June 29, 2009 / 2:05 PM / 10 years ago

Ancient Westminster Abbey may be crowned

LONDON (Reuters) - Almost every British and English monarch has been crowned there since 1066 and now, if architects have their way, London’s Westminster Abbey could have a crowning glory all of its own.

The top of Westminster Abbey is seen in this undated handout image. REUTERS/Dean & Chapter of Westminster/Handout

Radicaldesign plans unveiled Monday by the Dean of the ancient church include building a large crown-shaped structure, or corona, on the roof of the abbey right over the coronation spot in front of the high altar.

Founded in 960 AD by Saint Dunstan, the medieval abbey has seen extensive additions and alterations ever since, but remains in parts unfinished.

The latest proposals, which the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend John Hall says are dramatic, are the most significant changes to the national monument in some 250 years.

The corona would replace the small plain pyramid roof on top of the “lantern” which was rebuilt in 1958 to repair war damage.

“No one ever got round to doing anything over the lantern. They asked the question; they drew up designs: there was going to be a tower and a spire at one point — that was Christopher Wren,” Hall told BBC Radio.

“There was going to be a sort of great pepper pot — that was Nicholas Hawksmoor, and George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century had other ideas as well,” said Hall who has been in touch with Queen and Buckingham Place over the plans.

“The abbey was never complete — there is nothing above there apart from a stumpy little tower, which doesn’t do any honor to this extraordinary place,” he said.

Hall said he wanted the new architectural feature to reflect the coronation underneath “that would lift the eye and lift the spirits and floodlight down into the space” where kings and queens are crowned.

It is hoped the structure will be ready in time to mark the diamond jubilee of the Queen’s coronation in 2013.

Building proposals also include provision for a lift on the south face of the Abbey outside Poets Corner to give visitors access to the upper gallery for the first time.

The gallery, known as the Triforium, will house a new museum and display many of its unseen treasures and artefacts.

English poet John Betjeman once described the view from there as the best in Europe. T

The British public are being invited to comment on the plans, which are estimated to cost 23 million pounds.

Editing by Steve Addison

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