Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Westminster Abbey

by Catherine Kuo

I know we’ve only been in London for a grand total of two days, but I’m falling more and more in love with this city each day. The people are so gracious, transportation is easy, and there seems to be something around every corner that is so historical and valuable to the British culture. Each day we are lucky enough to have a packed schedule that gives us the opportunity to appreciate London in its full glory.

With that being said, we kicked off today with a visit to the iconic Westminster Abbey. Upon approaching Westminster Abbey, I couldn’t help but think of one thing: the royal wedding. I had a series of thoughts along the lines of “Yes, this is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were first introduced to the world as newlyweds. No, you can’t hold your own wedding here. And yes, you are literally walking in the footsteps of the Kate Middleton.” Little did I know that this historical site was so much more than that- the royal wedding was just the beginning. Led by our kind and very knowledgeable tour guide, Barry, we spent most of our morning learning and understanding what makes this famous abbey a “must see” to many of those who visit London. 

Main entrance 

A view of the western facade
 After establishing his royal palace near the river Thames in the 1040s, King Edward decided to enlarge a nearby monastery in honor of St. Peter the Apostle.  This church was known as “West Minster” and was consecrated on December 28, 1065. Two centuries later, King Henry III rebuilt the abbey in French gothic style and declared it to be a place of worship as well as a place for the coronations and burials of monarchs. It has hosted every coronation since 1066, sixteen royal weddings, and many other celebratory events. Unfortunately I was not able to take pictures inside, but as seen in the pictures above, the architecture of Westminster Abbey has the ability to leave people in a state of awe. Everything is so magnificent and intricate down to every last detail. Something I found particularly beautiful were the statues upon one of the entrances. Instead of the common saints, the statues were of “people who died for the faith,” such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (which I thought was quite fitting since it was MLK day back in the U.S). There was so much to see at Westminster Abbey, but here are the top two things I thought were worth sharing:   

1.       The Scientists
There are many well-known scientists buried or honored in the abbey, which I thought was fascinating since the purpose of traveling to London was to study the history of science. Here are a couple descriptions of these scientists who furthered the development of science and were worthy of being honored in a place of great reverence:
-Isaac Newton: Known for his law of gravitation and his book, Principia, which contains the fundamental parts of physics
-Charles Darwin: Discovered natural selection, which says that organisms better adapted to their environment have a greater chance of reproducing, as the main mechanism of evolution  
-Robert Hooke: Known for his law of elasticity (Hooke’s Law) and studied microscropy in which he first used the word “cell” to describe the basic unit of life  
-Michael Faraday: Contributed greatly to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry
-Ernest Rutherford: Known as the “Father of Nuclear Physics” and discovered that atoms contain a dense nucleus

2.       Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
Similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery, a grave for an unknown warrior, buried on November 11, 1920, lies within an abbey. Part of the inscription included that “they buried him among the Kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

From the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I to the William Shakespeare memorial, I could go on and on about this beautiful abbey. Hopefully I was able to convey my excitement and newfound love for this famous abbey through this post. Everywhere in London seems to be considered as “holy ground” and I’m looking forward to soaking in the greatness that is this city and for the many adventures to come throughout the next few weeks!



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