Nearest tube: Westminster/ St James
Here, on 29 April 2011, at the historic Westminster Abbey, His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales wed Catherine Middleton. They have now become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
One of the most famous Churches in the world, Westminster Abbey has a history that stretches back well over 1000 years. Saebehrt, king of the East Saxons, who in 604 established the first church on the site that was then a marshy island in the delta of the River Tyburn. During the late 10th century St Dunstan, the Bishop of London established a Benedictine monastery and was subsequently added to by King Edward the Confessor during the 11th century. It was at Westminster that Edward's successor, William of Normandy (the Conqueror) was crowned king of England as William I on Christmas Day in 1066, following his victory at the Battle of Hastings against the English.The Abbey subsequently experienced several re-developments. Edward's church was re-built by the Francophone Henry III during the mid 13th century in line with a French design when the choir transept and the chapter house were completed as well as part of the cloister and one bay of the nave. A lapse in construction of a 100 years was broken by the work of the architect, Henry Yevels who, despite the passing of time, carried on building in the same style. Work on the Abbey continued intermittently until 1745 when the West Tower, the Abbey's most distinctive feature, was completed.
Over the centuries the Abbey has served many purposes. In medieval times it supplemented its services as an abbey by accommodating the Crown Jewels until 1303 when some of them were stolen, and the Pyx, the standard scale against which coins were measured. The Abbey's chapter house served as a meeting place for the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, for over two centuries. During the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII during the 16th century, monastic life at the Abbey, as in other monasteries, was brought to an end. The anti-Catholic assaults by the Puritan, Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War in the mid 8th century devastated monasteries further. However, because of its long-standing connections with state and nation, the Abbey's treasures - its art and statues - were saved. This explains why so much of the Abbey's treasures survive in tact to this very day.
Today the Abbey is famous for many reasons. For one it is the resting place of Britain's monarchs. It is also host to the coronation and other celebrations. The Abbey, in short, is one of the greatest examples of medieval architecture and serves as a showcase of British heritage, as well as, of course, as the nation's most significant Christian churches.
As soon as one enters the Abbey one is struck by its sheer size. Scattered around the building are numerous monuments. At the centre of the nave lies the tomb of the Unknown Warrior as well as memorial to Winston Churchill and the explorer , David Livingston. At the south side of the nave are grouped memorials to Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India and F.D. Roosevelt. The north transept is dominated by Britain's Victorian statesmen, notably the prime ministers Gladstone, Disraeli and Peel. Upon the exiting the north transept one encounters several side-chapels, the highlight of which and of the Abbey as a whole, is King Henry VII's Chapel. Apart from housing the tombs of several monarchs including Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor, Edward VI, James I and the last monarch to be buried in the Abbey, George II, it contains beautiful wooden carvings and other elaborate decorations. The Abbey's two other highlights are poets corner, in which one finds memorials to some of the most celebrated literary figures such as Chaucer, Dickens, Browning and Tennyson, and the Chapel of the saxon king, Edward the Confessor, which not only contains the tombs of some of England's early monarchs but also the coronatin Chair which was constructed in 1301 and upon which every monarch has been crowned since 1308.