The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, set some 52 feet above the Abbey’s floor in the 13th-century triforium, has opened to the public for the first time in 700 years
The triforium, tucked beneath the vaults, was built by Henry III and was for centuries unused except by the abbey’s maintenance staff, and in the modern age, television cameramen, who benefited from the bird’s-eye view needed for royal weddings and coronations.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries house some 300 of the abbey’s most precious objects, from medieval altarpieces to coronation regalia. You climb to the museum via the new, seven-storey Weston Tower (there’s also a lift), which offers head-spinning views of the abbey and allows a brand-new perspective of its familiar architecture. From the triforium itself there are wonderful views of Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster.
Themes of the collection
The Galleries tell the story of Westminster Abbey in four distinct themes:
Building Westminster Abbey: tracing the story of the Abbey’s foundations, from Benedictine monastery to Sir Christopher Wren’s contribution in the early eighteenth century.
Worship and Daily Life: a display of priceless artefacts key to the Abbey’s life as a working church.
Westminster Abbey and the Monarchy: the coronation church since 1066, the Abbey holds some special artefacts, including Mary II’s coronation chair.
The Abbey and National Memory: a look at the notable Britons, such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Sir Isaac Newton, who are buried here.
Liber Regalis A medieval guide to staging coronations and royal funerals in the abbey. It is still the basis of modern ceremonies today.
Effigy head of Henry VII A disconcertingly lifelike model based on the king’s death mask.
Royal marriage license For HRH Prince William and Miss Katherine Middleton, no less – on display for the first time.
Westminster Retable England’s oldest surviving altarpiece, dating from the 13th century.
Litlyngton Missal A priceless, intricately decorated Latin manuscript, made for the Abbey’s high altar.
The “ragged regiment” A collection of dead sovereigns carved out of wood, which would have been placed on the coffin in the funeral procession.
For tickets and further information, see www.westminster-abbey.org
For more on Westminster Abbey, see 10 Facts about Westminster Abbey