Westminster and Big Ben

Summer 2002

Westminster Parliament Bldgs, view from the River Thames

The Westminster Parliament buildings cover over 8 acres and include more than 1000 rooms. Much of the original buildings were destroyed by a fire in 1834 and redesigned. It is possible to watch the MP's (members of parliament) or the Lords in action, but I never have waited in line. You can tell when Parliament is in session, because a flag is flown from the Victoria tower. At one end of the parliament buildings is the giant clock tower. The name Big Ben actually applies to the 14 ton bell which was cast and hung in 1858.

Big Ben (north side of Parliament bldgs middle of Parliament bldgs South side of Parliament bldgs

Westminster Abbey has been the site of every royal coronation since 1066. According to my travel guide, "The Abbey's significance is secular as well as sacred. Controlled by the Crown and not the Church of England, the Abbey is the temple of England's civic religion." Most of the Abbey was erected under Henry III in the 13th Century, but parts of the original structure were consecrated by Kind Edward the Confessor in December 1065.

Today the Abbey is stuffed full of memorials to important and influential people. There are so many plaques and statues you can hardly see the walls of the building. Some of the more notable are the tombs of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth, Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots, Henry III, George II, and Edward I. However, it is not only royalty which are remembered here, there are plaques to poets, scientists, writers, and warriors too (i.e. Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, George Fredrik Handel, Isaac Newton). Also housed in the Abbey is the Coronation Chair which used to rest on the Stone of Scone.

Abbey front Abbey side Abbey back

The cross End

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