via britannica.com


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. « Westminster Abbey ». Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Apr. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Westminster-Abbey. Accessed 20 August 2022.


Westminster Abbey, London church that is the site of coronations and other ceremonies of national significance. It stands just west of the Houses of Parliament in the Greater London borough of Westminster. Situated on the grounds of a former Benedictine monastery, it was refounded as the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in Westminster by Queen Elizabeth I in 1560. In 1987 Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church, and the Houses of Parliament were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Westminster Abbey; flying buttress Image : © Ron Gatepain (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

Architectural history
EXTRAIT

Legend relates that Saberht, the first Christian king of the East Saxons, founded a church on a small island in the River Thames, then known as Thorney but later called the west minster (or monastery), and that this church was miraculously consecrated by St. Peter. It is certain that about 785 CE there was a small community of monks on the island and that the monastery was enlarged and remodeled by St. Dunstan of Canterbury about 960. St. Edward the Confessor built a new church on the site, which was consecrated on December 28, 1065. It was of considerable size and cruciform in plan. In 1245 Henry III pulled down the whole of Edward’s church (except the nave) and replaced it with the present abbey church in the pointed Gothic style of the period. The design and plan were strongly influenced by contemporary French cathedral architecture.

The rebuilding of the Norman-style nave was begun by the late 1300s under the architect Henry Yevele and continued intermittently until Tudor times. The Early English Gothic design of Henry III’s time predominates, however, giving the whole church the appearance of having been built at one time. The chapel of Henry VII (begun c. 1503), in Perpendicular Gothic style, replaced an earlier chapel and is famed for its exquisite fan vaulting. Above the original carved stalls hang the banners of the medieval Order of the Bath.

The western towers were the last addition to the building. They are sometimes said to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren, but they were actually built by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James and completed about 1745. The choir stalls in the body of the church date from 1847, and the high altar and reredos were remodeled by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1867. Scott and J.L. Pearson also restored the north transept facade in the 1880s. The abbey was heavily damaged in the bombings that ravaged London in World War II, but it was restored soon after the war.

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