Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Westminster Abbey

Monday was a miserable day weatherwise - wet and cold - therefore the sightseeing trip I took to London with two friends required a venue which was under cover. No strolling along the Embankment or through St James' Park for us! Westminster Abbey was the perfect choice. Trouble is, it was everyone's else's choice so it was packed. Expensive too, although the entry fee did include an excellent acoustic guide. This gives snippets of the Abbey's history, with musical excerpts, and even short videos of areas not accessible to the public. For me the most impressive sight was the Lady Chapel, built by Henry VII. Most of the Tudor monarchs are buried here. It has an absolutely stunning fan-vaulted ceiling and is beautifully lit by multi-paned and stained glass windows. There is nothing gloomy about this chapel, which in direct contrast to the interior of Westminster Cathedral, just a mile up the road from the Abbey.

This Catholic Cathedral was built in only 1895 in the Christian Byzantine style, and a more oppressive interior it would be difficult to imagine. Unlike the Lady Chapel at the Abbey, there is almost no natural light and the barrel-vaulted, brick-lined ceiling high above the Nave, gives the impression of the interior of a huge fire-blackened kiln. The decoration appears to be an ongoing project.

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