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Westminster Abbey celebrates 750th anniversary of Henry III’s masterpiece

Tuesday, 15th October 2019

Westminster Abbey celebrates 750th anniversary of Henry III’s masterpiece

Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall attended a service to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the re-building of Westminster Abbey, at 11.30am on Tuesday 15th October 2019.

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding:

750 years ago, on 13th October 1269, this third Abbey Church was consecrated in the presence of Henry III. The King had decided a quarter of a century earlier to replace the second Church, which had been built at the command of Edward the Confessor and had been consecrated on 28th December 1065.
St Edward, who died on 5th January 1066, was canonised in 1161 and re-buried above ground on 13th October 1163, rests still in his Shrine and Tomb behind the High Altar [...]. We give thanks for the integrity of Henry III, whose imagination and commitment made this Abbey Church in the French Gothic style strikingly beautiful and fitted for its royal and monastic purpose.
Today we celebrate the history of this Abbey and its Church and mark its continuing significance as a place of worship and memorial, standing firmly for faith at the heart of our nation and Commonwealth and of the wider world.

At the start of the service, The Queen’s gift of roses was placed by Abigail Wallace, the Captain of The Queen’s Scholars of St Peter’s College, Westminster School, on the altar in the Shrine of St Edward.

Treasures from the Abbey collection were processed through the Church and placed on the High Altar:

Anglo-Saxon Royal Charter - a late 10th-century document, recording the restoration of land by St Dunstan to the first Benedictine Abbey, circa 960. Carried by Matthew Payne, Keeper of the Muniments

Fragment of Shroud - from the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, who ordered the building of the second Abbey Church, consecrated 1065. Carried by Father Andrew Gallagher, Precentor of Westminster Cathedral

The Litlyngton Missal - created by order of Nicholas Litlyngton, Abbot of Westminster, 1362-86, for use at the High Altar of the third Abbey Church. Carried by Dr Tony Trowles, Head of the Abbey Collection and Librarian.

Joseph Lewis-Campbell, an Abbey Marshal, read 1 St Peter 2: 4 – 9; and Valerie Humphrey, Director of the Westminster Abbey Foundation, read St Luke 6: 46 – 49.

The sermon was preached by the Dean, who also prayed the Collect and pronounced the Blessing.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey sang a new anthem by Matthew Martin, commissioned for the service and drawing on anonymous words from the 6th – 7th century translated by John Mason Neale, and words by John Armitage Robinson.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Mark Birch, Minor Canon and Sacrist, and said by: Nandini Jadeja, Senate Member, Harris Westminster Sixth Form; Abigail Wallace, the Captain of The Queen’s Scholars; Caroline Myddleton, Oblate; Temi Olusola, Head of Human Resources; Patrick Derham, Head Master, Westminster School; Tony Willoughby, Abbey Guide; and the Reverend Dr James Hawkey, Canon in Residence. 

The Abbey Choir was directed by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers.

The organ was played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, and before the service by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

Following the service, the Westminster Abbey Company of Ringers rang a full peal of 5750 changes of Stedman Caters.


Order of Service for A Service to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the re-building of Westminster Abbey (PDF, 679KB)

Sermon: Celebrating the re-building of Westminster Abbey 1269 in the presence of HM The Queen

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The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.

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