To prepare for the Coronation of The King and Queen Consort we will be closed to visitors and worshippers from 25th April and will re-open on Monday 8th May. Services will take place in St Margaret's Church until Tuesday 2nd May.Find out more
Spotlight on coronations
Discover more about the space within Westminster Abbey where coronations have taken place for hundreds of years.
Where exactly in Westminster Abbey do coronations take place? Watch Vanessa Simeoni, Head Conservator, explain the space that becomes the coronation theatre in this short introduction.
Right in the middle of Westminster Abbey is an area that was specifically built to be spacious enough to hold coronations. From West to East, it spans from the end of the quire stalls, through the crossing to the Sacrarium which ends with the High Altar. Similar to many Christian places of worship, Westminster Abbey is built in the shape of a cross, mirroring the shape of Jesus’ crucifix. This space where coronations happen is at the point in which the two parts of the cross meet, at the very centre of the Abbey.
For hundreds of years this would have been surrounded in colour; with bright wall paintings, stained-glass windows and decorated chapel screens. Most strikingly, and still visible today, is the colourful Cosmati Pavement. Laid down in 1268 during King Henry III’s rebuild of the Abbey, this large pavement was new and abstract in design, marking a shift from earlier medieval mosaics.
While it is referred to as the Coronation Theatre, the space between the High Altar and the quire stalls really acts as the stage for coronations past and present. It is here that the 700-year-old Coronation Chair is placed, facing the High Altar, on which the monarch sits for the majority of the service.
It is no coincidence that the location of the coronation is so close to the Abbey’s High Altar. As part of a Holy Communion service, the coronation is where the monarch makes promises to the people as well as God.
With coronations watched by thousands of people in the congregation, and by millions on television since 1953, it is this carefully constructed space which allows so many to clearly witness these moments in history.
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.