Photographic Exploration of Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey: The MonumentsWestminster Abbey: The Monuments by Joe Whitlock Blundell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With over a thousand years of history behind it, Westminster Abbey is the repository of memory in the heart of London. Anyone who is anyone in the United Kingdom tried to get themselves buried in the Abbey for hundreds of years. Those who were buried elsewhere were often honored with a monument as grand as a life-sized sculpture or as simple as a plaque on the wall. One could spend hours wandering amongst the statuary inside the church and still miss many gems.

The abbey’s website says, “Taken as a whole, the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.” Unfortunately, photography inside the Abbey is prohibited. Some photographs of the monuments are available in the Abbey’s gift shop or in one of the souvenir guidebooks for sale. What is needed, though, is a serious photographic study of the wonders jammed cheek by jowl against the Abbey’s walls.

This book attempts to document some of the mortuary sculpture. Of necessity, the shades of gray in the photos blunt the whiteness of the marble and brighten the darkness of the shadows, so they don’t completely do justice to the Abbey’s treasures. Still, Blundell has a fascination with detail and uses tight focus to good effect, giving a sense of the way your eye bounces around the room, struggling to take it all in.

I like that the book includes capsule biographies of the people commemorated by the statuary. I wish the biographies were attached to their pictures, rather than arranged by number at the back of the book. The arrangement makes sense if you’re at the Abbey, working your way around the room and matching the photographs to the artwork. As a reader who might be interested in finding, say, Isaac Newton’s grave, the lack of alphabetization or an index means that I have to read through the biographies until I find him, then cross-reference back to the photo.

Still, until I can make my own collection of photographs from Westminster Abbey, I’m glad to have this book. It’s lovely, if frustrating.

The book is inexplicably out of print. I got my copy from eBay, but Amazon does have some used copies for sale: Westminster Abbey: The Monuments

Cemetery of the Week #63: Westminster Abbey, London, England

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About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. My science fiction trilogy, The Dangerous Type, will be published by Night Shade in 2015. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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3 Responses to Photographic Exploration of Westminster Abbey

  1. coastalcrone says:

    I did not know about this book. I will check it out.

    Like

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Let me know what you think about it. I saw it in the gift shop/bookstore at Victoria Station when I visited London in 1991 and always kicked myself for not buying a copy of it at the time. It’s beautiful.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #63: Westminster Abbey | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

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