HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, Westminster History

Audio File length: 2.35
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, I'm Ed, your personal guide. Together with MyWoWo, I'd like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world.

Today I'll accompany you through the Houses of Parliament, one of the most symbolic monuments in London!

You are now standing in front of the large, Neo-Gothic government building that stretches along the bank of the River Thames, which is undoubtedly one of the city's most important symbols thanks to the unmistakable shape of the clock tower called "Big Ben".

Almost a thousand years have passed since King Edward the Confessor had a palace built for his residence near Westminster Abbey, which was also designed for administrative and political use. All of the English kings lived and ruled in this medieval palace until King Henry VIII, after which it became the Houses of Parliament.

In the first half of the nineteenth century it was devastated by such a terrible fire that nearly the entire palace had to be torn down, except for Westminster Hall. The competition for the design of its reconstruction specifically requested a building that both paid homage to tradition and leaned towards modernity. The winning design had a Neo-Gothic style, which was quite popular in Queen Victoria's time, and was then adopted in subsequent decades for other parliamentary buildings in various European countries.

The two unmistakable towers you see flanking the complex are the slim Clock Tower, famously known as "Big Ben", and the massive Victoria Tower, which is over 100 metres tall.

The Houses' most important hall is Westminster Hall, which was built a thousand years ago and modified in the 1300s with the addition of oak vaults. Used for centuries as a court of justice, it is now the place where late members of the royal family lie in state before their state funerals.

As you likely know, the English Parliament is divided into two Houses (the House of Commons and the House of Lords): the large rooms are connected by a large octagonal hall which is the heart of the entire complex and is known as the Central Lobby.

 

FUN FACT: famous for their practical sense, the British created a way to avoid scuffles in the House of Commons. There are two red lines on the floor that are separated by the length of two extended swords: they force the Government and Opposition to never go beyond their respective lines and thus never come into physical contact.

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