“… the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man.”*

*Cicero, De Officiis, 1.13.

From the OUP blog: “The connection between cattle and money can be noticed in the English words pecuniary, from Latin (Latin pecunia “money”: pecu ~ pecus “cattle,” see above) and, less obviously, peculiar, for Latin peculium meant “property in cattle, private property.” In English, peculiar turned up in the fifteenth century and passed through the stages “that is one’s own, particular” and then “uncommon, odd, specific.” “

From the website of Westminster Abbey:

“…Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey (or the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster to give it its correct title) is a “Royal Peculiar” under the jurisdiction of a Dean and Chapter, subject only to the Sovereign and not to any archbishop or bishop…

In the 1040s King Edward (later St Edward the Confessor) established his royal palace by the banks of the river Thames on land known as Thorney Island. Close by was a small Benedictine monastery founded under the patronage of King Edgar and St Dunstan around 960A.D. This monastery Edward chose to re-endow and greatly enlarge, building a large stone church in honour of St Peter the Apostle. This church became known as the “west minster” to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral see image (the east minster) in the City of London. Unfortunately, when the new church was consecrated on 28th December 1065 the King was too ill to attend and died a few days later. His mortal remains were entombed in front of the High Altar.

The only traces of Edward’s monastery to be seen today are in the round arches and massive supporting columns of the undercroft and the Pyx Chamber in the cloisters. The undercroft was originally part of the domestic quarters of the monks. Among the most significant ceremonies that occurred in the Abbey at this period was the coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas day 1066, and the “translation” or moving of King Edward’s body to a new tomb a few years after his canonisation in 1161.

Edward’s Abbey survived for two centuries until the middle of the 13th century when King Henry III decided to rebuild it in the new Gothic style of architecture. It was a great age for cathedrals: in France it saw the construction of Amiens, Evreux and Chartres and in England Canterbury, Winchester and Salisbury, to mention a few. Under the decree of the King of England, Westminster Abbey was designed to be not only a great monastery and place of worship, but also a place for the coronation and burial of monarchs. This church was consecrated on 13th October 1269. Unfortunately the king died before the nave could be completed so the older structure stood attached to the Gothic building for many years…

…History did not cease with the dissolution of the medieval monastery on 16th January 1540. The same year Henry VIII erected Westminster into a cathedral church with a bishop (Thomas Thirlby), a dean and twelve prebendaries (now known as Canons). The bishopric was surrendered on 29th March 1550 and the diocese was re-united with London, Westminster being made by Act of Parliament a cathedral church in the diocese of London. Mary I restored the Benedictine monastery in 1556 under Abbot John Feckenham.

Dr Robert Wynn Jones writes on his website The Lost City of London:

“…in 1540, the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster was made a Cathedral with its own See.   Not long afterwards, it was incorporated into the Diocese of London, and much of its estate was sold off to pay for repairs to St Paul’s – hence the expression, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It is now a “Royal Peculiar”.”

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