Westminster Abbey: London’s Iconic Church

Westminster Abbey in London. (Image by Susan Michelson)

On this date in 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated.

Here are some things you may not have known about the landmark London church.

Since the year 1560, the building’s common name has been a misnomer.

Before 1560, it did serve as an abbey, which is a facility where monks or nuns work and live, overseen by an abbot or abbess. In this case, it housed Benedictine monks.

For a short time it served as a cathedral, the definition of which is a church which is the seat of a bishop, making it the main church in a diocese, conference or episcopate.

Since 1560, however it has been classified as a Royal Peculiar collegiate church, meaning that it’s headed by a dean, who, in turn, is responsible directly to the monarch.

The building’s formal name is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster.

The church was built as St. Peter’s Abbey to serve as a burial church for King Edward the Confessor. The building was consecrated a week before Edward’s death in January 1066. It’s believed that Edward’s successor, Harold II, was crowned in the abbey, although he first documented coronation was of William the Conqueror later that year.

Construction of Westminster Abbey as it looks today began in 1245. It was built by Henry III in the Anglo-French Gothic style to venerate Edward the Confessor, and to serve as the site of Henry’s own tomb.

During the protestant reformation in the 16th century, the monastery was disolved, but the building itself was converted to a cathedral, which helped spare it from being destroyed as happened to most English abbeys of the day. It was returned to the Benedictines under the Catholic Queen Mary, before they were ejected again in 1559 by Protestant Elizabeth I.

Westminster Abbey has been the site of every coronation of an English monarch since 1066. The only two kings not coronated at Westminster Abbey, Edward V and Edward VIII, were never formally crowned.

It has also been the site of 16 royal weddings — the first was Henry I to Matilda of Scotland in 1100, and the most recent was of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

Our question: Prince Charles and Princess Diana were not married at Westminster Abbey. Where where they married?

Today is King Taksin Memorial Day in Thailand, Republic Day in South Sudan, and Proclamation Day in South Australia.

It’s unofficially National Chocolate Candy Day, National Card Playing Day, and Pledge of Allegiance Day.

It’s the birthday of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who was born in 1856; actress Maggie Smith, who is 82; and actor Denzel Washington, who is 62.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1980, the top song in the U.S. was “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon.

The No. 1 movie was “9 to 5,” while the novel “The Covenant” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

Besides “(Just Like) Starting Over,” what was John Lennon’s only other solo No. 1 single in the United States?

Submit your answer at triviapeople.com/test and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at triviapeople.com. We’ll reveal the correct answer on Friday’s episode.


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