Monday 31 July 2017
While it's about time I took my turn after all the posts by Linda and the 63 Regular, it has taken me some days to get around to this one, because I am somewhat daunted by the grandeur and fascination of what we saw. I initially thought I might write a one-liner: 'you really should go' but I realised that would not do. No photos inside, by the way, so do go to the website, and especially watch the video about Poets' Corner, which gives you a taste of the wealth of things to see in the Abbey.
I have mentioned before that I believe teaching to be the best job in the world; but a totally unexpected bonus was a chance meeting with a former pupil, who proved to hold an impressive position at Westminster Abbey and who offered to show us round herself. The fact that she had attended the same academic institution as Roger though some years later, made it extra serendipitous.
We arrived shortly before the first of the day's share of the 1,100,000 annual visitors, and spent some time looking at the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the High Altar, and various medieval royal tombs. Susan was able to take us into the shrine to get a closer look at the amazing Cosmati pavement.
But the high point (literally!) of the visit was an insight into the extraordinary project which is to be the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The modern lift which will give access to the remarkable museum space in the Triforium is not yet ready, but we were able to see the planning and detailed work which is going into this new treasure for London.
After a cup of coffee and a sight of the beautiful Litlyngton Missal in the Library, we let Susan return to her work, while we took the audio guides to visit the areas which we had not yet seen. Although Poets' Corner is the famous area, there are several composers also memorialised on the floor so you need to look down as well as up. We brooded over the fact that James I was able to pop his mother, Mary Queen of Scots in here, only a couple of decades after her execution for treason, and noted several places where closeness to the monarch in life helped to achieve a prime spot in death. We saw the Coronation Chair, now without the Stone of Scone which was returned to Scotland in 1996. We also paused by the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, with its surround of poppies. We thought the audio guides were clear and well done.
It's not only the memorials which show the Abbey forever renewing itself. New stained glass windows also feature in several places.
After over four hours we felt we could do no more, but shall certainly be back when the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries are open. Residents of London tend not to visit the most iconic sites of their city (Linda had not been inside the Abbey the Cathedral since Primary School, for example, and I had only been as school party escort). But this is really worth a visit. It may seem expensive: but the drama and beauty of the place, and the time you can spend there seeing (as Howard Carter said) 'wonderful things' makes it compare very favourably with some expensive, short and bizarre theatre experiences we have had recently. Do go: but allow at least a whole morning.