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.
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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