28 December 1065

Westminster Abbey is consecrated.

The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, now known as Westminster Abbey, is officially neither an abbey nor a cathedral. Elizabeth I made it a Royal Peculiar in 1560, which means that the dean and chapter answer directly to the sovereign. It is certainly royal and also peculiar in the sense of remarkable. English and later British kings and queens have been crowned there for centuries. Some of them have been married there and many buried in it, too, and the building is packed with the tombs and monuments of famous people.

The story of the great church starts in a mixture of legend and history some 1,400 years ago. It stands on what was once Thorney Island, so named because it was full of tangled thickets of brambles and, as a consequence, ‘thorny’. The island was just off the north bank of the Thames, where two little branches of the River Tyburn flowed into marshy country some two miles to the west of the old Roman city of London. It was claimed that King Sebert of the East Saxons, then the ruler of London and a former pagan, built a church on the island after being converted to Christianity by a mission led by a man called Mellitus, who was Bishop of London from AD 604.