Celebrities & Royalty

5 Things to Know About Westminster Abbey

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by: Marie Willsey

This definition of "peculiar" doesn't mean strange or odd. The Abbey is known as a royal peculiar (or particular), meaning it belongs directly to the monarch, not to a diocese or province of the Church. Its official name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster.

Royal peculiars originated in Anglo-Saxon times because of the unique relationship between the kings of Normandy and the English church. In 1222, the Abbey was declared a Papal Peculiar, exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1534, during the Reformation, Henry VIII transferred ownership from the Pope to the Crown, and later dissolved the Benedictine Abbey and dedicated it as a cathedral. Catholic Queen Mary I brought back the monastery briefly, but it was dissolved in 1559; Elizabeth I established the present Collegiate Church under royal authority in 1560. St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and the Chapels Royal are also royal peculiars.

Westminster Abbey has been called the "parish church of the world" because of its strong historical links with Europe, the U.S., and the Commonwealth.

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