For those who have toured London’s Westminster Abbey, you might notice a particularly spacious area. Or maybe you’ve seen it during other royal events at The Abbey on TV such as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, or the funeral of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. That area is known as the Coronation Theatre and was specifically built spacious enough for coronations.
The space spans from west to east and from the end of the quire stalls, crossing to the Sacrarium all the way to the High Altar. Westminster Abbey is built in the shape of a cross. The Coronation Theatre is located where those two crosses meet in the very centre of The Abbey.
This space is referred to as the Coronation Theatre but it’s really the space between the quire stalls and High Altar that is the stage for coronations. During a coronation service, the 700-year-old Coronation Chair faces the High Altar. It’s the seat where the monarch will end up sitting for the majority of the service. The area is carefully constructed to allow as many people as possible to witness moments like the crowning of the monarch whether they are watching in person, or at home.
It’s not a coincidence the location of the actual coronation service is so close to the High Altar. During the Holy Communion service, this is where the monarch makes their promise to the people as well as God.
For hundreds of years, this area was surrounded in colour by bright paintings, stained-glass windows, and decorated chapel screens. While most are still visible today, the colour has certainly faded over the years. The colourful Cosmati Pavement in the theatre was laid in 1268 during King Henry III’s rebuild of the church, New and abstract, the pavement marked a shift from earlier medieval mosaics.
Westminster Abbey will be closed from 25 April to 8 May as The King and Queen prepare for the Coronation. The Coronation is scheduled for 6 May starting at 11.