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Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey (The Collegiate Church of St Peter) Westminster Abbey, London
Broad Sanctuary SW1P 3PA
London  city
England  country
United Kingdom  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
51.499306° N, 0.127480° W
OS Grid Reference
TQ 30082 79490
Opening hours
Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri: 9:30am-3:45pm
Wed: 9:30am-7pm
Sat: 9am-1:45pm
Closed to tourists on Sundays
+44(0)20 7222 5152

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Description of Westminster Abbey

The layout of Westminster Abbey is French Gothic, patterned specifically after Reims Cathedral. It has a Latin cross plan, with a long three-aisled nave, pronounced transepts, flying buttresses, and a large east apse with radiating chapels. The transept portals are set deep to allow for rich sculptural decoration and rose windows decorate their upper facades.

Despite its French inspiration, Westminster Abbey is unique in several ways, which are especially apparent in the interior. The radiating chapels are large and irregularly-placed, the walls are exceptionally thick and the vault shafts are thinner than those in the bays.

The largeness of the gallery openings (inspired by Lincoln Cathedral) and the small clerestory windows are further departures from the French Gothic norm. However, the unusual tracery of the gallery windows derives from those in the lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1239-43).

At 31 meters in height, Westminster Abbey is also significantly shorter than its French contemporaries (e.g. 42 m at Amiens Cathedral), which shows the English preference for a crossing tower instead of maximum height.

The primary survivals of Edward the Confessor's church are: the dormitory undercroft with groin vaults; parts of the refectory, which is decorated externally with opus reticulatum of red tiles, tufa and freestone; and several carved capitals dated by inscription to the reign of William II (r. 1087-1100).

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

Listed Building Description

TQ 3079 NW and SW CITY OF WESTMINSTER BROAD SANCTUARY SW1 92/57 ;101/1 Westminster Abbey (The 24.2.58 Collegiate Church of St Peter) (Formerly listed under General)


Abbey church. Edward the Confessor's church of c.1050-65, rebuilding begun by Henry III, 1245; the chancel, transepts and 5 bays of nave completed by 1269; new nave and west front 1375-1400 by Henry Yevele master mason, completed 1506, excluding the upper part of the west towers; Henry VII Chapel begun as new Lady Chapel 1503, completed as Chantry chapel c.1512, probably by Robert and William Virtue; the west towers 1735-40 by Hawksmoor; major C18 and C19 restorations by Wren, Henry Keene, James Wyatt, Benjamin Wyatt, Blore, Sir George Gilbert Scott and J. C. Pearson, as Surveyors to the Fabric; "anti- scrape" preservation introduced by Micklethwaite and Lethaby. Reigate stone with Huddlestone stone for Henry VII's Chapel. Geometrical gothic, exceptionally French in plan with aisled, 11-bay nave, transepts and chancel with ambulatory and radiating chapels, and French in the height of the vault with its 2 tiers of flying buttresses. Specifically English in the distinguishing feature of a full gallery instead of a triforium and in the way in which Yevele's nave respectfully continues the style of the Henry III work. Yevele's Perpendicular appears on the west front and porch, very similar to his Westminster Hall design. Henry VII's Chapel has boldly modelled Late Perpendicular detailing. The west towers have Hawksmoor's individual blending of Gothic verticality with Baroque details. Interior has Purbeck marble piers and shafting; quadripartite vaulting with ridge rib and bosses; transverse and tierceron ribs introduced in nave, with Perpendicular details to the bosses in Yevele's work. Stained glass: a few reset C13 fragments, otherwise C15/C16; C18, C19 and C20; cosmati pavements in feretory and Presbytery, etc. Exceptional furnishing and unique collection of monuments and sculpture, etc. The Abbey is the English St Denis and Reims in one, a unique embodiment of church, state and crown, and national mausoleum.

R. C. H. M. W. R. Lethaby 1906 and 1923 London, Vol I; N Pevsner

Listing NGR: TQ3008379495

Source: The National Heritage List for England. Reprinted under license.

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