Monday, October 6, 2008

Westminster Palace: Here Lies Our Dear History

I did not know what to expect of Westminster Abbey. I confess I have heard the name of this famous abbey many a time, but without actually ever figuring out what was so famous about it. I did, however, know that there were famous people-- kings, queens, and poets-- buried there.  In my head, I created an imagination of what this place was. And was I far off? Immeasurably. The collective presence of the memorials of hundreds of important lives throughout history afforded a powerful-- almost sacred feeling inside the walls of Westminster.
The audio tour was extremely helpful. I think I would've been overwhelmed with the mass of scattered memorials to take in. It was almost dizzying. The tour took us to each of the memorials of the important people who are buried there, explained their history, and things significant about the design of their memorial. I thought it was interesting that Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots, the relentless rival queens who fought one another all their lives, were buried right next to one another in the abbey. The menacing enemies could've even escape each other in their deaths-- we all end up in the same place, don't we?
The only person that was mentioned to be removed from their burial spot in Westminster was Oliver Cromwell-- and they did not just remove it. They also hung and decapitated his dead corpse. Pretty harsh, right? I guess some people were still holding some grudges for ol' Ollie.
The poets corner was probably the neatest part of the tour for me. Kings and Queens bear significance for history, but I felt a special proximity to the impact that these writers have had, and continue to have, on my life. Perhaps, the pen is mightier than the crown. The influence of monarchs passes on, but words can last forever.
After taking physics, I also enjoyed seeing the memorial for Sir Isaac Newton. The man was a real genius, and according to I could be related to him somehow. The memorials of William Wilberforce and William Pitt, dear friends buried side by side, was also a moving sight. I had only watched the movie Amazing Grace the previous night. With the realization of their profound influence on Britain's abolition of the slave trade, it was a profound sight for me to behold.
It is marvelous to think that there in the foundations of this incredible building lie the lives, the foundations, that made Britain what it is today.

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