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It is more than slightly embarrassing that I make so little effort to visit London’s iconic buildings, given how much sightseeing I do the moment I leave the city. Given that this is both London 2012 AND the Queen’s Jubilee year, I was determined to explore the extraordinary places on my doorstep with as much enthusiasm as I might Singapore’s Cathedral or Barcelona’s MACBA.


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As part of my Mothering Sunday weekend plans, my mother and I went to Westminster Abbey for Morning Service. The Abbey is closed to tourists for sightseeing on Sundays, but open to all for worship. I chose Matins of the several services, as Holy Communion was too late for us. My mama and I also love the old liturgy of the Matins service,  based on the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, which we both grew up with, and is couched in truly beautiful language. It’s also a full choral service.

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The church was bare of decoration, as it was the Fourth Sunday of Lent, but the pomp and ceremony of the service is something extraordinary to behold. Although the service started at 10am, we were there early at 0930, as the gates were being opened, which meant we were first into the church, and were seated in the ancient choir stalls at the heart of the abbey (as opposed to the standard seating.) If you watched the Royal Wedding you’ll know how beautiful this part of the Abbey is.

It’s glorious being seated literally next to the choir – who, are of course, world-standard, and curiously intimate for such a large space. I highly recommend turning up early. And, even if like me, your attachment to the church is sentimental, or you are just curious, attending a service here is a life-affirming experience, and it’s worth it just for the music.

After the service, we exited through the cloisters, where memorials to the great and good are attached to the walls. Captain Cook is a distant relation on my maternal side.

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I thought this Edmond Halley memorial was particularly wonderful.

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This arched door below is where we exited the Abbey.

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The service was as follows:

The Officiant says a Sentence of Scripture
The Second Lesson: St John 9: 1- 25
Benedictus
The Apostles’ Creed
The Lesser Litany, The Lord’s Prayer, and Responses

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6 comments

Reply

I attended the Mattins at St Paul’s Cathedral on Easter Sunday – it was similarly amazing. The sung service was beautiful, made more poignant by the architecture of the building.

Reply

@Fashion Abecedaire: oh I’m envious – and I very nearly did the same. I kind of regret not going now. St Paul’s is def next on my list. LLGxx

Reply

When I was at Oxford a few years ago I sang in a college chapel choir and we were fortunate enough to be invited to sing evensong at Westminster Abbey. It was a magical experience to be able to sing in those lovely choir stalls, and I remember being transfixed by all the gorgeous memorials and carvings on the walls.

I don’t remember which service we sang, but I do remember our anthem was the haunting “Vinea Mea Electa” by Poulenc:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5PTJw1lk9k

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@Mademoiselle Mongoose: oh that is so very beautiful. Thank you for sharing the link. Glorious. LLGxx

Reply

You’ve reminded me how much I love Westminster Abbey, and how long since I’ve been. I’ll have to put it on my list for the next time in London, especially now since I too have recently found that a relative has a plaque in there! (YAY, hopefully this summer!)
XXX Suzanne

Reply

@Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen: That’s exactly how I felt when I visited. I honestly don’t think I had been in since I was about 14 or 15. Shaming, really. LLGxx

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