The Abbey is a place of pilgrimage. For many centuries pilgrims have come to venerate the relics of St Edward the Confessor, King of England 1042–1066, and re-founder of Westminster Abbey who is buried at the heart of the Abbey Church.
A confessor is a saint who shows particular courage in publicly bearing witness to their faith in Christ, without being a martyr who gives their life for Christ. Not long after his death Edward was already seen to have been a man of particular holiness, a kind of crowned monk. He was declared a saint in 1161, and was especially venerated by many subsequent kings.
He rebuilt and greatly enriched Westminster Abbey, turning it into a national institution, and was buried here. On 13th October 1163, two years after his canonisation, his body was moved, or ‘translated’, to a shrine in the church which he had built. On the same date in 1269 his body was translated again to the shrine in the newly-built gothic Abbey. His relics, which attracted many pilgrims, are still housed in this shrine. It was veneration of Edward that led to Westminster becoming the coronation church and the burial place of so many other kings and queens. It is with justice that the Abbey considers him to be its founder.
Each October, the Abbey holds a week of festivities, praise, and prayer to honour St Edward the Confessor’s feast-day, including a National Pilgrimage.