Christianity in 10 objects
If you were a monk walking along the cloister in 1100 and happened to look up, you would have seen this object called a column capital. This carved stone would have sat at the top of one of the columns holding up arches along the side of these covered walkways. For a medieval monk, the cloisters were more than just a route to get from the church to their dormitories. They were a space where monks spent time reading, studying and even playing games. The cloister was a carefully designed part of Westminster Abbey’s architecture.
For the Benedictine monks who lived, worked and worshipped at Westminster Abbey, they were surrounded by a beautifully decorated building which was designed to help them devote their life to God. Just below the arches, which point towards Heaven, the column capitals that we still have show scenes from the Old Testament biblical story of the Judgement of Solomon, which tells a story of a fair and wise judge. We know these scenes are important to Christians because they were chosen to be carved into stone.
The more you look around Westminster Abbey, the more you can see how the building has been specifically designed to help people focus on their Christian faith. Churches are often built in the shape of a cross, as a reminder of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, and they usually face East towards the Holy Land where Jesus was born. From design decisions that affect the whole church down to these surviving column capitals, Christians in church are surrounded by reminders of the teachings of the Bible, to help them with their faith.
Visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries to see this column capital, and many more objects, in real life. High above the Abbey floor, come face to face with the Abbey’s greatest treasures covering over 1,000 years of faith and history. Along with worship, examine objects that teach us about the building of Westminster Abbey, its role in national memory and its relationship with royalty.
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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.