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.
The striking colours of the yellow and blue carpet can be seen on the specially built Coronation Theatre, from in between the quire stalls to the front of the Cosmati Pavement. These colours were chosen to highlight and contrast with the robes of The King and Queen. Unlike at previous coronations, including The King's late mothers, the Cosmati Pavement was left uncovered, with the Coronation Chair placed upon it.
© Press Association
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.
It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.