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First definitive history of the Abbey published

Wednesday, 9th October 2019

First definitive history of the Abbey published

Westminster Abbey A Church in History, the first definitive history of Westminster Abbey was launched in Poets’ Corner last night to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Henry III’s rebuilding of Edward the Confessor’s church.

The book is a comprehensive and authoritative history that explores the Abbey’s centuries-long history and the meaning, significance and its impact within society, both in Britain and beyond.

Clearly written and wide-ranging in scope, the book has been edited by Sir David Cannadine and features engaging essays by distinguished historians on the Abbey’s history from 604 to now. It discusses the Abbey’s architecture and monuments, its Catholic monks and Protestant clergy; its place in religious and political revolutions; its relationship to monarchy and royal court; its estates and educational endeavours; its congregations and its tourists.

The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall said:

This history of the Abbey, written by very distinguished academic historians, tells the story of the ups and downs of our history since the first days when an abbey was constructed two miles south-west of London on a damp and unlikely island.
The account of more recent times shows the extraordinary development of the Abbey as a place of international reputation and reference brought by its nearly 4,000 burials and memorials.
In the book, historian Diarmaid MacCulloch quotes President Obama, who said when he visited the Abbey in 2011: 'Here you have the history, not only of England and Great Britain, but of the Commonwealth and the whole of the English-speaking world.'

The book's contributors are Paul Binski, James G Clark, J Mordaunt Crook, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Julia F Merritt, Henry Summerson and William Whyte.

It is published by Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, in association with Westminster Abbey, and distributed by Yale University Press.

The book is available for purchase from the Westminster Abbey Shop.

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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