Monday, July 18, 2011

Rob Peter to Pay Paul

I've been inside the Westminster Abbey a few times before today.  The facade of the building paired with Parliament and Big Ben are such familiar sights from movies and TV shows that I have difficulty grounding myself in reality when I stand near them.  Despite the familiarity I seem to have with these landmarks, It appears I hadn't retained any information about them.  Well, I did remember that there were lots of dead people under the floor.  That's the kind of thing a 14 year old remembers.

Our Blue Guide Brian filled us in with the information that I wasn't listening to when I was 14 or 21 or that has happened between then and now.  We are so fortunate to be able to get into the Abbey with a group and a guide.  Not only was it informative, but we escaped from having to stand in a WICKED LONG LINE.  And there are some basic etiquette rules that our guide clued us into.  You are not allowed to take pictures in the Abbey, you have to stop and be quiet when the prayer is being said, and you are not allowed to laugh at any time.  Unfortunately tour guides like to tell jokes.  Our guide told us about a gentleman who was boiled alive starting with cold water.   After about two hours they tossed in some carrots and onions - you don't want to waste a good stock.  Funny right?  It took me a beat and then I let out a staccato, "Ha ha!"  Everyone looked right at me and the guide said "You must not laugh".  I wanted to fall right through the floor to join the dead.

Anyway, I learned today that the name of the Abbey is The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster.  Shawn, our tour guide yesterday had mentioned something about money being taken from Westminster Abbey and given to St. Paul's Cathedral hundreds of years ago.  Again today we heard about it.  According to Brian, Henry the VIII took money from The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster to give to St. Paul's Cathedral.  And that's how we get the expression to "rob Peter to pay Paul.  I looked it up on line and it appears that the phrase could have originated before Henry the VIII, but it still makes a good story.

I had never really read the memorial plaques that line the floors and walls of the church popularly known as Westminster Abbey.  I read a few today and I discovered that some of them were quite personal and emotional, such as this one:

There was also a large stone covering bodies of 27 Black Plague victims.  Brian told us that no one will ever dig up this part of the floor because they are afraid there could still be some active plague virus germs.  I thought my children would find this very interesting because we are reading the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins and there is a plague in one of the books that escapes from a lab.  They may never want to travel to England after they hear about the Black Plague!

I had never seen the Garden that is surrounded by the Little Cloister.  I checked it out today and it is so beautiful.  The view I saw standing behind the iron gate was possibly the same view seen by monks hundreds of years ago.  I didn't see any modern buildings peeking over the walls.

When I looked to my right I saw a sign that was not from antiquity.

The first thing that popped into my mind was that there were some random people living within the cloister with HDTV, microwaves, and a mini-cooper parked behind.  Then I realized it was probably still the priests living on the grounds.  Perhaps with all those things I mentioned - I don't know how modern monks live.

The other wonderful thing we saw in the Abbey was the person who did cartwheels down the aisle at the conclusion of William and Kate's wedding.  The guide told us not to say anything about it to him about it because he is still really embarrassed.  Do you think he was pulling our legs?  Maybe I should look at the video:

Cartwheeling Priest
It looks like it could have been the guy!!

I leave you with a shot of Ginger Chicken relaxing on The London Eye.  She was pretty exhausted after the tours yesterday and today.


  1. I'm having trouble posting so this will be a short test. If it works, I'll expand it.

  2. Ok, it worked but I had to sign up for something first!

    How informative. I don't remember any of those requirements during our visit to Westminster Abbey years ago. I'm glad that Ginger is behaving herself.