there are ways around. You can either visit Westminster Abbey by internet or prayer.


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