Today on December 28, 1065, Edward the Confessor’s Westminster Abbey was consecrated on the north bank of the Thames River.
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, simply known today as Westminster Abbey, is technically neither an abbey nor a cathedral. Throughout the centuries, the abbey has been used by monarchs for a variety of different functions. English (and later British) kings and queens have held elaborate coronations and crowning ceremonies at Westminster Abbey. Several monarchs have also used it for their royal weddings. And many have even been buried there with tombs and monuments found throughout the building. The present-day Westminster Abbey traces its roots back some 1,400 years. The original grounds were found on Thorney Island off the north bank of the Thames River. The island’s marshy lands were largely uninhabited.
King Sebert of the East Saxons commissioned the island’s first church located two miles west of the old Roman city of London. He ordered the abbey’s construction after being converted to Christianity. At the time, local fishermen routinely gave gifts of salmon to the abbey on St Peter’s Day (June 29th). The tradition continues today with the Fishmongers’ Company presenting a salmon to the abbey every year. In 1042, Edward the Confessor became King of England. As a young man living in Normandy, he vowed to one day make a pilgrimage to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. When the time eventually came, his advisors recommended that he not go for political reasons. Being a deeply pious man, he opted to build a monastery dedicated to St Peter instead.
Edward had the island cleared and prepared for a much grander abbey built in the Norman-style architecture. On December 28, 1065, a consecration ceremony was held for the new Westminster Abbey but the king was too ill to attend. Edward the Confessor died only one week later, becoming the first king to be buried there. Following the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror crowned himself King of England at Westminster Abbey. Two centuries later, King Henry III (a great admirer of Edward) spent a fortune enlarging the church.