London church that is the site of coronations and other ceremonies of national significance. It stands just west of Houses of Parliament in the Greater London borough of Westminster. Situated on the grounds of a former Benedictine monastery, it was refounded as the Collegiate Church of St.Peter in Westminster by Queen Elizabeth I in 1560. Legend relates that Saberth, the first Christian king of the East-Saxons, founded a church on a small island in the River Thames, then known as Thorney but later called the west minster(or monastery), and that this church was miraculously consecrated by St.Peter. It is certain that about ad 785 there was a small community of monks on the island and that the monastery was enlarged and remodeled by St.Dunstan about 960.
Edward the Confessor built a new church on the site, which was consecrated in 1065. It was of considerable size and cruciform in plan. In 1245 Henry iii pulled down the whole of Edward's church(excerpt the nave) and replaced it with the present abbey church in the pointed Gothic English style of the period. The design and plan were strongly influenced by contemporary French cathedral architecture.
The rebuilding of the Norman-style nave was begun by the late 1300s under the architect Henry Yevele and continued intermittently until Tudor times. The Early Gothic design of Henry iii's time predominates, however, giving the whole church the appearance of having been built at one time. The Chapel of Henry vii(begun c.1503), in Perpendicular Gothic Style, replaced an earlier chapel and is famed for its exquisite fan vaulting. Above the original carved stalls hang the banners of the medieval Order of the Bath.
The western towers were the last addition to the building. They are sometimes said to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren, but they were actually built by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James and completed about 1745. The choir stalls in the body of the church date from 1847, and the high altar and reredos were remodeled by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1867. Scott and J.L.Pearson also restored the north transept façade in 1880s. The abbey was heavily damaged in the bombings that ravaged London in the World Warii, but it was restored soon after the war.
Since William the Conqueror, every British sovereign has been crowned in the abbey except Edward viii, neither of whom was crowned. Many kings and queens are buried near the shire of Edward the Confessor or in Henryvii's Chapel. The last sovereign to be buried in the abbey was Georgeii (d.1760); since then they have been buried at Windsor Castle.
The abbey is crowded with the tombs and memorials of famous British subjects, such as Sir Isaac Newton David Livingstone, and Ernest Rutherford. Part of the south transept is well known as Poets' Corner and includes the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer, Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Robert Browning and many others. The north transept has many memorials to British statesmen. The grave of the "Unknown Warrior" whose remains were brought from Flanders (Belgium) in 1920, is in the centre of the nave near the west door.