Westminster Abbey: The Nationwide Soul of England

by Rick Steves, March 12, 2021

As we have needed to postpone our travels due to the pandemic, I imagine a weekly dose of journey dreaming could be good drugs. This is a reminder of the enjoyable that awaits us in Europe on the different finish of this disaster.

Carrying a pink gown and a heat smile, Eddie works as a verger at London’s Westminster Abbey. As a church official, he retains order on this house — which is each very touristy and really sacred.

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I inform him I am engaged on a Rick Steves guidebook, and he says, “I might like a phrase with that Rick Steves. He implies in his guidebook that you could pop in to worship or pay respects to the Unknown Soldier with a purpose to get a free go to to the abbey.”

Exhibiting him my picture on the again cowl, I say, “Effectively, I’m Rick Steves.”

I am actually charmed by Eddie, who explains that it is his duty to type out believers (who get in free to hope), vacationers (who should pay the doorway payment), and scammers (who fold their fingers reverently, hoping to keep away from paying). Collectively, we agree on a brand new tactic: Somewhat than promote deception for the sake of free entry, I am going to encourage my readers to attend a free worship service. The musical evensong service is an excellent expertise that happens a number of instances per week. Everyone seems to be welcome, freed from cost.

Proving it helps to have buddies in holy locations, Eddie takes me right into a room the place no vacationer goes: the Jerusalem Chamber, the place students met from 1604 to 1611 to supervise the interpretation of the Bible from historical Greek and Hebrew into English, creating the King James Model.

Appreciating the hazard of translating the phrase of God from useless historical languages into the folks’s language and the significance of those heroic efforts within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I get goose bumps. When visiting Germany’s Wartburg Citadel, I felt goose bumps when entering into the room the place Martin Luther translated the Bible for the German-speaking world. And I loved a bit goose-bump déjà vu right here when Eddie let me slip into the Jerusalem Chamber.

Eddie then escorts me to the abbey and I shortly turn into immersed within the historical past that permeates it. That is the place each English coronation since 1066 has taken place. At a coronation, the archbishop of Canterbury stands on the excessive altar. The coronation chair is positioned earlier than the altar on the spherical, brown pavement stone, which represents the Earth. After a church service, the brand new king or queen sits within the chair, is anointed with holy oil, after which receives a ceremonial sword, ring, and cup. The royal scepter is positioned within the new ruler’s fingers, and — dut-dutta-dah — the archbishop lowers the crown onto the royal head.

As I stroll, I hearken to the audio tour narrated by actor Jeremy Irons. Together with his soothing voice in my ear, I get pleasure from some non-public time with exceptional artifacts. The marble effigy of Queen Elizabeth I used to be constructed from her dying masks in 1603 and is taken into account her most practical likeness. The graves of literary greats of England are gathered, as if for a posthumous storytelling session, across the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer (Mr. Canterbury Tales). Poppies line the tomb of Britain’s Unknown Soldier, with the US Medal of Honor (introduced by Normal John J. Pershing in 1921) hanging from a neighboring column. Extra just lately, the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been added as an honorary member of this heavenly English host.

My favourite stained-glass window options saints in robes and halos mingling with pilots in parachutes and bomber jackets. It is within the Royal Air Drive Chapel, a tribute to WWII flyers who “earned their angel wings” within the 1940 Battle of Britain. These had been the fighters about whom Churchill mentioned, “By no means…was a lot owed by so many to so few.” The e book of remembrances lists the names of every of the 1,497 pilots and crew members who died defending freedom.

Grabbing a pew to ponder this grand house, I look down the lengthy and slim middle aisle of the church. It is lined with Gothic arches, offering a parade of praying fingers and glowing with coloured mild from the home windows. It is clear that that is greater than a museum. With saints in stained glass overhead, heroes in carved stone throughout, and the our bodies of England’s biggest residents below the ground, Westminster Abbey is greater than the non secular coronary heart of England — it is the nationwide soul as properly.

This text was tailored from Rick’s new e book, For the Love of Europe.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts journey reveals on public TV and radio, and organizes European excursions. You’ll be able to e mail Rick at [email protected] and observe his weblog on Fb.

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