Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral in London - not to be confused with the more famous Westminster Abbey nearby - is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain. Its full formal name is the Cathedral Church of Westminster.

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History of Westminster Cathedral

The site on which the cathedral stands originally belonged to the Benedictine monks who founded Westminster Abbey. Since then, it has been variously used as a market, a garden, a waste dump, and a prison. The property was acquired by the Catholic Church in 1884.

The foundation stone of Westminster Cathedral was laid in 1895; the majority of the building was completed by 1903. The cathedral was designed in an Early Christian Byzantine style by Victorian architect John Francis Bentley.

What to See at Westminster Cathedral

Many visitors to London don't even know this cathedral exists unless they stumble upon it on their way to Wesminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Yet for those who walk by, Westminster Cathedral is difficult to miss - towering over an open piazza, it is a striking building of red brick and stone in a Byzantine design, quite different from Britain's native cathedrals.

The architecture is just as lovely and unique inside, but the main attraction of Westminster Cathedral for many Londoners (and visitors) is its quiet, prayerful atmosphere away from the noise and bustle of the surrounding city.

The interior of the cathedral remains incomplete, but this is not obvious to the untrained eye. Eight marble columns support a huge canopy over the high altar, while Byzantine mosaics cover the chapels and the vaulting of the sanctuary. The friezes of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, by the sculptor Eric Gill, are world-renowned.

An elevator to the top of the 82m (269-ft.) bell tower rewards visitors with sweeping views that take in Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral.

Quick Facts on Westminster Cathedral

Site Information
Names:Westminster Cathedral
Categories:cathedrals
Styles:Byzantine Revival
Dates:1903
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.495856° N, 0.139448° W
Address:Ashley Place
London, England
SW1
Phone:+44 (020) 7798-9055
Website:www.westminstercathedral.org.uk
Hours:Tower: May-Nov daily 9am-12:30pm and 1-5pm; Dec-Apr Thurs-Sun 9am-5pm
Lodging:View hotels near Westminster Cathedral
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (July 3, 2006).
  2. Westminster Cathedral - official website
  3. Westminster Cathedral - Frommer's England

More Information

Closer look at the facade and tower of Westminster Cathedral. © Holly Hayes
The atmospheric interior, looking east to the altar. © Holly Hayes
Side aisle, with Stations of the Cross. © Holly Hayes
Closer look at Station V, sculpted by Eric Gill. © Holly Hayes
Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs, with mosaics. © Holly Hayes
View of much more modern buildings across the cathedral plaza. © Holly Hayes

Map of Westminster Cathedral

Below is a location map and aerial view of Westminster Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.