Westminster Abbey: The National Soul of England

by Rick Steves, March 12, 2021

As we’ve had to postpone our travels mainly because of the pandemic, I believe a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be excellent medicine. This is a reminder of the fun that awaits us in Europe at the other stop of this disaster.

Putting on a red gown and a heat smile, Eddie works as a verger at London’s Westminster Abbey. As a church official, he keeps order in this area — which is the two quite touristy and really sacred.

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I inform him I am doing work on a Rick Steves guidebook, and he suggests, “I might like a word with that Rick Steves. He indicates in his guidebook that you can pop in to worship or pay respects to the Mysterious Soldier in buy to get a totally free check out to the abbey.”

Displaying him my photo on the again go over, I say, “Perfectly, I am Rick Steves.”

I am really charmed by Eddie, who clarifies that it truly is his duty to form out believers (who get in no cost to pray), travelers (who need to fork out the entrance payment), and scammers (who fold their arms reverently, hoping to steer clear of shelling out). Jointly, we agree on a new tactic: Instead than market deception for the sake of free entry, I’ll persuade my visitors to show up at a totally free worship services. The musical evensong support is a glorious experience that happens numerous moments a 7 days. Every person is welcome, cost-free of charge.

Proving it can help to have good friends in holy locations, Eddie takes me into a room where by no tourist goes: the Jerusalem Chamber, in which scholars fulfilled from 1604 to 1611 to oversee the translation of the Bible from historic Greek and Hebrew into English, producing the King James Model.

Appreciating the danger of translating the term of God from dead historical languages into the people’s language and the great importance of these heroic endeavours in the 16th and 17th hundreds of years, I get goose bumps. When checking out Germany’s Wartburg Castle, I felt goose bumps when stepping into the room wherever Martin Luther translated the Bible for the German-talking planet. And I liked a small goose-bump déjà vu below when Eddie let me slip into the Jerusalem Chamber.

Eddie then escorts me to the abbey and I swiftly develop into immersed in the record that permeates it. This is the place each and every English coronation given that 1066 has taken area. At a coronation, the archbishop of Canterbury stands at the significant altar. The coronation chair is put ahead of the altar on the round, brown pavement stone, which signifies the Earth. After a church assistance, the new king or queen sits in the chair, is anointed with holy oil, and then receives a ceremonial sword, ring, and cup. The royal scepter is positioned in the new ruler’s palms, and — dut-dutta-dah — the archbishop lowers the crown onto the royal head.

As I wander, I pay attention to the audio tour narrated by actor Jeremy Irons. With his soothing voice in my ear, I appreciate some non-public time with remarkable artifacts. The marble effigy of Queen Elizabeth I was designed from her loss of life mask in 1603 and is thought of her most real looking likeness. The graves of literary greats of England are gathered, as if for a posthumous storytelling session, close to the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer (Mr. Canterbury Tales). Poppies line the tomb of Britain’s Unidentified Soldier, with the US Medal of Honor (offered by General John J. Pershing in 1921) hanging from a neighboring column. Much more recently, the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been additional as an honorary member of this heavenly English host.

My preferred stained-glass window functions saints in robes and halos mingling with pilots in parachutes and bomber jackets. It really is in the Royal Air Drive Chapel, a tribute to WWII flyers who “acquired their angel wings” in the 1940 Struggle of Britain. These were the fighters about whom Churchill reported, “Never…was so considerably owed by so quite a few to so few.” The e book of remembrances lists the names of every of the 1,497 pilots and crew associates who died defending independence.

Grabbing a pew to ponder this grand area, I appear down the lengthy and narrow middle aisle of the church. It is lined with Gothic arches, offering a parade of praying arms and glowing with coloured gentle from the windows. It is clear that this is extra than a museum. With saints in stained glass overhead, heroes in carved stone all about, and the bodies of England’s greatest citizens beneath the flooring, Westminster Abbey is additional than the spiritual coronary heart of England — it’s the national soul as very well.

This short article was adapted from Rick’s new ebook, For the Really like of Europe.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts travel reveals on community Television and radio, and organizes European tours. You can electronic mail Rick at [email protected] and comply with his blog site on Facebook.

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