Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and a burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.

Westminster Abbey
Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster
Western façade
LocationDean's Yard,
London, SW1
DenominationChurch of England
ChurchmanshipHigh Church
StatusCollegiate church
Founded960; 1061 years ago (960)
DedicationSaint Peter
Consecrated28 December 1065,
13 October 1269
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey
Architectural typeChurch
Years built
  • 960
  • 1065
  • 13th century (rebuilt in Gothic style)
  • 1517 Henry VII's Chapel
  • 1722 (towers)
Nave width85 feet (26 m)[1]
Height101 feet (31 m)[1]
Floor area32,000 square feet (3,000 m2)[1]
Number of towers2
Tower height225 feet (69 m)[1]
DioceseExtra-diocesan (royal peculiar)
DeanDavid Hoyle
Canon(s)see Dean and Chapter
Director of musicJames O'Donnell
(Organist and Master of the Choristers)
Organist(s)Peter Holder
Matthew Jorysz
Organ scholarCharles Maxtone-Smith
Location within Central London
Coordinates51°29′58″N 00°07′39″W
Founded10th century[2]
Official namePalace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church
Criteriai, ii, iv
Designated1987 (11th session)
Reference no.426
CountryUnited Kingdom
RegionEurope and North America
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameWestminster Abbey (The Collegiate Church of St Peter)
Designated24 February 1958
Reference no.1291494[3]

The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III.[4]

Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have occurred in Westminster Abbey.[4][5] Sixteen royal weddings have occurred at the Abbey since 1100.[6]

The Abbey is the burial site of more than 3300 persons, usually of prominence in British history: at least 16 monarchs, 8 Prime Ministers, poets laureate, actors, scientists, military leaders, and the Unknown Warrior. As such, Westminster Abbey is sometimes described as "Britain's Valhalla", after the iconic hall of the chosen heroes in Norse mythology.[7]