A Short Tour
Over a thousand years ago the first church was built on this site – then an island surrounded by tributaries of the Thames. Edward the Confessor’s abbey was built here and consecrated in 1065 – the king died a few days later and was buried before the high altar. King Henry III resolved to build a new shrine for the Confessor in a yet more glorious church in the Gothic style. At the east end the new Lady Chapel was left intact and the new Abbey was built on to it, with Edward’s church being demolished as work progressed westward, reaching completion in the early 16th century. In 1503, Henry III’s Lady Chapel was pulled down, and a new Lady Chapel was begun by Henry VII – one of the most astounding architectural achievements of the Tudor age. Finally, in 1745 the two iconic west towers were built to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
Westminster Abbey has been the nation’s coronation church since 1066 and the setting for many other great national events over the centuries. The Abbey is also renowned as the burial and memorial place of kings and queens, and of other notable figures in the nation’s history, from writers and musicians to politicians and scientists.
A Short Tour follows the visitors’ route through the abbey, explaining the function and history of each part of the building they pass through, and highlighting key treasures along the way. Straightforward to use and attractively designed, it is a valuable aid to making the most of one’s visit to the Abbey.