“Hidden” medieval attic is opening as a museum


London's Westminster Abbey is home to a "hidden" medieval attic, known as the triforium. Sir John Betjeman, a former poet laureate of the United Kingdom, once called it "the best view in Europe". However, a small number of visitors have been able to experience it; for the past 700 years, the enclave has been closed to the general public.

But things are changing. The triforium is opening up to the public on June 11 as a new museum called the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries. As Martin Bailey reports for the Art Newspaper, the new museum will showcase 300 artifacts from the Abbey's 1,000-year history.

To allow visitors to reach the triforium (it is a 50 foot climb up), architect Ptolemy Dean designed a beautiful new tower onto the church. The new Weston Tower blends a contemporary aesthetic with elements from the past.

The gallery contains hundreds of relics organized into four themes: Building Westminster Abbey, which traces the church's history back to its foundations in 960 C.E.; Worship and Daily Life; Westminster Abbey and the Monarchy; and the Abbey and National Memory, which explores how the Abbey-with its many tombs and memorials-has become an important site of remembrance in the U.K.

Among the highlights on display are a life-like funeral effigy of Henry VII, the coronation chair of Mary II and a 300-year-old stuffed African Grey parrot that, in its livelier days, was a favorite companion of Frances Stuart, the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox. For those who want to learn more about the modern-day royal family, the wedding certificate of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who were married at Westminster Abbey in 2011, is also on display.