Public invited to walk on Westminster Abbey’s Cosmati pavement – in socks

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Visitors to Westminster Abbey this summer will be invited to walk in their socks on its medieval Cosmati pavement to mark the coronation of King Charles III.

A special programme of events has been announced by the abbey, including a new guided tour, which will take place after the coronation on 6 May.

The tour will reveal the abbey’s royal links, tell stories from coronations past and present, visit the Coronation Chair and allow access to the Cosmati pavement, which can normally only be viewed from the bottom of the High Altar steps.

It will be the first time in living memory that the abbey has invited visitors to walk on the Cosmati pavement, where the Coronation Chair will be placed for the crowning of the king – but visitors must take off their shoes.

The Cosmati pavement is an intricate mosaic floor of marble, stone, glass and metal in front of the High Altar, which was commissioned by Henry III and completed in 1268 as the adornment of his abbey. It is where coronations have taken place for 700 years.

The Cosmati pavement
The Cosmati pavement, commissioned by Henry III and completed in 1268. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Abbey experts will guide the tour, which will explain the history and significance of the Cosmati pavement. Small groups of 10 will be taken on to the floor with everyone asked to remove their shoes to help protect its surface. The tours will run on selected days from 15 May to 29 July and cost £15, plus abbey entry.

The flooring is the best surviving example outside Italy of a rare type of mosaic stonework known as Cosmati, named after the Italian family that created it.

The pavement was hidden under carpet and away from public view from the 1870s until a two-year programme of conservation work was completed by the abbey in 2010.

The 7-metre, 58cm (24ft 10in) square pavement was covered with special carpet at previous coronations, including those of Elizabeth II in 1953 and George VI in 1937, but will be on display at the forthcoming coronation.

A cryptic inscription on it even predicts the end of the world, claiming it would last 19,683 years, with a riddle adding together the life spans of different animals including dogs, horses, men, stags, ravens, eagles and whales.

Scott Craddock, the head of visitor experience at the abbey, said: “The coronation will be a joyous and significant moment for the nation, and for Westminster Abbey. We hope that our special programme of events and digital resources gives everyone an opportunity to join in with the celebrations.”

Other elements of the special programme include a new exhibition in the Chapter House. It will explain and illustrate the key elements of the coronation service and its artefacts. The display opens on 12 April and is included in entry to the abbey.