One of the most popular tourist destination points in the U.K., Westminster Abbey sees more than one million visitors each year. An outstanding testament to the power of architectural craftsmanship, Westminster Abbey is a site not to miss when you visit long-stay hotels in London.
Though the abbey was reportedly founded in 940, the notable religious building that is the traditional place of coronation and burial for British monarchs since was completed in its current form in 1517. Serving as a cathedral between 1540 and 1550, Westminster Abbey was eventually dedicated as a Church of England “Royal Peculiar,” making it responsible directly to the monarchy.
But through the halls of the ancient building, there are secrets Westminster Abbey still holds to many unknowing tourists.
More than 3,300 people are buried or commemorated there
Though it is widely regarded as a solely sovereign honor to be buried in Westminster Abbey, there are actually several high ranking British figures who have been laid to rest there. Luminaries such as Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot, the Brontё sisters, John Keats, and Geoffrey Chaucer are among them. Winston Churchill, however, refused to be buried at Westminster when he famously said, “No-one walked over me in life, and they’re not going to after death.”
The Abbey is technically not an abbey
Its formal title is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster. Westminster “Abbey” was adopted in recognition of the space’s initial use as a Benedictine monastery. (An “abbey” is where the monks worship.) The monastery function of Westminster disappeared during the reign of Henry VIII, but the name stuck.
There is a secret garden
Behind high walls and trees sits The College Garden, originally known as the Infirmary Garden, which is open to those who can find it. Said to be the oldest garden in England, it was once used by monks as an orchard to grow fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.
Visitors are forbidden to walk on the tomb of The Unknown Warrior
With more than 3,000 burial plots, it is an impossible feat to not step on the graves of those buried in Westminster. That is, except for one. The floor tomb of The Unknown Warrior, located at the far western end of the nave, is the only grave in the abbey on which no visitor can walk. At her wedding, Kate Middleton had to move around the stone when walking down the aisle, eventually leaving her bouquet there as royal tradition dictates.Whether you’re here for business or pleasure, be sure to learn more about these and many other secrets around the remarkable Westminster Abbey when you visit long-stay hotels in London.