An architectural masterpiece of the 13th to 16th century, Westminster Abbey also presents a unique pageant of British history; the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, the tombs of kings and queens, and countless memorials to the famous and the great. It has been the setting for every Coronation since 1066 and for numerous other royal occasions, including sixteen royal weddings.
Today, monarchies in Europe are few, but centuries of reign have left lasting traces on our heritage, especially churches since European monarchies were legitimised by their proximity to the divine. These 10 churches, closely linked to European monarchies, are important to understand the traditions and beliefs of our ancestors.
The Sint-Nicolaaskerk (colloquially called Nieuwe Kerk) was inaugurated at the end of the 14th century. The building was damaged by the city's fire of 1421 and 1452, but more seriously by the fire of 1645. After the 'Alteratia' of 1578, the church became Protestant. From 1814 is was used for royal investitures and weddings.
The "Great Church", or St. Nicholas Church, was founded in the 13th century by the supposed founder of Stockholm, Birger Jarl. This brick gothic church was first consecrated Catholic, but it became Lutheran in 1527, and finally turned into a cathedral for the Church of Sweden in 1942. Since the 14th century, this church has been used for royal coronations and weddings.
The Papal Basilica of St. Peter, better known as the Basilica of St. Peter, is the largest Christian church on the planet and considered one of the most sacred places of Catholicism. There have been churches have been built on the site of the basilica since the 4th century. The construction of the current building began on April 18, 1506, under Pope Julius II, and was completed on November 18, 1626. The building is the work of some of the most renowned architects in European history, such as Donato Bramante, Michelangelo or Bernini. St. Peter is traditionally the site of the papal coronation, but it was also, under the impetus of Charlemagne in 800, the coronation church of the first Holy Roman Emperors.
Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral was the coronation site for almost all French kings since the 11th century. It was here that Clovis, the first king of the Franks, was baptised at the end of the 5th century, an event retrospectively considered to be the foundation of the French monarchy. The current Gothic cathedral was built between the 13th and 14th century, on a site where cathedrals had been constructed since the 5th century. The building was severely damaged during the First World War but was rebuilt and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim is the most important church in Norway, being the burial place of its patron saint St. Olav. Built from the 11th to the 14th century in Romanesque and Gothic style, it suffered extensive damage during a fire in 1531 but was completely rebuilt and served, until 1908, as the coronation church for Norway's monarchy.
The Jerónimos Monastery or Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém is one of the most important religious buildings in Portugal. The Santa Maria church in it contains the royal necropolis of Portugal and the remains of around 21 members of the former royal family. Since 2016 it received the status of National Pantheon and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is currently one of the most important tourist attractions in Portugal.
The Aachen Cathedral, built on the former Palatine Chapel of the Palace of Charlemagne (800-814) is the most important architectural example of the Carolingian Renaissance. The Aachen Cathedral is a heterogeneous structure, influenced by many stylistic epochs, characterized by numerous breaks and extensions. To symbolically anchor their reign in the wake of that of Charlemagne, several rulers of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned there between 936 and 1531.
The Gniezno Cathedral stands on the hill of Lech, a church site since the 11th century, and the burial place of Saint Adalbert, patron saint of Poland. The cathedral that previously stood there was one of the most important in Poland and was a coronation church from the 11th to the 14th century. The current Gothic building dates to the 14th century and since 1994 it has been a national listed historical monument.
The Church of Our Lady has been the cathedral of Copenhagen since 1922. Churches were erected on this site since the 12th century, but were burned three times, most recently in 1807. The current building was built at the beginning of the 19th century in neoclassical style. Since the 14th century, and still to this day, the church is a royal event venue.
A Gothic church, whose choir is still visible in the cemetery, has existed in Laeken since the 13th century. The old church was destroyed in 1872-3 to make way for the new church of Our Lady of Laeken, which was commissioned by Leopold I to house the remains of his wife Queen Louise-Marie of Orléans. Since then, this splendid neo-gothic church has served as a necropolis for the Belgian royal family.