Westminster Abbey and the secrets it holds

    Westminster Abbey. Credit: ISTOCK
    Westminster Abbey. Credit: ISTOCK

    One way to discover more about this historic building, where monarchs have been crowned for centuries and 17 kings and queens are buried, is on a verger-led tour.

    The remarkable Gothic structure of Westminster Abbey, just a stone’s throw from the Palace of Westminster – or the Houses of Parliament, by which name it is better known – is like a huge temple to one of our most pious Anglo-Saxon kings, Edward the Confessor, whose actual shrine lies in the middle of the church.

    Over the centuries the Abbey has become famous as a burial place of enormous prestige, with 17 monarchs laid to rest here, alongside prime ministers, scientists, writers and other important figures throughout British history – in total 3,300 people are buried or commemorated here and one of the best ways to see the cathedral is on a verger-led tour, which will take you to parts of the Abbey that other tours don’t, such as Edward’s Chapel, where the man who built the original Abbey now lies.

    Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey. Credit: Neil McAllister/Alamy
    Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. Credit: Neil McAllister/Alamy

    A verger is a layperson who assists in religious ceremonies and who takes their name from the Latin for a stick or rod – so called as they must walk in front of the priests and bishops at all times in the church and clear the way for them with their ceremonial rod, a virge.

    Verger-led tours of the Abbey are available, in English, for individuals or family groups only. The tours set off from the North Door, last for about 90 minutes and include a tour of the Shrine, the Royal Tombs, Poets’ Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave and cost £5 on top of the normal entrance fee.

    Find out more about verger-led tours or call 020 7222 5152 for more information.

    For the full feature on Westminster Abbey see the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of BRITAIN (March 2015 in the US).

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